Currently batting for a big Official Albums Chart entry with their album ‘Shaking Hips and Crashing Cars’, Wrexham’s THE ROYSTON CLUB are proof that there’s more than just a Hollywood-spangled football club driving the Welsh town’s resurgent cultural footprint. We asked lead guitarist Ben Matthias to tell us what it means to the band.
I would hate for you to interpret this piece as a self-important award speech for the ‘little old town’ we grew up in or as a way for us to hop on the Hollywood-sized bandwagon that’s been rolling through Wrexham for these past two years. I’ve never been a fan of when bands do articles like that, talking about their hometown as if they’re now some big hotshot, using it as a vessel through which they can write themselves a love letter. That said, I’ll happily talk about the impact Wrexham and the people in it have had on us as a band and as people and how important it was and always will be to The Royston Club.
In early 2019, the lads and I walked from my house in the centre of Wrexham to the Saith Seren pub for their weekly open mic night and our first-ever gig. We carried our dad’s guitars, a loose memory of the chords to some jagged tunes, and had yet to discover a guitar tuner. We played a rough four-song set in between two of the regulars and walked out of there afterwards as if we were strolling off the Pyramid Stage. Something about being on that stage, playing original songs and having (a couple of) people stare up at us must have appealed to our inner narcissists because, from that point onwards, that was all we wanted to do.
The thought of a debut album that night would have been buried deep in our minds underneath A-levels and drink tokens. However, one song we debuted in the Saith Seren, ‘Mariana’, has survived the last four years and made its way onto our debut album. I’m going to clumsily shoehorn in a metaphor here because I believe the journey of that song can be likened to the town’s journey over the same period (albeit not on the same worldwide scale).
The meat and bones of ‘Mariana’ have remained unchanged, but over the years, we’ve grown around it, and it’s stretched to accommodate, hitting millions of people’s ears when written for no more than a handful.
Since being dramatically thrust onto the global stage in 2020 when Hollywood A-listers Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds bought the football club, the heart of this town has also stayed the same. The shop fronts we walked past on the way to that first gig are still standing, the barman who poured our pints is still teaching punters to order in Welsh, and the regulars are still playing and enjoying Eagles covers. The difference now is that American tourists are sitting in the pub, Hollywood stars are visiting for the match, and our home has a genuine outside interest.
I hope the parallels between The Royston Club and Wrexham continue, as the town is no doubt destined to keep growing and growing beyond what anyone inside it ever thought was possible.
One way the town has influenced the band is in the writing process. We wrote tunes with the Wrexham audiences in mind from an early stage simply because we were only playing gigs in Wrexham. We had only played one headline gig outside of the town in the first two and a half years of our band’s life, so the only audience we were realistically catering for was those living in and around us. This meant that early songs were written to be sung back in little venues like The Parish or Saith Seren, and I believe that massively contributed to our sound.
It’s a testament to how we feel about our hometown that on the day ‘Shaking Hips and Crashing Cars’ came out, we spent it with the people and community that moulded this band, playing four gigs across Wrexham right back where it all started. It was such a special day for us, filled with so much love, that I became seriously emotional towards the end of the final gig we played in The Parish. We all felt truly blessed and moved by the occasion, as everyone we spoke to that day genuinely cared for and was fully invested in the band. They showed us such an outpouring of love that we’d struggle to reciprocate, and they wanted to help us in any way they could, whether by buying an album, driving gear to the next venue, or simply lending us some kind words. Put it this way, if the rest of the UK felt the same way about us as Wrexham did, we’d be battling with Foo Fighters and Noel Gallagher for a number-one album.
I’m very proud to come from this beautiful town. It grabbed onto our little band and hoisted us up towards a place where we have a platform to share our music, and for that, we’ll be forever grateful.