Welsh rockers return

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Stereophonics’ debut record “Word Gets Around” was pretty much the soundtrack to my third year of high school.

Walks home belting back the lyrics to “Local Boy In The Photograph”; RE homework interrupted by countless plays of “Thousand Trees”. Only Oasis had more of a look in for me at that age.

Eighteen years on, the Welsh rockers are gearing up to release album number nine.

While that leaves me wondering where the time has gone (while also offering up a reason as to why I got a ‘B’ in RE and not the A* my staunch Catholic parents were probably expecting) bassist and founding member Rich Jones doesn’t quite see it that way.

“It only does when somebody reminds us (of how long it has been since their debut). For us because we continually move forward we haven’t really let it catch up with us. It’s been a great journey but we’re always looking to the future.

“The longest we have taken between records is nearly three years. Even thouhgh it seems like we’re taking a break we’re usually in the studio or doing other things.

“You can never put a time frame on being creative and recording something. As soon as you start something that can either turn into a really quick process or a really lengthy one and you don’t know until something sparks it off really.”

Nine albums in, you would think that spark was maybe becoming more difficult to ignite for a band who are one of only eight groups to achieve five consecutive number one albums alongside the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Oasis; whose hits collection “Decade In the Sun” sold 1.2 million copies; who sold more than 150,000 tickets on their last UK tour.

“No, not for us”, says Rich. “I think first and foremost we all wanted to be in a band to entertain, for the love of the music and we’ve never lost that really. Certain aspects of it do get tiring like the length of time you are away from home and your family, that can get on your nerves, but we’re all in the same boat and we all work together and help each other through the difficult times.”

It’s a journey he has been on with frontman Kelly Jones since day one – and not just with the band. The pair were born in the same hospital just two weeks apart, they went to the same school as each other and they remain as close as ever.

“Ive known him since day one. It’s kind of a non-blood brother relationship really. We’ve been through so much together as people. A lot of what goes on within our Stereophonics’ life we dont need to talk about because we both know exactly how the other feels.”

Kelly recently spoke about how one of the best things about the band was they all still like each other.

“I think it does make it a lot easier.” explains Rich. “I think that’s a big part of our creative process. There’s never one person trying to push their ideas to the forefront. It’s a kind of natural process. Kelly doing the thing that he does – the lyrics, the melodies and then sometimes the song will come fully formed, sometimes we will all have to chip in to make it work. The exciting part is seeing what comes out at the end of that process and then taking it on the road, that’s our time to show off really.”

Recorded at ICP Studios in Brussels and their own Stylus Studios in London, new album “Keep The Village Alive” saw the band work from an initial pool of 35 to 40 songs.

“We always try and find something new when we’re doing a new album,” say Rich. “I think for this one, songs like “C’est La Vie” and “I Wanna Get Lost With You” are very instant where as the last album we were working with orchestration and letting the music breathe, not condensing the songs down to the three minute pop songs. But with this one we found a little bit more of a youthful, punky attitude.

“The actual title comes from what used to fly around when we were out and about. Somebody would shout it out at the end of a night when they had maybe had a little bit to much to drink. It was in the liner notes for ‘Words Gets Around’ and we thought it was appropriate now because a lot of small places around the UK and the world are overshawdowed by the bigger towns. So we wanted to rally around and celebrate the fact that these small places have got a life and a sense of community that still needs to be shouted about.”

Stereophonics headline V Festival on August 22nd and 23rd with the promise of a UK tour to follow. Rich can’t wait.

“Festivals for us is where a lot of stuff is not planned. You don’t get a sound check, you don’t know what type of crowd is going to be in front of you, it’s just the general ticket buying public, not your hardcore fans, so you never know what is going to happen. So we just have fun and try and win people over.

“Picking a setlist is getting a lot harder. We came across that dilemma when we were doing the setlist for T in the Park. How do you condense nine albums worth of songs into 45 minutes or an hour. There are going to be casualties but hopefully we make it worthwhile for the crowd.

“You can figure out what works and what doesn’t work but there’s nothing quite like being up there doing the songs and figuring out the pacing. We do band rehearsals every week and we try different setlist everytime we do rehearsals but there’s nothing like being up on stage to see if it works.

“We’re hopefully going to be touring the UK in December. I think we’re out in Europe in October and we’ve got the Middle East and Far East in November. Everybody’s going to know about it when the album is released next month and we release all the tour dates.

“Until then we’ve got a couple of weeks off taking a bit of a break and enjoying time with the families before it all kicks off.”

I’ll be off saying a prayer.