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
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
"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
"They've been around for a little bit, so we felt this could be something
that takes off," Petterson said.