Formed in 1992 in a little Welsh town, the Stereophonics of today consists of lead singer Kelly Jones, bassist Richard Jones, guitarist Adam Zindani and drummer Javier Weyler, who have been together since 2007 (with Richard joined the band). The current line-up of these four charming men - they make sure to shake everyone’s hands when they first enter the room – have been touring extensively over the past year to promote their latest and seventh album, Keep Calm and Carry On. Here in Singapore for a one night only concert, Stereophonics spent a little time with inSing.
What’s the story behind Keep Calm and Carry On, since the phrase came from Winston Churchill during World War II?
Kelly: The poster is used today as more of a morale booster, and was never used in World War II but that’s where it originally came from. It was meant to be a propaganda poster and it was appropriate because of the state of the country during the recession at that time. But it’s also one of those phrases that can mean whatever you want it to mean.
What’s the inspiration behind the album?
Kelly: I think with the record there’s no one overriding theme. Some songs are very different from others, and we wanted to try a new sound and new production. The songs are quite lyrically different from track to track: Sometimes it’s about something when I was a kid. You just write about whatever you’re going through at that point.
You guys have been together for more than 10 years now. Veterans, as some journalists have called you. How do you keep things fresh?
Richard: We’re open to all types of music and experiences, and new countries. That helps to keep it fresh for us. We find new audiences wherever we go. Musically it’s trying to show a different side of the band that people might not have seen or heard before. That’s the way we tend to keep it fresh for ourselves in the studio. Sometimes we challenge ourselves with different instrumentations.
Do you experiment with different set lists at each performance?
Richard: When we start touring a particular album, we form a basic set list, but change it around to keep it interesting for ourselves. Like maybe a particular song that we haven’t played for a few years, we might throw that in every other night. So yes, you could expect something new tonight.
As a band that’s been together for a while now, what’s the hardest part of being part of a group?
Adam: There’s nothing that hard about being in a band. I think it’s hard when you’re kids, you struggle for opinions and to get your point across. But when you’ve been in a band for a long time, you’re settled into what you do and enjoy it.
Javier: You actually enjoy everything more than anything else. And you embrace everything you do, even if there are things that get you tired or whatever, you have a good laugh and enjoy the process.
Does this mean you’re all on the same level, like a bit psychic with one another now?
All together: YES.
Kelly: See what we just did there?
Richard: We all understand each other and we understand how the band has to work, we don’t step on each other’s shoes when it comes to the creative process and we understand what we can each do which is really good.
Wayne Rooney is famously a big fan of the band, and the title of one of your albums Just Enough Education to Perform tattooed on his arm. How do you guys feel about that?
Kelly: Great, as long as he keeps raising his arm when he scores goals.
Javier: I’m looking forward to the World Cup.
Adam: I was just going to say, I hope he raises his hand each time he scores a goal during the World Cup.
Kelly: He’s been a fan of the band for a long time, and it’d be great of he gets all the names of the album on his arm. His wife’s not happy though. She’s got ‘Colleen’ on his arm and we’ve got more space than her.
We read an interesting fact online about the band.
Richard: It’s from Wikipedia isn’t it?
Is it true that you’re mentoring a band in Kansas?
Kelly: Totally fake. Totally and complete rubbish.
How much would you attribute the band’s success to sunglasses on stage?
Kelly: Not a lot. Just a little bit. Sunglasses were on stage when it was sunny. Generally photographers take pictures during the first two songs of the concert when it was still sunny. Sometimes we used to wear sunglasses out and then take them off after a few songs.
Adam: I only wore sunglasses sometimes, cos it’d be after a heavy night of drinking, the night before, you see. And our eyes would be red, so we’d put on the sunglasses so no one would think we’d been drinking.
(Adam puts on his sunglasses at this point, then Kelly puts his own)
You guys have been travelling a lot this year, what are the essential things you can’t live without?
Kelly: Pants and some shirts.
Kelly: Well, Adam doesn’t wear pants!
Richard: We like listening to a lot of music, especially mp3 players being the most relevant thing when you’re travelling. We always take our iPods with us.
Adam: My phone, to keep in touch with people.
Kelly: Some paintings my daughter did.
Javier: One of the most important is the phone and computer so you can keep in touch with your family and friends, because everything else you can get.
Adam: Some things are personal, and just shouldn’t make public appearances.
Kelly: I actually have a soft blue unicorn in my suitcase. A tiny one. My daughter stuck it in my suitcase before I left. So that’s pretty rare, a unicorn.
Are you going to take it on stage with you?
Kelly: No. I didn’t even realise it was there, till I spotted it the other day, and I thought ‘where did that come from?’ I thought I’d just share that with you. So there you go, make of it what you will.
What do you hope people will take away from your music?
Kelly: I think people are very much the same all over the world. I think music is where people go to, to escape. Whether they’re a doctor or a lawyer, or driving to work, music is that thing. The reason I’m still here is that whatever I’m going through in my life is what other people can relate to, that they’re going through in their life. Situation. If you’re true to what you’re feeling and what you say, then it’s likely that there are other people who feel the same way.
You have plenty of fans out there, but what’s one of the most memorable things a fan has ever done for you?
Kelly: I got a letter once from a fan, who had a really bad time and she’d gotten pregnant, and she named the child after me.
I have to state, it wasn’t my child!
It was a pretty deep letter, and she’d just gotten into a bad situation that shouldn’t have happened to her and got pregnant. She went to get rid of the baby and heard the song Traffic on the radio. There’s one line that says ‘To kill an unborn scare’ which is about abortion. And she decided to walk out of the clinic and have the baby. That was pretty nice. Pretty deep but pretty nice.
What do you think of the British indie music scene? It exploded but it’s quiet at the moment.
Kelly: It’s dead. Well, really it’s all a cycle. Two years before that it was all pop music. Lady Gaga, Lilly Allen, very pop, a lot of female artists now. Two years before that it was a lot of kids in skinny jeans, and funky shoes and big hair. And they’re all in the job centre now looking for something new to do. Soon there’ll be other people coming through. There’s always a rebellion to what you’re listening to on the radio, so it’ll come back around. We’ve seen things come and go, it’s quite natural.
Javier: It’s quite interesting because there are a lot of bands now playing. And it used to be rock or pop, but it seems to be a mix of both at the moment. It’s a lot of rock pop.
Adam: It’s Rop.
Javier: It’s like electronic rock pop sort of thing, and they’re very pop, but at the same time they all play as a band.
Richard: It’s rock-tronic!
Javier: Yeah, it’s rock-tronic.
Catch the Stereophonics live in concert at Fort Canning Park. For all the details, click here.