We've recently got to know Sheffield grunge rockers 20 Miles From Grimsby.
Also known by the abbreviated 20MFG, this four-piece is made up of Tom Auty on vocals and rhythm guitar, Harry Stephenson on lead guitar, James Eaton on bass, and Aren Walker on drums. Still in their late teens or early twenties, the guys are ambitious and driven. They're grafters and we respect that.
Quick to establish themselves on the Sheffield music scene, the band built their reputation by gigging hard in pubs and venues throughout South Yorkshire and beyond. This was put on ice when the Covid pandemic hit the UK, with live music being one of its first victims.
Now they're back, playing live and loud, with lashings of heavy bass and drums, fresh from signing their first record deal.
We caught up with the guys before their latest sold out gig, to toast their success and find out more about their musical journey so far.
How did you guys meet?
Tom - I went to school with Harry and James, so we knew each other from there. We formed 20MFG in 2019 and we played local pub gigs. These were mostly afternoon sessions at first, due to our age. James had played with Aren in other bands, and that’s how Aren came to join us last year.
And where did the name come from?
Harry - That’s me. In the summer my grandad often drives to the East Coast, because he says they do the best fish and chips. If I call anytime on a Sunday morning and ask him where he is, I can guarantee he’ll say he's 'about 20 miles from Grimsby.' It was originally a working title for the band, but it kinda stuck.
Tell us more about those early pub gigs.
James - Our first pub gig was in July 2019. We played at our local: The Wharncliffe Arms in Chapeltown. It’s a great pub. At that time, we were banging out covers of Kings of Leon, Catfish, Arctic Monkeys, stuff like that. It was the first time our local had experienced a mosh pit! We absolutely loved it. Playing live is such a rush.
Harry - One of our early gigs was also our worst. While we were at school we organised a gig in the school hall. I think maybe only 20 people turned up, and that’s counting the cleaner... We were shocking! We hadn’t prepared. It was an important lesson: put the work in or risk being terrible in front of an audience!
Any other gigs that particularly stand out?
Aren - Yeah, our first festival. We opened the New Music Stage at Wentworth Festival in September 2021. The crowd was huge. Our set was all original songs – one of the first times we’d not done any covers – and the reaction from the crowd was fantastic. It was a real buzz.
Harry - It was a really great experience for us. Our social media following grew immediately because of the exposure, and we made lots of good contacts backstage.
Aren - It was an awesome day. Played our set, then spent the rest of the afternoon chilling out, eating pizza, and listening to the other bands and artists. We’ll be back performing on the New Music Stage this September. Come and see us!
Is that how your record label found you?
James - No, we were supposed to headline a gig at the Dublin Castle in London. It’s the legendary venue in Camden where Amy Winehouse used to work behind the bar, and where the Arctic Monkeys were signed. Being from Sheffield, this was a big connection for us. But we had to pull out at the last minute: Harry was in hospital, hooked up to machines. It was quite serious for a couple of weeks, but he made a full recovery. Another band took the slot instead, and they happened to be signed to Ramble On. We were gutted for having to pass on the gig; so, really to cheer ourselves up, we decided to contact Ramble On. Harry sent them some demos, they liked what they heard, and they asked for a meeting.
How was the meeting? Squeaky bum time?
Tom - Oh yeah! We played our full live set in their studio, to give them a taste of our sound and what we’re about. We got on really well and they offered to sign us right there and then. We couldn’t believe it.
Is performing live important?
James - Absolutely, yes. We’re happiest playing live. You cannot top live music. This pandemic has been so hard because there’s really been no live music happening anywhere. Every venue was shut for like 2 years! We finally got to Tramlines in Sheffield last year, last September, and it felt so good to be out again, listening to live music, and being part of a shared experience.
Harry - We just want to get out and play as many gigs and festivals as possible. Our dream for the band is to play Tramlines, in our home city of Sheffield.
James - Do you remember when we went to see The Reytons, and Harry and I got soaked when someone threw that pint over us? Still not certain it was beer…
Tom - I saw Bring Me the Horizon at Sheffield Arena. It was lit, enough said!
You’ve mentioned a few there, so who are your musical heroes?
Tom - Bring Me the Horizon. I’m a big fan. And The 1975. Yeah, I’d say Matty Healy and Oli Sykes are my heroes.
Harry - I grew up listening to Dad’s classic rock records in the car. I fell in love with Guns N’ Roses at an early age. Slash is my idol!
James - Dave Grohl and Wayne Bergeron. Dave for his story and ear for music. Wayne for the music he produces.
Aren - Michael Jackson. Bob Marley. Freddie Mercury.
Okay, from music to fashion. How would you describe your style?
Tom - That’s easy, anything black with a skull logo. That's why I'm wearing the Head Cave Tee!
James - I’d say I’ve moved to a relaxed ‘90s style, with vintage clothing and charity shops being my go-to places for shopping these days.
Harry - I like oversized, baggy graphic tees. Gotta be comfy. James and I share a passion for trainers, and we’re always looking on Stock X for more pairs.
How did you discover Ten of Clubs?
Harry - You guys popped up on our Instagram feed – a sign from the Gods! We checked out your website, liked what we saw and read, and dropped you a message. We had a chat and got on immediately. It’s a good collaboration.
Well, we’re glad you found us, and we’re proud to support you guys. We’re not the best at promoting ourselves – but we are improving! – so thanks be to Zuckerberg for the Instagram algorithm.
Okay, to finish, can you each tell us something unusual or interesting about one of your bandmates.
Harry - Tom is a black belt in karate. Genuinely. And he likes skateboarding.
Aren - Harry is addicted to buying guitar pedals, so he’s constantly tinkering with his pedalboard.
Tom - James once had trials for England’s American Football squad, and he’s proper into Formula 1.
James - Aren is addicted to watching TV, especially soaps. Doesn’t matter which one. Somehow he manages to randomly bump into cast members when he’s out drinking and loves a selfie with them.
Where can people go to support you or find out more about 20 Miles from Grimsby?
Aren - We’ll be back at Wentworth Festival in Rotherham in September. Come along and see us!
Tom - And we’ll be announcing more gigs soon.
Big thanks to 20 Miles From Grimsby for taking time out to chat with us. Congratulations on the record deal, guys! We're looking forward to hearing your new tracks.
Go check out the band and follow their social media.
Stay cool and spread the word ♣︎
THE TEN OF CLUBS COLLECTIVE
📸 Gig photos courtesy of Joseph Clarke Photography