When they started out they were just a trio of teenage lads making music in the Welsh valleys.
More than 20 years on and Stereophonics are still just a bunch of music-making Welsh lads. I mean that in the best possible way.
Only difference now is they’ve had 10 Top 10 singles from seven studio albums, are booked for almost every UK festival going and can’t walk the streets of their home country without being recognised.
But aside from the fame and fortune, which was sadly the downfall of original drummer Stuart Cable who died of a drug overdose in 2010, members Kelly and Richard Jones (not brothers just a very popular Welsh surname) are still as down-to-earth and patriotic as ever.
“Because we’re such a small country people want to see you succeed,” said Richard through a thick Welsh accent. “To have people succeed in certain industries I think people just love it. They are very behind you when you do things and whenever we do a show in Wales there’s just nothing else like it to be honest. It’s like performing to mates. They relate to you as a friend really. You walk down a street and everybody knows your name. You don’t know their name but they know yours,” he said sounding almost uncomfortable with the notion.
Born just weeks apart and growing up neighbours in the small village of Cwmaman, Wales, Richard and Kelly were destined to make music. “My uncle would tell us to get out of our bedrooms and into a pub because nobody can hear our music from in there,” Kelly often recalls.
In 1992 as a teenage cover band known as Tragic Love Company, a name inspired by their favourite bands The Tragically Hip, Mother Love Bone and Bad Company, scaffolder Richard, former market trader and one-time boxer Kelly and school dinner delivery man Stuart set about changing their lives forever.
Clubs and pubs soon became studios, Tragic Love Company became Stereophonics – without the ‘The’ – and before they knew it they were in the studio with Sir Tom Jones.
“We just turned around and it happened,” said Richard, 38. Welshman Tom Jones and Stereophonics in a room together was only ever going to result in great things and when Mama Told Me Not To Come was released it was an instant hit, storming the UK charts.
“There’s just no rivalry among the Welsh,” said Richard, who frankly appears so horizontally-laid back I’m not certain he’d be the best informed even if there was. “Not that I know of anyway,” he laughed accepting my point. In a bid to prove his point he rummaged around in his memory. “In the early days the Manic Street Preachers were really popular and they just took us and Catatonia on the road with them,” he said. “Back in, I think it was 1997,” he eventually remembered. “It was a particularly great introduction into touring but also great to be with fellow countrymen.”
A luckless few years trekking up and down the M4 motorway back and forth to London until breakthrough in May 1996 when they were the first artists signed to record label V2, created by Richard Branson.
The UAE now stands to be the first crowd to hear Stereophonics latest single, In A Moment, live which was only released on free download on Sunday.
“The song is about finding some hope in life,” said 38-year-old Kelly. “It’s about those moments in life when you feel a bit lost and stuck and you don’t know how to get out of it and then there’s a glimmer of hope that helps you pull through it. It’s quite a spiritual song.”
The fact the song has been released for free is synonymous of Stereophonics. Kindness is in their hearts. A chat with Richard is best described as similar to a chat with your uncle — but one you respect for all the right reasons. He’s over-polite and conscious of your time over his and thanked me incessantly for bothering to pick up the phone.
In a Moment was released free of charge to “give fans something they can keep rather than having to keep going back to YouTube or whatever,” according to the Jones’.
The track, which can be downloaded from the band’s official website stereophonics.com, is the second, following last month’s ‘Violins and Tambourines’, to be taken from upcoming album ‘Graffiti On The Train’, due out in March 2013.
“We’ve been working on it for like the last 18 months and we’re just really excited to see what people think when they hear it,” said Richard. “It’s all done and dusted. We’re just in artwork meetings now. Doing the packaging for the CDs and vinyl records but it’s very close to being printed and stacked on shelves now.”
One of the biggest bands to come out of the UK they may be but manners don’t escape. “I think it’ll be probably a bit rude to play too many tracks from the new album to be honest,” said Richard. “As it’s our first show and we’ve got a limited time you know, it’s gonna be the best of. We’d love to drop in a few new ones. It all depends on how much time we have really and if people are giving us the elbow to get off,” he said with a giggle. “We can’t wait to come out to Dubai and play the first live show.”
The line-up has endured a few changes. In 2007 at Radio 1’s Big Weekend in Preston, the band were joined on stage by Casino frontman Adam Zindani who remained for the Pull the Pin tour, playing lead guitar and backing vocals. Only in July this year did drummer Javier Weyler, who replaced Cable after he was asked to leave by Kelly in 2003, also departed and the job was given to former Noisettes drummer Jamie Morrison.
But 2012 was a year of celebration for the band too as they were requested to represent the UK and play a special concert in Hyde Park to mark the start of the Olympics along with Duran Duran, Snow Patrol, Paolo Nutini and many more.
“It was a real honour to be involved,” said Richard. “Whenever you play a big gig like that it’s more than a gig really. You feel like you’re playing a part in this big show rather than just having your own thing going on. I think it did sport a huge favour and hopefully it’s inspired many young people to take up sports and go on to be the next generation of sporting heroes. We were there pretty early and we stuck around for a while. I managed to get some tickets to see some of the events and I had a blast. I fully embraced the Olympics.”
Their most well known songs include a cover of Chris Farlowe’s Handbags and Gladrags, Have a Nice Day, and Mr Writer, as well as earlier favourites Local Boy In The Photograph, A Thousand Trees, Looks Like Chaplin and The Bartender and the Thief.
“It was on some Zombie film which was so weird,” said Richard about Have A Nice Day. “We do get asked to use our music on television shows and movies and it did seem an unlikely match to have a horror film with such a spritely song. But I guess the lyrics of the song are actually quite dark aren’t they?”
Not prepared to dish the dirt on requests the boys had turned down for use of their music, Richard did tread briefly on the border of controversy.
“We did tour with Bon Jovi before he released that song so we kinda thought he might have nicked it off us,” he said, laughing.
It was confirmed. Don’t expect scandal or salacious stories. Stereophonics are all about the music.
The name Stereophonics came from a brand of gramophone which belonged to Stuart’s grandmother.
Sandance featuring Stereophonics, Benny Benassi, Labrinth, Newton Faulkner and Marco V takes place on Friday from 2pm-2am at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai. Tickets, priced Dh275 (Dh300 on the door) and Dh450 (VIP), are available from platinumlist.ae.