On 19th of October 2015 Welsh alternative rock band Stereophonics played at Les Docks in Lausanne. In the afternoon I had the great pleasure to have a chat with Kelly Jones and Richard Jones, respectively singer and bassist of the band, in the beautiful backstage of Les Docks. They told me about the recording of their ninth album Keep The Village Alive (2015), their collaborations with other artists and a lot more!
Cheers to Kelly and Richard for their friendliness and thanks a lot to Alexandra Steinegger of Limmat Records for making this interview possible 🙂
The Liberation: So I’ll just do a quick introduction. I work as a freelance journalist for The Liberation Indie Nation, which is a Swiss based indie-rock website, based in Geneva but written all in English. So I’ll just record you and type up the interview.
- Kelly Jones: Ok cool.
The Liberation: Your ninth studio album Keep The Village Alive (2015) came out on September 11, so just little over a month ago. I wanted to know how has the tour to promote it been so far and how has the album been received?
- Kelly Jones: It’s been really good, the album went to Nr. 1 in the UK so it was really a great achievement. And before the album came out we played lots of festivals across Europe which was great, you know Lollapalooza in Berlin, Rock en Seine in Paris, V Festival in the UK and stuff like that. Yeah we’ve done three weeks across Europe and it’s been an opportunity to play maybe six-seven songs of the new record as well as the oldest songs of the last record and they’ve been received very well so it’s been a very good run we enjoyed it.
The Liberation: OK cool! How did the production process for your new album work? And why did you choose this title?
- Kelly Jones: Ehm, the title came about from the town where me and Richard were brought up as kids and stuff. There used to be an old pub where we used to go on the weekend and they would do live music and people would work hard all week in the factories and quite hard jobs and in the weekend they would get drunk and celebrate sort of things. And they would shout out “Keep the village alive!” so it was kind of a statement of I guess a positive “keep the community together”. And I always quite liked the phrase cause it coined up in my head a sort of positive attitude really. And then when the album was finished all the songs were quite different from each other and it was kind of like a mix but they all sounded very uplifting so the title kind of fitted with the songs. And production wise we used our studio in London recording everyday.
- Richard Jones: Yeah it was a combination of the last session from the last album and then it kind of all rolled into the new album and it’s good we finished it last
- Kelly Jones: July
- Richard Jones: Last Summer. Yeah.
The Liberation: Yeah, ok.
- Richard Jones: Yeah, it was a really good time recording. It’s always good to record new material. You give kind of your creativity flowing when you’re in the studio. It’s always good fun.
The Liberation: Yeah. And did you take a lot of time to produce it?
- Kelly Jones: Recording-wise it was kind of rather than, you know, booking six weeks in a studio which is kind what you normally do. We just went to work everyday in our studio and just made music and made 35-40 songs then it was more of a selection process finding the ones we really liked and songs that started telling you you know the stronger ones.
The Liberation: Yeah
- Kelly Jones: So it was much more like that really so it wasn’t intense in that way it was just continuous just being creative everyday whether it was for a couple of hours or 15 hours. But it was something happening most days so you know you happen to have a lot of freedom when you work that way which we’ve never done before.
The Liberation: That’s cool though!
- Kelly Jones: Yeah it was good!
The Liberation: Yeah. “C’est la vie”, which is one of the songs in your new album, has been the Summer soundtrack of our chief editor Paolo.
- Kelly Jones: All right (laughs)
The Liberation: He defines it as his song of the year. What do you think? Was it meant to be a Summer soundtrack?
- Kelly Jones: It’s a song that people seem to get quite excited and happy about. The song came out in the studio very very spontaneously, we were making a different song and that kind of happened and we recorded it very quickly and it was actually ready for the last album but it didn’t fit on the last album. So we’ve been kind of waiting to release it for quite a while.
The Liberation: OK!
- Kelly Jones: So then it became the first single.
The Liberation: Yeah.
- Kelly Jones: And people reacted to it brilliantly so… It was one of those songs that was probably written, recorded and finished in like one hour and a half and then we never thought of it again.
The Liberation: Wow!
- Kelly Jones: So it was a happy accident you know.
The Liberation: Yeah!
- Kelly Jones: It was good!
The Liberation: ‘Cause it has a really rock n’ roll sound
- Kelly Jones: Yeah it’s quite punky
The Liberation: It’s really entertaining!
- Kelly Jones: Yeah, it’s quite funny it’s quite sensitive to it.
- Richard Jones: Yeah, it’s got a usefulness too as well so it appeals to a broad spectrum of people.
The Liberation: And it’s also fun to play I imagine.
- Kelly Jones: Yes. Yeah, it is, it’s a lot of words but it’s fun.
The Liberation: Yeah. In your career you’ve done many collaborations with other artists such as Tom Jones. I wanted to know which collaborations did you prefer?
- Kelly Jones: Well Tom was interesting because we were very new in the industry at that time we’d only made one album and obviously where we come from in Wales Tom was this big folk hero really. So when we got to meet him we got to hear stories about Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, all the time stories about amazing people.
The Liberation: Wow!
- Kelly Jones: So the songs took about 25 minutes to record but the stories lasted for you know up until now, 17 years later. So I’m very grateful of the experience and singing next to him was an experience but like I said we did it two times and then he said “Let’s go for some Chinese food” and that was it. So it was an experience it was brilliant!
- Richard Jones: We had like a two-week tour around Europe with him as well to promote the single. And that was great stopping off in various cities with Tom Jones and the door was always open no matter what time of the day. And everybody would always invite you in a club or a restaurant.
The Liberation: Wow, that’s nice! Which artist marked you the most?
- Kelly Jones: Well when we were kids we had older brothers and sisters and parents and we always used to steal their record collection really so I’d always listen through my brother’s bedroom wall you know he could be playing Neil Young or Bob Dylan, or Creedence Clearwater Revival. My dad listened to soul music so I pinched of him. Me and Richard were in the same school so we would listen to punk music, AC DC and stuff like that at school.
The Liberation: Ok. Is there a collaboration you would like to do but you haven’t done yet? For example Noel Gallagher…
- Kelly Jones: I don’t know they kind of always come about by accident. I’ve sung in a Ronnie Wood album I think Noel sung backing vocals on “Who are you” the cover version we did by The Who, he did the “oooh oooh ooh ooh” if I recall.
- Richard Jones: Yeah (laughs)
- Kelly Jones: But yeah we haven’t really planned on doing anything, it always kind of falls.
- Richard Jones: I think we’ve done lots like on charity events and stuff like that. We’ve always jumped on stage and worked with other people. And that’s a great opportunity cause there’s no egos, there’s nothing to promote other than the charity itself.
The Liberation: Yeah, like Teenage Cancer Trust
- Kelly Jones: Yeah
- Richard Jones: Yeah, it’s a great opportunity for lots of different musicians to have fun with each other just enjoying what you do.
The Liberation: Yeah, that’s great. So you’ve been around since 1992 if I’m not mistaken.
- Kelly Jones: Yeah
The Liberation: So yeah the first album came out in 1997…
- Kelly Jones: 1997, yeah yeah
The Liberation: Yeah, so the music industry has changed a lot during this time because of the advent of technology, digitalization and all that stuff. How didi t change for you in the way you produce music and the way you relate with the fans?
- Kelly Jones: I think it’s good on the relating to the fans thing ‘cause you get instant responses to the works that you produce. I think myself and Richard anyway particularly, we use the social media only for the band not personally, so that’s kind of a good tool to use I guess. But all the other stuff you know digital, streaming, iTunes, whatever it’s always evolving and changing and it always has. Our job is to write songs and make music so there will always be new ways of selling it in the market so I don’t get too caught up in any of that stuff cause it’s always evolving anyway. So you just pay attention to what’s going on so you know what’s going on but at the same time you keep one step away and concentrate on making music.
The Liberation: Of course, that’s the most important thing.
- Richard Jones: There’s a lot more carefulness when it comes to handling your music after the recording process because if it does fall into the wrong person’s hands it can be literally like on the internet and your release plan are out the window really. But the Internet is a great tool for new bands to get noticed, like for them to get the music out by a piece of software recording music and instantly programming that. There’s good and bad things to it.
The Liberation: Yeah, exactly many new bands got noticed like that. For example Arctic Monkeys, they put their music online and they went big.
- Richard Jones: Yeah yeah
- Kelly Jones: Yeah yeah of course. I mean if you start off that way that’s kind of where you live. We started off in the back of a van travelling around clubs (laughs)
- Richard Jones (laughs)
The Liberation: (laughs) yeah and then you have to adapt to the changes.
- Kelly Jones: Yeah and you’re brought with it.
The Liberation: Yeah, exactly. What makes you want to keep on playing after all these years?
- Kelly James: Well for me, you know, I’ve always done it. I’ve done my gig when I was like 12 years old so I’ve always wanted to be in a band and play in a band, the challenge of making new songs and learning how to play them and producing records. I haven’t got an end goal or a particular achievement on a piece of paper, it’s just as long as I’m moving forward and growing and developing I don’t really want to depend on things I’ve done 15 years ago I want to be current and relevant to what I’m doing now so that’s the main goal, remain with your foot firmly into today really.
The Liberation: Ok
- Richard Jones: Yeah, the same you know. The reasons why we got into music was to entertain people and have fun doing it and I think we’ve kept up with this. We’ve always kept what we wanted to do close to our hearts, we haven’t really listened to a lot of advices in regard to what we do, in the industry yes you know about like how to release things but in regard to being creative it’s always been us in the studio making the music and then get out in the road and play it for other people and see the reactions.
The Liberation: Like more sort of independently?
- Richard Jones: Yes, yeah.
The Liberation: Yeah ok. How does your composition process work in general? Do you come up with the lyrics first or with the music?
- Kelly Jones: It’s different for different songs really. Like for a “Song For The Summer” or something it comes very quickly when you have a little melody idea and then the lyrics come and then the title comes and then the song happens very fast. “C’est la vie” was the same, the lyrics came kind of at the same time as the melodies. But generally it’s usually me messing around on a guitar or a piano with the melody and sometimes one word or one line comes out and then I’ll write the lyrics around that so it’s normally the melody and the chords first.
The Liberation: It’s interesting I always ask this question cause…
- Kelly Jones: Yeah, it’s different for each band, it’s always different.
The Liberation: Yeah
- Kelly Jones: Yeah but I think the key is to know when to press record on your phone if an idea comes or on a tape recorder. Most of my problem is actually listening back to the ideas recorded cause I forget that I’ve done them.
- Richard Jones (laughs)
- Kelly Jones: There’s probably loads on a tape recorder somewhere.
The Liberation: (laughs) There are too many! You have nine albums on your back and a lot of songs to choose from for a setlist.
- Kelly Jones: Yeah
The Liberation: How do you choose?
- Kelly Jones: Yeah, that changes everyday really. I guess we pick a bunch of songs selfishly for what we want to play and for what we haven’t played for a long time. We always try to play the songs that have become popular through the radio for people and we still have enough of those songs to alternate them so you don’t get fed up, you know.
The Liberation: Yeah.
- Kelly Jones: And if we’re doing a new record then we try to pepper the set with a bunch of new songs so that people get familiar with what we’re doing now.
The Liberation: Of course, yeah
- Kelly Jones: But we try to cross all records if we can in the time that we have. But it does get more difficult the more records you make cause they are all very different styles so you have to make them fit together to make one show. Yeah it’s changing again tonight so we’ll see how it goes! (laughs)
The Liberation: (laughs) Yeah. You don’t need to unveil it, I want the surprise!
- Kelly Jones: Yeah, yeah ok.
The Liberation: Do you have any projects for the future?
- Kelly Jones: Well, we’ve got our 20 year anniversary coming up in the next couple of years. So I think we’re gonna try to do some special shows, maybe a little documentary film and a photograph book maybe and stuff like that and some new songs. So we’re probably gonna doa package with retrospective but new things as well. So after this tour is finished I would imagine we’ll be working on those kind of things.
The Liberation: Nice! Do you have any new great Welsh bands to suggest?
- Kelly Jones: What’s the band Marc is looking after?
- Richard Jones: Ehm, not sure
- Kelly Jones: I don’t know any great Welsh band actually. I guess Catfish and the Bottlemen are kind of half Welsh and I like their album. And they have some good singles “Kathleen” was a good song. They are from North Wales so I’ll go with Catfish and the Bottlemen
The Liberation: Catfish and the Bottlemen, ok! And do you speak Welsh?
- Kelly Jones: I don’t
- Richard Jones: No, the area where we’re from in South Wales is like the kind of heavy industrialized area in the Victorian times.
The Liberation: Aaah ok
- Richard Jones: So it was like a lot English-speaking. But now Welsh speaking has taken hold again since the Welsh assembly and their pushing that to be the first language.
The Liberation: That’s good yeah!
- Richard Jones: It’s great you know, I think everybody who is from Wales or from a small country is always proud of their nation, their heritage.
The Liberation: Yeah of course.
- Richard Jones: I think it’s a little bit of a shame that we didn’t learn more of the Welsh but I don’t think the opportunity was there too much for us.
The Liberation: Yeah. OK I’m done, thank you very much!
- Kelly Jones: OK. Thank you very much!
- Richard Jones: Thank you!
- Kelly Jones: Nice meeting you.
- Richard Jones: Nice to meet you.
The Liberation: Nice meeting you too!
- Kelly Jones: Enjoy the show!
The Liberation: Thank you!