Quick to establish themselves on the Sheffield music scene, the 20 Miles From Grimsby boys have built their reputation by gigging hard in pubs, clubs, and festivals throughout the north of England.
Gigs were put on ice when the Covid pandemic hit the UK. Now the boys are back, fresh from signing their first record deal, playing live and loud, with lashings of heavy bass and drums.
Also known by the abbreviated 20MFG, the energetic four-piece consists of Tom Auty on vocals and rhythm guitar, Harry Stephenson on lead guitar, James Eaton on bass, and Aren Walker on drums.
We caught up with 20MFG 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 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 'cause Harry was in hospital, hooked up to machines. It was quite serious for a couple of weeks, but he made a full recovery.
Harry - 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. I sent some demos, they liked what they heard and 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. The pandemic has been so hard because there’s really been no live music happening anywhere. Every venue was shut for like 2 years!
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 sure it was beer…!
Tom - I saw Bring Me the Horizon at Sheffield Arena. It was lit.
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 great 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 Instagram for the algorithm.
Okay, to finish, can you each tell us something unusual or unexpected 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.
📸 Gig photos by Joseph Clarke Photography
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