His Reading Festival career started when he was just 16, and a penniless, rebellious student at West Herts College – he didn’t have a ticket but went along anyway, jumped over the fence unseen and camped out and enjoyed the ‘free’ music for the whole weekend.

This year, Mike Duce will be doing things rather more properly, as vocalist and rhythm guitar player with Watford-based band Lower Than Atlantis, when they take to the Main Stage on Saturday.

“We played there last year as well and I did an official interview with the organisers, and told them that story,“ laughs Mike, 24. “Luckily they thought it was funny.“

Mike and the band have come a long way from the days when they couldn’t afford to go to festivals. Mike formed the band in 2007 with Ben Sansom (lead guitar) from Apsley, who he met at West Herts College.

The sound back then was much more melodic hardcore punk. At the end of 2008, after going through various different bassists and drummers, they released their debut EP, Bretton, followed in 2010 by their debut album Far Q. Then Eddy Thrower joined on drums and Declan Hart on bass and they released World Record in 2011, which had a more alternative indie rock vibe about it. And last October they released Changing Tune, which reached number 25 in the UK Official Album Charts.

They are currently building a recording studio in Watford Business Park, where they will record their albums from now on.

“The music has changed throughout the years,“ admits Mike, “we’re not into playing the same stuff over and over again – that’s boring for us playing it and boring for the fans.“

And the fans certainly don’t seem to have minded the change of musical direction – hence the spot at the Main Stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals.

“I don’t know how the others are feeling about it but I’m trying not to think about it. Whenever we have a big show, I don’t think about it at all and then, when we get there, I start having a panic attack about 30 seconds before we go on. But as soon as you go out there we all go into ‘game face’.“

Mike was into music from an early age. He was one of those baggy-shorts kids skating up and down outside C&A in Charter Place, when he would check out the band T-shirts the older kids were wearing and “pretend that I already knew about the bands, then I’d go and nick their albums from CD Warehouse.“

In bands, he would play gigs at Watford Rugby Club in Radlett Road and the Railway Club in St Albans Road.

“Watford had such a cool music scene when I was growing up but it died off a bit as I got older,“ says Mike, a former bricklayer, “so we would just jump on the train and go up to London. When it came to playing in a band myself, there wasn’t really anyone around anymore to come to a gig, so again we would go and play in London.“

Despite that, Watford has found its way into “loads of our songs“ – listen out for references to Baraka bar and Area nightclub in the High Street in their song Eating is Cheating (ignoring the less-than-complimentary references to the club-going women of Watford, if at all possible).

So, are the nicked CDs and jumping over the wall at Reading the most rock ‘n’ roll things Mike has ever done?

“Oh crikey, I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not very proud of but everything is a learning curve. You have to do stupid things to realise that you don’t want to do them again, don’t you?“