On The Road with R5
James Gilmore joins R5 on the road for the Nottingham and Bristol dates of their New Addictions Tour
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Over the past 5 years, R5 have headlined 7 tours and gone on 2 promotional tours. From an outsider’s perspective, that would imply that they are very experienced with life on the road and the challenges of performing for thousands of adoring fans night after night.
From an insider’s perspective, that implication is totally correct.
We joined Ross, Riker, Rocky, Rydel and Ratliff for two dates of the UK leg of their ‘New Addictions Tour’ to find out exactly what life with the Lynch’s (and a Ratliff) is like.
When R5 released their latest body of work – the ‘New Addictions’ EP in May 2017 – fans were greeted with a different image of the band they had come to love. Suddenly they weren’t just addictive heart throbs – they were addictive heart throbs with an edge. They were cooler, they had a new look and a new sound.
“This is the sound that is R5 right now, this is truly who we are” lead singer Ross tells me whilst we’re exploring Bristol on our second day together. The previous night he had told a packed Nottingham crowd, “This collection is a small collection of songs, but it took us a long time to put together. We worked very hard on these.”
The live experience has adjusted too – everything from Rocky’s somewhat intense wetting of his hair before walking to the stage, to Ross’s somewhat-80s inspired shirts, Rydel’s wigs. On stage they’re rock gods – they play to the audience in the way you may expect more of a The 1975 gig.
What hasn’t changed is the family side. When exploring backstage before their gig at Nottingham’s Rock City – I find Ross, Rocky, Ratliff (technically not a Lynch but still as much family as family can get) and their brother Ryland (who also does a DJ set support slot) playing table tennis – it’s clear that both on-stage and off-stage they still gel well after all this time.
Moments before they start their procession to the very loud Nottingham crowd, I ask what they feel they all add individually to R5 besides their instruments. “Riker’s the oddball… or not the oddball but the ‘wild one’” Ross says (Riker is very happy at this suggestion – although plays it off in character perfectly). Rydel suggests, “Riker likes setting up the show and all the various random aspects of it. He’s kind of like the show director”. Riker quips back, “I prefer the term: creative director”.
Rydel continues, “[Ratliff, Ross and Rocky] are the producers/writers of the group. And I edit most of the videos.”. Ross insists, “If we were to give everyone a stage character – I would say that Rydel was the sass of the group, Rocky’s the smouldering guitar player, Ellington is the showman – he’s like the animal from the Muppets”.
“Ross is like the leading front man force” suggests Ratliff. Liking the sound of that, Ross jokes, “I’m like Usain Bolt; ahead of the pack”.
During their chill time in Bristol, I speak to Rydel about the band’s videos – a role that she’s crucial in directing and editing. When I suggest that it’s the band’s chance to show fans their true colours – after all, Ross had been on a TV show (Disney Channel’s ‘Austin & Ally’) and now they kind of have their own TV show on YouTube in R5TV – she agrees. “Yeah, I’d agree! It’s just fun really, and we’ve been trying to do them more often – we’ve tried every day for the past couple of months. It’s a great way to show our fans who we really are”.
With the new music, that seems to be more important for R5 now than ever before. Even with new single ‘Hurts Good which came out just 2 days before I joined the band – it’s their music, on their terms.
Mum (Stormie Lynch) and Dad (Mark Lynch) also play their crucial role in the band’s charted success – Stormie appears a couple of hours before each set with suitcases of clothes ready to style her family for the evening’s show whilst Mark acts as the Tour Manager, making sure that everything on the day goes to plan.
They’ve become as well known to the fans as the band themselves – during both nights multiple fans come up to them asking for photos.
Another member of the R5 family is manager Andre – it’s not very difficult to discover his successes online, including managing Hillary Duff. They’re the perfect team – and they’re experienced touring team agrees. Their technical manager says, “I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and these guys are great – one of the best clients I’ve worked with. They just get it”.
After a wowing Nottingham the night before, the pressure is definitely on when we arrive in Bristol. Come 1.30pm, it seems like some fans have already skipped school to queue outside. If only they knew that meters away from them, inside the venue, Ross was parading around topless getting ready for the show.
On which note: It’s something we had to get used to quickly. Male members of R5 are much more comfortable walking around topless than you are seeing them that way.
Their brother Ryland completes his DJ set to warm up the crowd – fans completely unaware that Rocky is meters away from them controlling the lights. As the set ends and Rocky walks backstage, some fans catch a glimpse a truly melt at the thought that they’ve been so close to their favourite rocker. Once Ryland has completed his set, he assumes the role of lighting director for the band’s set.
In Bristol, the crowd is loud and they know every single word. It’s a truly amazing show – if Nottingham was a good show, Bristol was a great one. Meeting the band backstage after the show, Ross exclaims that it must have been one of their best European shows so far.
The set is new from the night before, and features the new EP alongside new single ‘Hurts Good (which the audience know as if it’s been out for years) with tracks from 2013’s ‘Louder’ and 2015’s ‘Sometime Last Night’ albums. For a rare moment, Mark and Stormie also get an opportunity to unplug and enjoy the product of everyone’s hard work for a couple of minutes.
An hour before the set I had asked, “Do you get intimidated by the amount of tour slots you have?”. They all agree: “No. Maybe we used to, but now we don’t think about it so much. We love touring and playing to the fans, so we live day-by-day, in the moment”.
Both on and off-stage it’s clear that they’re not intimidated. They were born for this.
After their set in Bristol on our final day together, they run up, we chat for a moment and then they grab their shampoo. “I need a shower – Dad where are the towels? Rocky asks Mark. And, just like that, it’s onto the next thing.
As I say my goodbyes and make my way back to my hotel I see a group of girls outside the venue gossiping about the gig. Just before I turn away I say, “Enjoyed that?” – one girl replies, “They’re the best!”.
And – if my experience is anything to go by – the best is still yet to come.
Thank you to Hollywood Records, Polydor and R5 for co-ordinating and arranging this opportunity.