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Colm O'Hare meets Stereophonics, the Welsh band who consider Ireland a home away from home and are shortly to tour the US as U2’s guests
Colm O Hare, 08 Nov 2001
Ever since they first appeared in this country as part of the NME Bratbus tour in 1996 the Stereophonics’ popularity has grown to a point where they are one of the biggest live draws around. Having sold out their upcoming date at The Point, a second date has been added and is selling out fast.
“It’s funny, we sell more records in Ireland than we do in Wales,” says the band’s bass player Richard Jones. “We took the time and the effort to come to Ireland in the early days and it seems to have paid off. It was the same for us in Wales, a lot of English bands would come in and just stand there – we called them shoegazers. We did the workingmen’s clubs and we had to entertain them.”
Despite their unfashionability in some quarters of the music press, the ‘Phonics’ rise to the dizzy heights looks unstoppable. Their current album, Just Enough Education To Perform looks like outdoing its multi-platinum predecessor Performance And Cocktails, with songs like, ‘Mr Writer’ and ‘Have A Nice Day’ rarely off the airwaves. The next single, a stunning cover of Rod Stewart’s ballad ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ looks set to be a perfect Christmas hit with its anthemic chorus and feelgood lyrics. “We’ve got a big live audience,” offers Jones by way of explanation for their ongoing popularity. “The live thing is very important to us. We always liked to prove that we’re a good live band. I think it’s where we got our reputation. It’s easy enough to go into the studio with a producer and come up with something sounding good but it’s a little fake. Another thing we did is we tried to stay away from London and that whole scene. We played in places that nobody else played and it has stood to us.”
While the core of the band remains as Kelly Jones, Stuart Cable and Richard Jones, the live show is augmented by extra musicians onstage. “We felt we were restricted by being a three piece,” says Jones. “We thought ‘sod it we’re at a stage where we can afford to flesh it out a bit’. Three of us doing it live just isn’t good enough. We needed an extra guitarists and backing vocalist. We hired Scott James who used to be in a band called Montrose Avenue and we’ve had a keyboard player for a couple of years. It’s about entertainment value.“
Having conquered Europe the band head out to the US for five dates in November as special guests of U2. Few British bands have managed to match home success in the land of the free. How have they fared across the Atlantic thus far?
“It’s been OK,” Jones offers. “We can sell out 2000 seater venues no problem. The next step is the arenas but it’s really hard to make that jump. The record company we have are the biggest in US but they’re still
finding it difficult to muscle us in on the radio. The main goal is in trying to get to the same level as REM, U2 and Dépeche Mode. But they’ve all been around for 15 years so it’ll probably take us a long time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
They’ve already done some European dates with U2 – how have they got along with Dublin’s’ fab four? “They’ve been very good to us,” he says. “They invited us to their hotel in Stockholm, they sat us down, we had a couple of beers and a long chat. It’s nice to hear how things are from other people’s point of view. We tend to do a lot of supports. We’ve played with The Manics, Chilli Peppers, The Who, we even played with Bon Jovi. The only reason to do it is to try and grab some of their audiences.”