Arts

Belsonic-bound Stereophonics still coming up with the goods

Welsh rockers Stereophonics are set to play at Belsonic this month. The band's bass guitarist Richard Jones spoke to Michael Jackson ahead of their highly anticipated gig

Welsh rock band Stereophonics, with bassist Richard Jones second from right, play Belsonic on June 29
Michael Jackson

HAVING released their first album Word Gets Around in 1997, Welsh rock band Stereophonics have been entertaining music fans for the best part of two decades. Next week they will once again return to Belfast to perform at the ever-popular Belsonic festival.

Formed in 1992, the band have released 9 studio albums, sold over 10 million records worldwide, and have played at the some of the world’s most iconic festivals and venues including Glastonbury, Reading Festival, and London’s O2 Arena.

Some of their tracks such as Dakota, Have a Nice Day, and even their cover of Handbags and Gladrags have become modern Brit-pop anthems.

Reflecting on the band’s early years, Stereophonics bass guitarist Richard Jones recalls their sometimes arduous journey to fame.

“We used to rehearse two or three times a week, and some weekends we would have three or four gigs,” he says. “We were trying to put ourselves out there as much as possible, and trying to get record companies listen to our demos. Back then we didn’t have the internet,” Jones laughs. “It was all recorded onto a c-60 tape and sent away.”

From meagre beginnings in their hometown of Cwmaman in south Wales during the early 90s, Stereophonics were international stars by the turn of the century.

“Around 2000 or 2001, when we were headlining huge festivals and we had arena tours planned, that’s kind of when it hit home that it had gotten as good as it can get really,” Jones says.

“Unfortunately we were too wound up in enjoying ourselves and we can’t remember some of things we’ve done."

Despite the band's early success, Jones insists that they are still committed to developing their sound.

“Fortunately enough for us we’ve had a great run over the 20 years, but we never rest on our laurels and we still try to come up with better goods,” he insists. “We try to improve how we play and make ourselves the best we can possibly become. That’s the only way you’re going to win over new fans and keep the old ones really.”

Recently Stereophonics have been busy promoting the new singles from their ninth studio album Keep the Village Alive, which was released towards the end of last year. Their Mr and Mrs Smith single is due for release on June 29.

The album has a number of great tracks, and Jones also has his personal favourites.

“I feel that C’est La Vie and I Wanna Get Lost With You stick out,” he says. “It was kind of a fresh new direction. They’re really uplifting, really upbeat, so when it came to recording those, we knew we had to nail the actual performance, and the production side of it to make it work on modern radio.”

A new album often comes with a busy tour schedule. Stereophonics have recently announced 10 summer gigs including those in Belfast and Dublin at the end of the month. Jones says that although the band may have other personal commitments, a busy schedule comes as second nature to the Welshmen.

“We’ve been this for a while now, so everything can be worked around our schedules. Myself, Kelly the guitarist, and Tony the keyboard player, we all have kids, so we’ve got to bear that in mind,” he explains.

“[Music] is what we do first and foremost. It’s the breadwinner for all of our families, so we’ve got to be serious about what we do. Myself and Kelly have been doing this since we were 16 or 17, and it is kind of the only thing we’ve ever known really.”

Stereophonics have a strong affiliation with Ireland: they've played here on numerous occasions and their upcoming Belsonic appearance will be their second. Jones says the band have strong links with quite a few local acts.

“We’ve played with Ash from Downpatrick quite a few times and we’ve always had good fun with them. Particularly when we were in Japan staying up all night with jetlag in the bar with those lads,” he laughs.

“We’ve played with the biggest Irish band there is – U2. We toured with them back in the day. Duke Special used to be on our record label as well. We’ve had good times with a lot of guys from Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Stereophonics famously collaborated with fellow Welshman, and industry legend, Tom Jones. His namesake says collaborative efforts very much reflect Stereophonics’ willingness to experiment.

“Back in the early days the record company ask us to collaborate with lots of different people. We were always the type of band to try anything once,” he says.

However, Jones does stress that collaborations, however constructive, have their own limitations.

“It is good fun working with other people. You never know what’s going to come of it, because different people work using different methods,” he says.

“We did it quite a few times back then, but it got to a point where you could be remembered for being like a collaborative act. We put a stop to it to concentrate on getting Stereophonics to where we are now.”

Whatever their creative endeavours, Stereophonics have been immensely successful. Sold-out gigs, and album sales are almost synonymous with a successful music career, but just recently the band announced that they would releasing their own beer – named ‘Phonics. Jones says that the band were quite keen on the idea.

“We were asked if we wanted to collaborate with Brains Brewery to get a brew together,” he explains. “So we thought, yeah it should be good fun walking round the brewery and tasting beer all day.”

Beer tasting aside, Jones says that the band are looking forward to their gig at Belsonic.

“Whenever we get up to Belfast it’s always a good night for us. We’re really grateful for the reaction of the crowds in Belfast, and we’re looking forward to doing Belsonic.”

The Belfast crowd can expect a wide variety of tracks at the event.

“We’ve been touring the new album since November last year. We’ll be throwing in all the songs that were released into the set list. It’s going to be a good mix of our nine albums.”

Special guests The Vaccines will be supporting Stereophonics on the evening.

“They’ve been on our radar for quite a while now,” Jones says. “They’re a great energetic and uplifting band, and they remind us of our early days. They put everything into their performances, and you can see the reaction from the crowd.”

:: Stereophonics and the Vaccines play at Belsonic on June 29. See www.belsonic.com.

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