Welsh act Stereophonics first came to prominence in North America in 1999 with their smash album Performance & Cocktails. They solidified their repuation with performances in support of the album, playing Toronto on seven different occasions within the span of a year. The first time in town was great, but the last show displayed a band brutally burnt out from the road. Since then they’ve managed not to tour the hell out of every album, sticking instead to a schedule pleasing all parties concerned. After releasing 2002’s You Gotta Go There to Come Back, lead singer Kelly Jones and bassist Richard Jones parted with longtime drummer Stuart Cable, replacing him temporarily with former Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. The response to the album wasn’t remarkable but it seemed like the right album for the moment.
Now, Gorman has been replaced by Argentine drummer Javier Weyler. And according to bassist Richard Jones, the trio feels like their seventh album Language. Sex. Violence. Other? is just as passionate and sonically pleasing as their debut.
“Well, it feels that way in the excitement and the energy the band’s got,” Jones says on the line from Britain. “It’s just really positive at the moment. It feels like we’re starting off on the first album again. It’s really cool and we’re looking forward to do the work that should be coming up in the next 15 or 16 months.”
That energy is clearly evident throughout the 11 tight tracks, especially on opener “Superman” and the ear-candy song “Dakota”. Richard says the trio didn’t feel the added weight of label reps and deadlines they usually do for a simple reason.
“We didn’t tell anybody we were in the studio,” Jones says. “It was a bit selfish—we just went in and spent eight weeks recording the album and then we came back and told everyone we’d been making an album. We didn’t have any distractions, we didn’t have to produce something and they didn’t have any expectations.”
The biggest change though has to be the addition of Weyer, a drummer that singer and guitarist Kelly Jones met in Argentina. The two hit it off while Jones demoed new songs for the last album. Richard says Weyer breathes new life and vigor into the group.
“He’s a brilliant drummer and he’s got a really good attitude towards everything,” he says. “Whenever you get somebody new involved with anything you do, if they’ve got a really positive attitude, it just gives everybody a lift. We’ve got somebody with us who hasn’t done a lot of the things which we’ve done and we’ve shown him how to do it.”
Richard says the chemistry between he and Weyer is great, something that is almost a pre-requisite for any rhythm section worth their salt. He also sees a bit of the band’s previous two drummers in Javier.
“When we started playing with Javier it was almost like a mixture of Stuart and Steve Gorman,” he says. “It’s the energy he has, the technical ability, and the way he plays drums.”
As for the album itself, Richard says that the group wanted to capture the vibe they had during its supporting slot for David Bowie in Europe last year—roughly 40 to 45 minutes of consistently upbeat rock ‘n’ roll.
“The first two demos were ‘Superman’ and ‘Dakota’ and they set the precedent for the whole album,” he says. “So we had to come up to that standard as in the energy of those two songs. We just wanted to keep that up—we wanted the album to be really instant like a 45-minute set.”
And if fans can’t already tell, the difference between the last album and this one is night and day.
“The last one had a lot of layers,” Jones says. “It was showing people that we could do the deeper, sonic-laden sounding records. We had strings and horns. I think the reason this album sounds more focused is that from start to finish it really is constant with that one energy that we had.”
Fourteen tracks were recorded for the album, but three didn’t make the cut. Richard says the toughest track to finish was a real devil. No really, it was the track entitled “Devil”.
“It was the hardest track because of the transition from verse to chorus,” Richard says. “We couldn’t decide which sounded better, whether a bridge into the chorus or ... It took us about five goes with different drum ideas just to get it right. I think that was the most frustrating part because we knew we had a great track, we just didn’t know how to put it all together. We tried one thing and then it just fell into place.”
The group released the lead single “Dakota” in the UK at the urging of V2 Records UK head David Steele. Richard says that “Superman” was also in the running but the group took Steele’s experience and advice. Jones also says that he has two personal favorites in “Devil” and “Pedalpusher”.
“The reason for those two is the feel we got on ‘Devil’ after we got everything right in terms of the sound and attitude—it just sends shivers down my spine,” he says. “And ‘Pedalpusher’ because it came together very quickly, it was really organic.”
At the conclusion of the album, which was being mixed last October, the band was still looking for a fitting album title. Kelly Jones then saw the back of a DVD and everything came into focus.
“Kelly saw the classification chart on the DVD,” Richard says. “It said violence, sex, language, nudity, just the content of those things in the DVD. He thought it really fit in with the one-word song titles and it just left an open question, ‘Is there anything else other than sex, language, or violence that people seem interested in?’”
Although still a new release, Richard is quite surprised by the critics on both sides of the pond, many of whom have taking a liking to the band yet again after panning recent releases. The band will also start a North American tour this spring before doing a string of British arena dates later in the year. Richard says the first go around will be a sparse band while following treks will include additional musicians.
The biggest hurdle Stereophonics has successfully avoided thus far is a greatest hits package, something the group seems quite opposed to at the moment.
“The record company has had plans for a greatest hits album for the last two albums,” Richard says. “We’ve always been trying to put it off because new original material just kept coming up. They’re brilliant for people to get all your singles on one album but if they have the albums, there’s no reason for greatest hits. I suppose they’re good if a band has split up or isn’t doing that well. I suppose we’ll have to do a greatest hits album but hopefully we’ll produce one or two original albums before that happens.”
In the meantime, the group’s primary concern might be going through airports. Last month for example Kelly Jones was stopped by airport security simply for a t-shirt which featured a gun on it. Thankfully Jones got rid of the imaginary cotton shells prior to the incident.
“Something always happens,” Richard says with a laugh. “When we arrived in New Zealand a year and a half ago we got stopped and Kelly got strip-searched. We have to keep our eye on him so he doesn’t get into trouble.”
// Notes from the Road
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