With their melodic tunes and laid-back lyrics that relate to everyday life, the Stereophonics—a trio consisting of vocalist/guitarist Kelly Jones, bass guitarist Richard Jones (of no relation to Kelly), and drummer Stuart Cable—are considered one of the best rock bands to emerge from Wales. “Here is a great rock band that plays moody, passionate songs with literate lyrics and melodies that linger in your head,” declared Washington Post contributor Alona Wartofsky. Much of the band’s appeal can be attributed to front man Kelly Jones, who sings in a soulful, raspy style reminiscent of Rod Stewart and pens lyrics that consist of vivid observations about life in a working-class small town, exploring subjects matters like life’s inevitable disappointments, infidelity, gossip, intrigue, and murder. Although the Stereophonies place their songs within a rural setting, the trio’s musings are equally applicable to the big city. Because of this universality, as well as anthemic choruses that hold each song together, the Stereophonies, beginning in the late-1990s, were able to become one of Great Britains most highly touted rock acts in just a few years time.
Despite the release of two critically acclaimed, platinum-selling albums, the Stereophonies remained
Members include Stuart Cable, drums; Kelly Jones, vocals, guitar; Richard Jones (of no relation to Kelly), bass guitar; All were born in Cwmaman, near Aberdare, South Wales.
Formed band in 1992 in Cwmaman as the Tragic Love Company, 1992; changed name to the Stereophonies, 1996; released debut album Word Gets Around, 1997; released Performance and Cocktails, 1998 in the U.K. and 1999 in the U.S.
Awards: Brit Award for “Best Newcomer,” 1998.
Addresses: Record company —V2 Records, 14 E. 4th St., New York City, NY 10012, phone: (212) 320-8500, fax: (212) 320-8600, website: http://www.V2music.com. Management —Stereophonies Ltd., P.O. Box 5594, Thatcham, Berkshire, England RG18 9YH, phone: (+44 outside U.K.) (01635) 862200, fax: (+44 outside U.K.) (01635) 866449. Webs ite— Stereo-phonics Official Website: http://www.stereophonies.co.uk.
less popular in the United States. And while their shows regularly sold out during American tours, radio stations virtually ignored the band’s music, preventing the Stereophonies, like a lot of other British acts, from building a sizable audience. Even super groups such as Oasis and Blur received limited airplay across the Atlantic. “When I first came here three or four years ago,” Kelly recalled to Wartofsky, “it was all Pearl Jam, Black Crowes—bands which we were all into—on the radio, so I thought we had a fair chance of getting a decent break. But now all that’s kinda changed. At the moment, radio stations are playing a lot of crap. It’s either stuff like Limp Bizkit or the Backstreet Boys… No decent songs, in my opinion. It’s all for 15-year-olds.”
Moreover, without the backing of radio or MTV, most bands find it nearly impossible, not to mention frustrating, to achieve a breakthrough. “It bothers you that you don’t get played when you think you’re a better band than people who are getting played,” the songwriter admitted. “But that’s the way of the world. It’s always the tacky [expletive] that gets known. It takes longer for something which is a bit more creative to get through. Because it’s less obvious, and you got to think about it a bit more.”
The members of the Stereophonic all hail from the little village of Cwmaman, near Aberdare, South Wales. Although the trio officially started writing and performing music together in 1992, the history of the band stretches way back. Kelly Jones, Richard Jones, and Stuart Cable, a few years older than his bandmates, have known each other since their infancy and started honing their musical skills in their teens, rehearsing in Cable’s bedroom before landing their first local gigs. Cable and Kelly Jones grew up just eight doors down from one another, while Richard Jones lived on the other side of town. “About 1,000 people live there,” noted Kelly Jones to Wartofsky about the band’s hometown. “Probably about 10 people out of those thousand had guitar, so you’re probably gonna bump into those other people. We’d all be at each other’s houses and playing tennis rackets, thinking we were Angus Young.”
The trio’s earliest musical inspirations arose out of their older brothers’ record collections, from which they took in the sounds of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Kinks, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, the Sex Pistols, the Beatles, Madness, the Specials, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Otis Redding, Tony Bennett, and Bob Dylan, among others. Kelly Jones, a former market trader, boxer, and budding scriptwriter, came from a musical family and naturally gravitated toward singing and playing guitar. His pal Cable, who worked on a building site and delivered school dinners before the band took flight, had participated in other local bands, while Richard Jones, a self-described pragmatist and former scaffolder, coalman, and electrician, decided to take up the bass because everyone else had guitars.
After a few years lugging their equipment to London and back under the moniker Tragic Love Company, the trio in the summer of 1996 changed their name to the Stereophonies—taken from the brand name of Cable’s grandmother’s gramophone—and began playing more and more dates. Soon thereafter, they received numerous offers from record labels, eventually opting to become the first band signed to Richard Branson’s V2 label in August of that year. Reportedly, the Stereo phonics had been courted by every major label in the United Kingdom, including all five owned by EMI Records, who normally do not compete against one another.
The Stereophonies released their first record, the double A-sided, limited edition single “Looks Like Chaplin/More Life in a Tramps Vest,” in November of 1996, coinciding with supporting slots with the Manic Street Preachers, Skunk Anansie, Ocean Colour Scene, and the Who. Two months later in January of 1997, the trio played to a crowd of 250,000 at the Hogmany Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. March of that year saw the release of a second single, “Local Boy in the Photograph,” which reached number 51 on the British charts, and the start of their first headlining national tour. A third single, the previously recorded “More Life in a Tramps Vest,” appeared again in May and rose to the number 33 position in the British top 40. Later that month, the Stereophonies, regarded as one of the hardest-working British bands for their busy touring schedule, played to sell-out audiences at the Hillsborough Benefit Concert, Anfield, Liverpool, and the Big Noise Festival in Cardiff Bay, followed in June with shows in Scandanavia, and in July with a performance at the Belfort Festival in France.
August of 1997 saw the release of a fourth single entitled “A Thousand Trees,” which peaked at number 22, as well as the release of the Stereophonies’ debut album, Word Gets Around, which entered the British charts at number six. “Stridently self-confident fare from a band unlikely to be one-album wonders,” wrote Justin Lewis, describing the album for Rock: The Rough Guide, “this boasts hard-edged rock music, shot through with Kelly Jones’s sense of lyrical black comedy.” In support of their debut, the Stereophonies played some more festivals and made their first appearance on Top of the Pops. Then in September, the trio toured Europe before coming to the United States for a promotional visit. When they returned home in October, the Stereophonies toured the United Kingdom again to sell-out crowds, then toured Europe again and returned to the United States the following month. In 1997 alone, the Stereophonic played more than 100 gigs.
The band continued to tour extensively the following year, and in February of 1998, the Stereophonies were rewarded for all their hard work with a “Best Newcomer” award at the Brit Awards. But the honor didn’t slow down the Stereophonies, who took on more dates in France, Holland, Belgium, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain. In the midst of all this activity, in April of 1998 the trio entered Real-World Studios in Bath to begin recording a follow-up album. And after a string of summer music festival appearances, the Stereophonies in August made their first trip to Japan, followed by another national tour of Britain and a visit to Thailand to shoot a video for the song “Bartender and the Thief” in October of that year.
In November of 1998, the Stereophonies arrived with their second album, Performance and Cocktails, which saw its American release in 1999. Rising to number three on the British charts, the album won stellar reviews and earned a nomination for the prestigious 1999 Technics Mercury Music Prize. During the remainder of 1998 and 1999, the band toured non-stop, including a support slot for Aerosmith, Lenny Kravitz, and the Black Crowes at the Toxic Twin Towers Ball at London’s Wembley Stadium and a sell-out headlining show at Morfa Stadium in Swansea, South Wales. These appearances represent just some of the rewards of the band’s unshakable live ethic. “We’re the type of band that tours 11 months out of the year; it’s cheaper than therapy,” said Kelly Jones, as quoted in Billboard magazine.
Not only did the Stereophonies attract millions of fans and music press accolades for their music and work ethie, but they also gained the respect of several celebrated musicians. The legendary Paul Weiler, for example, expressed an interest in collaborating with the band, while Liam Gallagher of Oasis gave the Stereophonies high praises. Although the Stereophonies believe strongly in the quality of their music, they were nevertheless taken aback by all the celebrity attention. “It’s unbelievable how many people are interested in the band,” Kelly Jones remarked to Melody Maker’s Carol Clerk. “The Prodigy were watching us in Switzerland and Eric Clapton phoned us and asked us if he could go on the guest list in Germany. People like that [who] you look up to.”
However, the members of the Stereophonies remained unspoiled by all the success. They continue to make their homes in Cwmaman with no plans of ever leaving for the big city. The Stereophonies started recording a third album in June of 2000, which was expected to be released in April of 2001.
Word Gets Around, V2, 1997.
Performance and Cocktails, V2, 1999.
Buckley, Jonathan and others, eds., Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
Billboard, August 7, 1999; February 12, 2000.
Melody Maker, October 4, 1997; December 20-27, 1997; January 9, 1999; February 6, 1999; April 17, 1999; June 26, 1999; September 4, 1999; October 23, 1999; November 3-9, 1999.
Washington Post, April 7, 2000; April 10, 2000; April 12, 2000.
Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (June 18, 2000).
Stereophonies Official Website, http://www.stereophonics.co.uk (June 18, 2000).
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