Dear diary, tonight we’re playing Glastonbury
Northern Ireland alternative rock band Seven Summits lead singer Rory Nellis tells Jamie McDowell about the sheer joy of performing at the biggest gig of their lives
When lead singer of the band Seven Summits, Rory Nellis (27), received a voice mail message from the BBC's Rory McConnell five weeks ago asking to return the call urgently, Nellis was excited.
Perhaps the BBC wanted to play some more of the band's songs, as they'd previously done? Perhaps it was for an interview?
“When I rang him back,” said Nellis, “I couldn't believe what he said. He just asked if we would like to play Glastonbury, at the BBC Introducing stage.
“Obviously we had to think long and hard about it.”
Simply typing ‘seven summits’ in to Google will bring up an endless list of websites that cater for adventure holiday enthusiasts wanting to tackle the biggest mountains on the seven different continents of the world. Indeed, there's a growing market for these types of holidays, but in between the advertisements and fancy web addresses is a MySpace site for a band with the same conquering aspirations.
“We were genuinely stuck for a title for the band,” laughed Nellis. “I'd bought a book of different bird species, thinking that we could name ourselves after some kind of rare bird. But every time we typed their name into MySpace a band had already taken it. So we started looking at names of the biggest mountains, and they were all taken too. So we ended up coming across Seven Summits that way.”
He added: “Our style is influenced a lot by bands such as Blur, Grandaddy, Weezer and Gomez. We have a lot of American influences.”
After their successful appearance at Glastonbury last Sunday, Nellis kept a diary of the days that led to himself and drummer Joe Laverty (27), a construction worker, guitarist Dominic Coyle (27), an English teacher, and bassist Fra McCrory (27), a full-time artist, playing at one of the most legendary festivals of all time...
Thursday, June 24
“We've just arrived at the ferry terminal in Dublin. The Dublin to Liverpool ferry was the cheapest crossing we could get. Our drummer Joe works for a construction company and he was able to borrow a van for us to travel in. It's very expensive to get the whole band and a van across the water so we've decided to make the most of the trip and fit as many gigs in as possible — we don't want to just go drinking for four days solid. A few of the band members, including myself, used to live and work in Liverpool, Manchester and London, so using our contacts we've managed to secure a gig tonight in Manchester, one on Friday in Liverpool and one on Monday night — the night after we're due to appear at Glastonbury — in London.
The ferry to Liverpool lasts for eight hours so we've decided to use this time to burn some CDs on our laptops of a three-song EP we've recorded in a studio recently. These are good to have in case we meet people in the music industry while we're at the festival. We had the CD labels made before we left Belfast.
Our first gig of the trip is in a bar called the Thirsty Scholar in Manchester. We are pretty tired after all the travelling and the early rise. It's a great night though. The bar isn't very big, but the crowd are reacting well to us and we're having a good time.
Friday, June 25
We're up early today having driven back to Liverpool to my cousin Conor's house last night straight after the Thirsty Scholar performance. He lives in Liverpool and has kindly let us lodge with him.
Luckily, three of the band can drive, so we were taking it in turns.
We spend most of the morning catching up on Facebook. It's really important to keep our Facebook and MySpace pages up to date. A lot of music fans today rely on these sites for information on their favourite bands. None of us have an iPhone, and other bands that do have them have an immediate advantage over us because they can take a picture of themselves on stage and upload it on to the internet immediately, whereas we have to wait to get to somewhere that has wifi.
Later in the afternoon we arrive at Zanzibar in Liverpool, which is a very well-known music bar. It's a bit like the Limelight or the Spring and Airbrake in Belfast in that regard. I used to work here as a barman, so I'm able to get us a spot in the line-up for the night.
The venue hosts a lot of up and coming bands. It's a great feeling to come back and play at Zanzibar.
We're fourth on the bill of six for the evening. It's normally a good thing to be in the middle of the bill because towards the end, the audience starts to dwindle.
After the gig, the band have a few beers, but it's my turn to drive. We go back to Conor's house and continue to have a few drinks there. Conor has just graduated, so he's in the mood for a party, and we don't go to bed until about 4am.
Saturday, June 26
We wake up early because we want to get on the road to Glastonbury.
We stop off at Tesco on the way and there's a big protest on about Israeli goods. We were just walking through the place and now loads of shoppers have abandoned their trolleys and pulled on T-shirts and started grabbing tomatoes and stuff.
We arrive at Glastonbury and pitch our tents. At first we just get settled in at the camp site and have a few beers.
Our gig is tomorrow so we don't really want to drink too much. Later in the evening I head to see a band called Midlake at the Park Stage.
Midlake finish late in the evening and afterwards we go to a silent disco for a few hours. A silent disco is where you wear headphones and have a choice of DJs to listen to. It's pretty cool. We don't get to sleep until late on Saturday.
Sunday, June 27
Even though we're all really tired, we get up early because the heat of the sun has made lying in our tents unbearable.
We get up and get our heads together before the night's gig. All members of the band have performed in front of audiences before, so we aren't overly nervous, but we can't afford to be blasé either. It's by far the biggest gig of our lives so far.
We are given access all areas passes for the BBC Introducing stage as well as the dance stage. During the course of the afternoon we meet Jo Whiley and Huw Stephens from BBC Radio 1 and Tom Robinson from BBC 6 Music as well as Luke from the Bombay Bicycle Club. I give a few of our new EPs out to them.
Germany have just finished stuffing England before we go on, and the area where they were showing the match is right beside us which doesn't help because some of the audience are quite gloomy now. For our sake I think it would have been better if England won. If it had gone to penalties it would've been disastrous.
By five-thirty we've just gone on stage. The crowd reacts really well to us, and at one stage I start clapping my hands above my head and have the audience doing it too. It’s wonderful. I've never done that before...
We kick off with three songs in a row then play some of our shorter tracks in order to fit more in. We come off stage at six exactly. The organisers run a tight schedule.
Unfortunately, the girl who was on before us had bad technical issues and couldn't finish her set. We've managed to squeeze seven songs into our 25 minutes.
A lot of the fans are also in ‘Sunday mode'. Glastonbury traditionally attracts an older crowd and there are many people lying about reading the papers.
It was up to us to get people involved and I think we did. We had about 150 people in the tent so it was a success for us.
We go to see Stevie Wonder at the Pyramid Stage. 125,000 people are at the festival all together and 100,000 are watching Stevie Wonder. This is just silly.
Monday, June 28
We get up early and leave because we've heard that the traffic getting into London after Glastonbury is horrendous.
We keep stopping off along the way at service stations to play headers and volleys to break things up a bit and we do two interviews with George Jones and Good Morning Ulster.
We have to stop the van to do the interviews because it's so noisy we can't hear what they're saying on the phone.
By half-nine we're on stage at Dublin Castle, a bar in London. We're on quite early because bars in London only open until around 11pm.
We we're exhausted by this stage, but our ferry is due to leave Liverpool at 8am tomorrow morning so we're having to drive to Liverpool through the night. We take it in turns to drive, make the ferry, and are back in Belfast on time to watch the Spain vs Portugal match.