Stereophonics Hope To Duplicate UK Success In U.S.

Performance and Cocktails, released Tuesday, follows the Welsh power-pop trio's poor-selling 1997 release, Word Gets Around.

Stereophonics are one of the most successful bands in the UK this year,

with four hit singles and a top-selling album in Performance and

Cocktails.

Now the power-pop trio from Wales hope to gain the same acceptance from

the U.S. public — which purchased only around 20,000 copies of the

band's first album, Word Gets Around (1997).

Kelly Jones, the band's 25-year-old singer, guitarist and lyricist, said

the challenge of conquering the United States keeps him and his bandmates

ambitious.

"At the moment, it's very, very pop-oriented [here]," a chatty Jones said

from New York last week. "It's [also] very, very hip-hop oriented, whereas

maybe six, seven years ago, it was very much rock-oriented. If there's

anything that's changed, it's a slightly different way of talking about

what you do, I guess ... You gotta do a lot more ... pushing, because

there's a lot more competition. Once you get through that pushing and

show how good a band you are, it's all uphill from there, really."

That sardonic comment aside, the band — Jones, bassist Richard Jones

(no relation), 25, and drummer Stuart Cable, 29 — has reason for

optimism. Performance and Cocktails contains the power-pop sound

and sweep the UK has, in recent years, grown to love. American listeners

have embraced that sound, too, at various times during this decade: Think

Oasis, Radiohead and Blur.

According to Stereophonics' label, V2 Records, Performance and Cocktails

is double-platinum in Great Britain. Its songs "The Bartender and the

Thief" (RealAudio excerpt), "Pick a Part That's New," "Just Looking" and "I Wouldn't

Believe Your Radio" each landed in the UK singles chart's top 10.

The band also picked up awards for Best Band and Best Album at this year's

Kerrang! Awards, sponsored by the eponymous British rock magazine.

Performance and Cocktails — which builds on the sound of

Word Gets Around and that album's modest radio hit, "Traffic"

— explores people and their everyday lives, Jones said. The title

of the new LP, he said, embodies the concept.

"It kind of sums [up] the different types of people on the record," he

said. "Everybody, in one way or another, is performing to be somebody

else, pretending to be this, pretending to be that. You're one person

with your girlfriend, another person with your friends, another person

with your boss."

"Pick a Part That's New" (RealAudio excerpt), a grandiose, shimmering guitar-pop tune, is the first

U.S. single. Jones said the song was written two years ago during a trip

to New York. Bored by the big buildings and the skyline he had seen on

television, Jones went in search of the city's culture.

"It's a great life. It's a very strange life as well," Jones said of being

on the road. "You meet a lot of weird things and weird people. You just

try to question things and figure out what's going on around you" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Dreaming, as well as travel, provided inspiration. "I Wouldn't Believe

Your Radio" (RealAudio excerpt), a toe-tapping acoustic song, came from a dream Jones

had in which George Harrison and Ringo Starr sang the melody.

"You often dream tunes, and they usually end up being a pile of sh--, to

be honest with you," Jones said. "But every now and again, something

works out" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

The two Joneses and Cable grew up together in Cwmanan, a town in southern

Wales. Although they are lifelong friends, Jones said they all began

writing music together in 1992, but only after bands they were in with

other people dissolved. They took their name from a sticker that appeared

on the side of an old record player.

Stereophonics are taking the active approach to making things work out

in the States. They spent last week in New York meeting with industry

people and dominated a Sept. 7 show at Irving Plaza that also featured

Verbena and Tonic. They also partied Sept. 9 at the 16th Annual MTV Video

Music Awards — Jones complained of a hangover during an interview

the next day.

But radio stations have yet to pick up "Pick a Part That's New," according

to V2 publicist Roberta Moore. Still, Roxanne Petterson, the new-music

buyer for San Francisco's Amoeba Music, said she expects the album will

be successful in the U.S. In anticipation of high demand, she ordered 60

copies.

"They've been around for a little bit, so we felt this could be something

that takes off," Petterson said.