Tour Diary Exclusive: The Vryll Society

The Vryll Society

Words: Gary Lambert

Photos: Gaz Jones

the vryll society gaz jones popped musicFor most of this year, The Vryll Society have been clocking up more miles than a trucker, going north, south, east and west through Britain in the attempt to bring their tripped out soundscapes and great songs to the ever-growing masses. As festival season is going to see them playing in front of music fans all over the place, including this weekend’s Glastonbury festival, we managed to catch up with lead singer Michael Ellis to find out about the last few months. One of Popped Music’s photographers, Gaz Jones, was also on tour with the band snapping away so we also pinched his journal from his camera bag to get another angle of life on tour with The Vryll Society.

The Vryll Society play their biggest show to date on 2nd December at Liverpool’s the Invisible Wind Factory for Evol – support comes from RongoRongo, Zuzu and The Mysterines. Tickets £10 no booking fee on DICE

February 10th / Reading / Blossoms Tour

Michael Ellis: We were running late for picking Gaz up, but we didn’t think anything of it. We are a band, there’s always someone running late. It was funny getting pulled out of the bus when he picked us up. We really believe in ourselves and we want our tours documented so having a photographer there was a good thing. We want things to look back on in years to come to show how much we have progressed. Plus I’m always thinking when the band are all together that I wish someone could just take a photo of this – and now I just had to hope Gaz was about when I was thinking it. It was strange seeing this extra person in our bus at first, but soon enough he blended into the background.


Gaz Jones: I’m sat on the tour bus now trying to start this diary and I’m struggling to think how to start.  I can’t believe just a few weeks after getting off my sick bed to go to Leaf to watch The Vryll Society play and take a few photos whilst there I am on tour with them.  My nerves haven’t been helped by the band turning up forty five minutes late, leaving me stuck outside a pub on the Liverpool ring road.  I feel too nervous even to talk to the guys as I don’t want to seem too full on inside a small tour bus.    Thank God I had the sense to get them all out of the van then for the first photo.  As much as I am looking forward to this, I am here to do a job and I had to start straight away.


This whole journey down has been an example to me about making music for a living.  I am comfortably the most excited person on the bus.  Mike (Ellis, singer) is in the front with Mark (Robson, tour manager) having a conversation about European crime syndicates; Ryan (Ellis, guitar and actually not Mike’s brother) is playing chess on his Mac with Lloyd (Shearer, bass) after sorting out the playlists for the way down and the way back home; Lewis (McGuinness, guitar) is either asleep or texting his girlfriend or both; and Ben (Johnson, drums) is rolling cigarettes in the most flamboyant way – even though his fingers seem to be constantly moving it is like an art form that takes ages each cigarette.  Everybody feels so comfortable together that it is almost like I am not here, but in a good way.  It isn’t awkward, it just is what it is.



the vryll society gaz jones popped musicFebruary 11th / Leamington Spa / Blossoms Tour

M.E: Going to this obscure record shop in Leamington Spa was ace. It was run by music lovers so we were happy to spend time talking with them and buy some of their stock. It’s the kind of place I would love to spend hours in.


G.J: Blossoms are on form again tonight.  I’ve just left Mike with the lads from Viola Beach by the side of the stage.  Everybody is singing along like a fan.  I feel like I’ve had one of the best days of my life today in Leamington Spa.  I bet there aren’t many people who get to say that.   As soon as the gear was in the venue (I’m going to have decent biceps from all this lifting) the lads wanted to go to buy some records so I got to get some snaps of them in there.


The lads need to create music is astounding too.  We went to this little park to hang around and chat as there was plenty of time before soundcheck.  There was this weird xylophone type sculpture there and The Vryll Society got around it and started to jam.  I thought they were going to be messing about, but within seconds they all started working around the same rhythm and key.  I guess some people play music whereas people like these five, make music.  It comes to them as naturally as breathing.



February 13th / Guildford / Blossoms Tour

Gig cancelled – RIP Viola Beach and Craig Tarry


February 25th / London / NME Awards Show

M.E: Playing at the Scala was great for us. Because of the layers and textures to our sound, I think the music we make grows and sounds better as the venues get bigger. It becomes ethereal rather than five lads working away on stage and the sound coming out of the speakers. There were loads of industry people at that particular gig, but I wasn’t really that bothered you know. I definitely wasn’t thinking about the industry types when I was on stage. We play for the people who pay money to come in and watch us – as if you don’t have them to play for then the industry will never be bothered about you. A fair few of the industry people you meet are just doing a job rather than love music and they don’t give a shit about you or the quality of the mix or the performance, they’re just waiting around for someone to tell them what is and isn’t good.


G.J: I know us northern boys shouldn’t be bothered, but for music game London really is the Catalina Wine Mixer.  Everybody I seem to have been introduced to today has worked for one of the companies that I’ve heard of throughout my life of being into music.  It’s serious, so very serious.  Everybody wants to put on a good show every night, but a lot of these people are the guys who write cheques or get you in the right magazines or played on the right TV show.  This is ‘The Music Business’.  Getting to snap photographs at London Scala, as part of the NME Awards Shows was brilliant too.


February 26th / Leicester / Blossoms Tour

M.E: When we heard the news over Viola Beach, we just could not believe it. It was grim. The tales of the road are what unite bands and we understood that it could have been anybody at any time. It was only a couple of months earlier that we had had a smash in our tour van. Fortunately we all walked away unscathed, but it hits you too that it could have been you. When we heard what Blossoms planned to do, we all thought it was a great gesture. The Blossoms lads just got it spot on. It was a class move.


G.J: I asked ‘The Orb’ (Jordan, Blossoms’ friend and merchandise-monger) to mind the desk for me so I could listen to the playback of Viola Beach’s set from Leamington Spa.  It feels so moving being with so many people stood in silence listening to them.  Everybody is respectful.  It isn’t so much the music that gets to me, but the patter between songs from Kris Leonard, the promise to see everybody at the merch desk and the fact that they won’t be.  It is so hard hitting.  I didn’t really get to know them apart from a few pleasantries and the odd snap, but I won’t forget them.


February 27th / Manchester / Blossoms Tour

the vryll society gaz jones popped music-bimnCZ8g3OH9NQM.E: That night in Manchester was special, but it reminds you that you’re also looking up to your mates, in a way  You want those nights to have your name at the top of the bill and it to be the songs you have worked hard on for years to be giving people reason to party like that. But we know it is about doing everything all in good time. We are building things up all the time. We will keep going and we will pull those numbers in too. It won’t be long before we are doing gigs that size in Liverpool.


G.J: Oh what a night!  It is about three in the morning and I’m back in my flat in Liverpool and I still can’t get over tonight.  Everything about today felt massive.  Even when Mike and I were walking around the empty venue it was exciting.  It was so big, it felt like we were kids sneaking inside an empty building.  With so much going on around me, I even had the chance to stay out of the way and take some photos of The Vryll Society as they soundchecked.  It was like my own private performance of an ace band in a wonderful venue.  I thought you had to be super rich to get experiences like that.


April 13th / Brighton / The Vryll Society Tour

M.E: Getting told we were wanted to play in Sicily was one of the many high points of this tour. For one, it’s great to be going to a place like that anyway. But to be entertaining people a thousand miles from home it is going to be so good. Hopefully we will get to have a couple of days there. I’m going to be knee deep in pasta until they drag me back on to the plane.


G.J: I did not want to get up this morning and make the trip to the seaside. Even though it is only early spring, it is so bright down here.  We are sitting outside of this little cafe and the world feels good.  Mike has done his own thing as usual, wandering around to compose his thoughts and get ready for the gig.  I suppose it is like The Vryll Society sound on stage.  The lads who play the instruments are one unit and then Mike is the more mystical character. Yet it all combines to create The Vryll Society.  I suppose it’s like a comfortable silence.  Even though Mike is the person I know the most out of the band I know to be with the other guys most of the time.  Mike is Mike.  Mike is a frontman.  And his mates know that he is their frontman.


the vryll society gaz jones popped musicApril 15th / Scunthorpe / The Vryll Society Tour

M.E: I love touring. Even when we are going between venues I don’t get bored as such as I am excited about what is going to happen at the next show. It is a cliché, but this really is the best job in the world. It never gets boring. Writing music is beautiful. Then getting to play the music you and your mates have written in some dungeon of a rehearsal room to people who have actually paid money to watch you perform is an honour. And it’s not just that they have paid you to do it, but they want you to play for them and will clap and cheer you through it all night long. It’s just ace. And when you are finished playing, these people come up to you and tell you how good you were and often buy you a drink as thanks. It is just amazing. And then some nights you actually get paid for all of that. What more could you want?

G.J: This has been a long day.  I suppose this is what it is like being in a touring band rather than just doing something for fun.  Since we left Bristol we seem to have been driving forever.  The band are in their usual travelling positions that haven’t changed since day one.

Whilst everybody is quiet I’m just thinking back to some of the other times we’ve had in the van.  Especially the nights when Prosecco was involved. The guys are strangely funny.  “What is the difference between a camera and a sock?  One takes five toes the other takes photos”…. Now read it back in a Yorkshire accent.  I will miss this.

the vryll society gaz jones popped musicApril 16th / Preston / The Vryll Society Tour

M.E: Hallelujah is a song that all of us in the band love. For ages we have played it in the dressing room the last song before we go out. It somehow connects with us. We all start singing and tapping along. It was a big lift for each of the band every time. I don’t know who had the idea of turning it into walk on music or when we did it first, but now we feel like boxers going in to the ring. The quality of the song throws out the challenge and nobody can resist moving to it.


G.J:  I’ve realised through the touring that Ryan remembers gigs and venues by what the dressing room is like, well tonight’s was a converted stockroom with not all the stock taken out of it.  When Hallelujah started to play, the six minute remix version of Happy Monday’s most ambitious track that the band have nailed as their intro music, we were told we needed to go through the bar to get to the stage.  What we didn’t realise was that was a literal instruction and we all had to squeeze past the staff who were pouring pints as we slalomed through.  Luckily The Vryll Society have no qualms like that when they go to work.  The sound and lighting in this club was much better than last night too so everybody felt a lot less on edge.


May 1st / Liverpool / FestEVOL

M.E: After we had to cancel the gig at O2 Academy as I wasn’t well I was ready to go for the Festevol gig and the reaction we got from everybody was ace. There were loads of people in the crowd excited about us playing in front of Juliette and The Licks. I will be honest, I didn’t know who she was, I was generally quite passive over it. Even though everybody else really wanted to meet her.


G.J: This is where festival season will start – in a converted warehouse in Liverpool.  Everybody is really excited about today.  After Mike was too ill for the band to play the support slot for Blossoms when they were playing Liverpool earlier in the year, there is a feeling in the camp that there is a lost performance to be made up for.  Plus this is their biggest Liverpool show so far and they’ve got their own sound man ready to mix them so they are confident that the music will be spot on.  Added to that they’ve got a great slot on the bill between Black Honey and Juliette and The Licks – and they get to hang around with good friends in Hidden Charms and Blossoms.  Today has the makings of being special.  Let’s get to it.  Hallelujah!


Vryll Society Tour Diary Photo Gallery

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