'We were lucky Britpop fell apart' - Kelly Jones looks back as Stereophonics release a reflective new album
Two decades is, as Kelly Jones agrees, a long time. Certainly in musical terms. The Stereophonics frontman is reflecting on the fact that his band have not just lasted 20 years, but seen off most of the competition.
However, despite being in the midst of promotion for ‘Scream Above The Sounds’, he can’t help looking back to where it all began - the four-piece’s roots in south Wales, and the new album’s inevitable comparisons to debut ‘Word Gets Around’.
“It was more coincidental with it being 20 years,” he says of ‘Boy On A Bike’, a nostalgia piece on the new record, “maybe more to do with taking my family back and showing my kids where I grew up.”
It was these trips home which prompted what will be the album’s centrepiece for many long-time fans - ‘Before Anyone Knew Our Name’. Written about the band’s departed drummer and Jones’ childhood friend Stuart Cable, who died in 2010, the track “caught me off guard”, arriving late on in the recording process.
The band are not mired in the past, though perhaps the wave of nostalgia is a reaction to the world today. “A lot of the songs were written after the Bataclan - there’s a lot of anxiety in the air, a lot of s**t, that’s what ‘Scream Above The Sounds’ means - trying to find something good and positive,” muses Jones.
Stereophonics 2018 tour
FRI 23 FEB ABERDEEN AECC ARENASAT 24 FEB GLASGOW THE SSE HYDROMON 26 FEB NOTTINGHAM MOTORPOINT ARENATUE 27 FEB BRIGHTON CENTRETHU 01 MAR BIRMINGHAM GENTING ARENAFRI 02 MAR LONDON THE SSE ARENA WEMBLEYSAT 03 MAR LONDON THE SSE ARENA WEMBLEYMON 05 MAR BOURNEMOUTH BICTUE 06 MAR CARDIFF MOTORPOINT ARENAWED 07 MAR CARDIFF MOTORPOINT ARENAFRI 09 MAR MANCHESTER ARENASAT 10 MAR LEEDS FIRST DIRECT ARENAMON 12 MAR NEWCASTLE METRO RADIO ARENATHU 15 MAR BELFAST SSE ARENAFRI 16 MAR DUBLIN 3ARENA
The band, and Jones, are less known for making political statements. “I mean, what the f**k am I supposed to say about Theresa May and Donald Trump that’s not been said every single day of the week?”
Yes, there’s no shortage of subject material in the world today, and the responsibility as songwriter falls on Jones’ shoulders. “Fortunately in our band no-one denied that I was the best songwriter, so it kinda my job - it there was never any ego, not like the Beatles or Eagles, the boys were never really writers - the song was the boss.”
Stamp of approval
Hardly the showbiz type, Jones brushes off mention of the band’s celebrity fans, among them George Clooney, and Wayne Rooney, who famously has a Stereophonics tattoo. However, one fellow musician’s reported enjoyment of their music was hard to ignore.
Kelly was flatered to be namechecked by Bob Dylan, pictured
“Dylan namechecked us, among a few other artists,” he says, modestly, “and having been brought up with his music, it was hugely flattering - but I didn’t overthink it, it was a lively jab in the arm.”
He hasn’t met the great man, and, it seems, isn’t in a rush to meet any of his idols, perhaps fearing that the legendarily grumpy singer might disappoint. “Maybe you should leave them in your head,” he says. “There’s no point in just shaking someone’s hand and saying ‘I met Dylan’.”
Jones’ love of classic songwriters comes from his elder brothers, as well as a musician father who played the clubs of south Wales (his love of Leeds United also comes from his elder siblings and the scratchy, hand-me-down Admiral-branded football tops).
“We were quite lucky that the Britpop thing fell apart in front of us,” he recalls. “You have to get the songs together - without them the scene will always go away no matter how big it is”
He could offer most of those acts - his good mate Noel Gallagher aside - some tips on longevity perhaps.
”On every album, we try to step out of the comfort zone, do something different, find new sounds and ways of making music,” he enthuses. “Put the work in, find reasons for making new albums, do the tours, enjoy making albums, give people a reason to buy another one - it has to be different, or really good.”
So is that the Stereophonics recipe for success?
“Apart from trying to put in effort and challenge ourselves, I dunno. We’ve certainly grafted!”
‘Scream Above The Sounds’ is out now.