Posted by: rowenawilcox | August 24, 2010

Reaper In Sicily: Small town boys to big city rockers

It’s been a tough few months for Reaper In Sicily (RIS) since I last caught up with them as their guitarist, Matthew Jenkins, was diagnosed with leukaemia in March and many critics saw this as the end of the band.

We’re now five months down the line, Matt is in remission and the boys are playing the gigs of their lives this weekend when they hit Reading and Leeds festivals – that’s the critics proved wrong.

REAPER IN SICILY: (L-R), Mike Evans, Matthew Jenkins, Rhys Bernardo, Jonny Chappell and Tom Williams

Since Matt was diagnosed with cancer, the five-piece rockers have “matured mentally by about ten years,” said frontman, Rhys Bernardo.

Finding out was one of the hardest things the young Cynon Valley band have had to deal with and each of the members reacted in a different way.

“I think Matt himself coped the best,” confessed Rhys. “Me and Jonny completely broke down and didn’t leave the house for around 5-6 days, whereas Tom and Mike were a lot stronger and held it together for Matthew’s sake”.

RIS’ popularity soared after they rocked their way to the top-spot of Kerrang’s mega battle of the bands in 2009 and earned themselves the title ‘Best Live Unsigned Band in the UK’ and a contract with Search and Destroy Records.

Since then, their fan base has grown dramatically and it’s the “incredible” messages from these supporters that have helped all of the boys recently. “You can’t please everyone music wise and a lot of people don’t like what we do, but even these people were great to us and left messages of support for Matthew. For this we are so grateful as it really helped him and us.”

RIS had been invited to play at a couple of festivals this year, but under the circumstances, they bravely cancelled everything they had coming up and rallied around to help Matt. After hearing that the guitarist is now in remission, RIS received a call from the BBC, asking them to play on their Introducing Stage at this weekend’s Reading/Leeds festivals. “The BBC contacted us personally at the end of last month and we said no,” said Rhys, as their loyalty came first, “but then they asked again and Matthew was like ‘well why don’t we play it?’ so we said if he wants to and is well enough let’s do it!” 

The stage fright can go out of the window as they have already played the O2 Arena as part of the Kerrang competition and are just motivated, enthusiastic and overly excited to get on stage and do what they do best. “It’s a great feeling. It’s the biggest rock festival in the UK [so,] to be a part of that, to see you’re name on that poster is just amazing. We are like five eight-year-olds at Christmas,” beamed Rhys. 

“We’ve been practising long and hard every week, every day we can, and are still finding time to try and complete the album. There’s a lot going on for us at the minute, but we are more than prepared.”When asked what fans can expect on Saturday and Sunday, Rhys answered, “it’s going to be energetic I know that much. “It’s been nearly six months since we played; we are all absolutely busting for it and hopefully amongst the energy and stage performance we’ll sound OK as well.” 

In our last interview, it was revealed Mike demands strawberries and Jonny has to eat a KFC before each show and whilst Rhys has confirmed, guitarist, Jonny has an “ongoing KFC addiction,” bassist, Mike, “hasn’t mentioned the strawberries yet so fingers crossed he’s over that phase”. 

The future is looking bright for RIS, what with an album in the pipeline and the hope of a tour and new deal on the cards. The album will be the band’s way of saying, “a big thank you for everyone’s patience and support through this difficult time,” and what better way to say it than through music. 

The past has certainly been challenging for RIS, although they can take to the stage and stand in the face of adversity, their critics and cancer and ensure the crowd is rocking to the sound of their unique power-pop.

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