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Stereophponics: Will Work For Food
By Beth Malloy
(more articles from this author)
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The latest version of the Stereophonics have been storming the globe, doing rousing shows in support of their latest, Language. Sex. Violence. Other? (think warning labels). The trio has recently blasted through its second run of US shows within a year, playing festivals and smaller venues in hope of igniting the kind of popularity they have in the UK. Fortunately, they remain unspoiled by their meteoric rise across the pond and, while aiming for world domination, are aware that breaking big in the states is not a simple, or cheap, proposition.

Growling singer/guitarist Kelly Jones and powerful bassist Richard Jones added a new drummer, the exuberant Argentine, Javier Weyler, to the mix and the results are proving positive. The hard rocking crew was on the road most of the year on a tour that had them bouncing continent to continent, stopping briefly to blow-away the audience at Live 8 in London with a four song set.

The Joneses are not related and according to Richard, grew up a few doors apart in a tiny town of “maybe 2000” in South Wales where, Kelly jokes, “1500 were Joneses,” to which Richard adds, “its all keeping up with the Joneses, isn’t it?” It was there that the original line-up joined forces as Tragic Love Company, one of “quite a few unfortunate names,” notes Kelly. They became a straight, three-piece rock machine and toiled away in the pubs of Wales. Their venues have changed dramatically since, playing to crowds of over 50,000.

When they hit Chicago one Sunday night in July, they had been half-a-world away, in Melbourne Friday-London Saturday!” laughs Kelly, “our minds are half-way across the Atlantic somewhere.” Fortunately, their stature at Live 8 allowed them to ask “to go on as soon as we could, to get the f* out of there.” The three followed U2, Coldplay, Elton John and Dido, lifting the show out of the trance induced by the charmless yet honey throated singer.

The first single, “Dakota,” came in as the number one download in the UK, spending 17 weeks on the charts. The second single, “Superman,” is making its way up and other songs on the album reek of hit potential as well. But to hear them tell it, it was all just a happy accident.

Kelly says their creative process does not rely on churning out hits. “If you get caught up in it too much and worry about that when you’re making a record, than you’re not really gonna make a record that is from your heart or true to yourself, so you don’t really think about that. You don’t really care what anybody thinks, or even what the singles are, you just do what you want to do and then, as it becomes a finished product, and you give the record company something, it’s only then you get anxious or excited or nervous. But at the time you make it you are very true and honest to what you want to do.”

Javier agrees. “You have a gut feeling about it, that certain songs could be potential singles. When you’re actually working on them you don’t really know until the whole picture is done, the whole album is finished. So, the fact that “Dakota” was number one is great, but we didn’t really plan it - we didn’t really expect it,” but they are unquestionably pleased.

With five albums that have seen critical and commercial success in the UK, it follows that the band would see the same action in the States. But they understand that it takes seriously deep-pockets “to break an act” in the US, says Kelly, and if the independent V2 “doesn’t have the money to throw at an act,” it all comes down to luck and timing, although the company do offer “a personal touch.” The mire that radio has sunk into, however, leaves much to be desired from a musician’s standpoint.

“We made great albums, in our opinion,” says Richard, “And they’ve appealed to people worldwide in different times and different radio climates,” but, “If it happens it happens, if not you can’t go and cry about it, you just got to get on with doing what you do.”

“We have radio programmers come into our show saying ‘I love your band, if only I could play you on the radio,’ I am like well it’s your f***ing station, well then play it if you like it,” laughs Kelly. “It’s not even about program directors liking your music anymore, it’s all about if you change something they risk sponsorship, and everybody’s afraid to take a risk cause everybody’s afraid of getting fired, and that’s how sad it’s got. Which from a bands’ perspective, we can’t f***ing worry about it. If we do, we’ll just stop making music or creating anything.”

But Richard acknowledges, “The good thing about this day and age is there so many different media happening as well. They can just log online and listen to a radio station in the UK if they want. Or have a pod-cast, which bands and record companies can use to just send out their own music and people can pick-up whatever they want. It’s wide open now.”

The band’s swift, early rise when they first hit in the UK was, predictably, with some backlash. The childhood pals had had a rough time of it in the UK press and responded with the not too pleasant “Mr. Writer,” which debuted on 2001’s Just Enough Education to Perform. No doubt that did not help the situation, with Kelly barking the lines “you don’t even know me. But you want to stone me.”

There was further band bashing when the Joneses let go their pal and drummer Stuart Cable, in what appeared to be a tactless mix-up and made for an ugly public incident.

Kelly’s time in the spotlight has left him weary of tabloids, but he’s learned to shrug it off, and laughs when he says, “Sure, you can get caught up in it, yeah, and you try to fight back-but then you realize that there is no way you are ever going to win, because they get the last word and that’s what the game is. If you want to play it, then cool, but you live by the sword you f***king die by it.”

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