WHEN a band have been around for a long time, it is tempting to reflect on what they would tell their younger selves.
For Kelly Jones, singer with Welsh rockers Stereophonics, it would be: Don’t be so intense.
Stereophonics have given us different styles of music over the yearsCredit: Scarlet Page
He says: “We were definitely intense and intent to get to where we wanted to get to so there was a commitment to the band.
“I’d tell my younger self to go with it but that there’s going to be a lot of s**t along the way.
“But I’d also add that maybe I should relax and have a laugh with it. When you are in it, you can’t see it and it’s not until you look back you can see everything you’ve been through.
“It’s been a very fast 25 years in many aspects. But look at all our music and it’s like a diary of your life in songs.”
Stereophonics, who also include bassist Richard Jones, guitarist Adam Zindani and drummer Jamie Morrison, have given us different styles of music over the years. And new album Oochya! — out today — shows their diverse range in full.
“It’s a very eclectic record,” says Jones on a video call from his West London studio. “I think it’s a bit like a mixtape. There’s a lot of different styles on there — a lot of rock ’n’ roll, some soulful stuff like Seen That Look Before, some darker stuff like All I Have Is You. But there’s an uplifting feeling throughout the whole record.
“It’s a real mix and shows a balance of what the band have done. It’s like a greatest hits but nobody’s heard the songs yet. It’s a bit like the Rolling Stones’ GRRR!”
Oochya! began life in the second year of the pandemic when Jones found some unheard tracks the band had worked on over the years.
“I don’t call them old as they’re always going to be new as no one has heard them,” he says.
“I’d been looking into a new Greatest Hits idea as our 25-year anniversary was coming up and Decade In The Sun (the band’s 1997 Best Of compilation) is only half the band’s catalogue.
“This music hadn’t fitted on past albums so I started working on them and thought these were pretty cool. I started tinkering and writing a bit more. Then I booked a week in Wiltshire and took the boys down to the studio to see what came out. “Before we knew it, we had about 15 songs. It was, ‘Well, f* the greatest hits’.”
There’s plenty of standouts on Oochya!, their 12th studio album.
All I Have Is You is dark and atmospheric.
Jones says: “That one is a cool track with a Velvet Underground vibe.”
And he describes Hanging On Your Hinges as opening the album, “With a proper guitar riff.”
He continues: “It’s influenced by my brother’s old ZZ Top records. Second track Forever was written ages ago, so it’s nothing related to the pandemic, but it’s become very relevant to what’s going on with people today. The song talks about taking a bullet for someone going through any pain, like your family.
“You always want to protect them from any pain, but at the same time, you have to let them walk their own walk — that’s what life’s about.
“I added it because it seems very relevant to how a lot of people are feeling today.”
The last time SFTW chatted to father-of-four Jones, he opened up about how his trans son Colby had been dealing with transitioning and how proud he was of how he had dealt with it.
Stereophonics’ last album Kind featured song Fly Like An Eagle, which was inspired by Colby’s story.
Today Jones says: “Colby is doing great and he’s going to The BRIT School in London. I haven’t always spoken about his story, but he was supportive of the family not brushing it under the carpet and not being ignored. His story is still evolving.
“And Every Dog Has Its Day is inspired by some of the things that Colby went through, or what teenagers go through when they feel everyone around them is better than them. It’s about self-esteem. I had the chorus for a long time, but I never really had any verses for it.
“I was always trying to write a cross between I Don’t Like Mondays and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with the piano piece.
“It’s been tough, but a funny thing happened recently. We all went to the cinema and me and Colby went to the same toilet. I thought, ‘Oh f***, I forgot about the toilets’. That was quite funny.” On the topic of his kids, Jones says: “Nobody in my house gives a st about my music.
“When Kind went to No1, it kept Kanye off the top spot and so my kids then were slightly impressed. My 14-year-old Misty said, ‘What? Kanye’s number two? Behind you?’. I’m just Dad to them. And then they see a picture of me with Kanye West, Paul McCartney and Bono.”
Jones has always shunned the celebrity life but in the last few years he has become more open about his personal life, including struggles with his voice after being diagnosed with polyps on his vocal cords.
He had to undergo career-threatening surgery, documented in his 2020 film Don’t Let The Devil Take Another Day. These days he is much more relaxed dealing with the public side of his job.
He says: “Coming from the South Wales valleys we were taught to get on with it. We weren’t really taught about self-belief. It was much more, ‘You’ll never achieve that, kid’.
“Since I’ve had kids I’ve had to train my brain to not go to that default setting because I want to try to give the kids belief.”
This more open side can be seen in biographical song Right Place Right Time. Talking about how he could not have written a song like that when he was younger, he says: “I didn’t have the confidence.
“I don’t know if I would have been that literal. I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to talk about three girlfriends in one song. I don’t really want people to know the ins and outs of my whole life because that takes away the mystery of what musicians and artists should be.”
But he adds that he now knows that people come to his gigs, “To watch and listen to your story”.
He says: “If there is a meaning in life, mine is actually doing what I do, so it helps to communicate with people a bit more. I’m better at it now. I talk in between songs.
“Just the other day I was on a bus going down to Hammersmith taking my daughter Riley to watch Aladdin. I had my mask on and saw this kid about 17 looking over.
“Anyway, as he stepped down the stairs, he said, ‘Are you Kelly Jones?’. When I said ‘Yes’, he went, ‘I’m listening to you right now’. He was listening to our album You’ve Gotta Go There To Come Back, which was released in 2003. He wouldn’t even have been born.
“He told me how my music is such an inspiration to him. He got off the bus and started calling his mates. It is really good to see that the music you make appeals right across the board.”
And as for the album title Oochya!?
Laughing, Jones says: “F*** knows what it means. It doesn’t mean anything. It just symbolises joy, or to go for it. It was a word that I used to write on the mixing desk and when the album was finished, I thought it sounds a bit like that word.
“I always liked albums like Pump by Aerosmith and Dookie by Green Day, that mean nothing but are cool little words for album titles.
“And then with the album cover we went down the Lichtenstein pop art stuff route. That gave the album a different identity as well.”
Jones recently tried his hand at being a DJ when he stepped in for Johnnie Walker on the Radio 2 Rock Show.
“It was a good laugh that,” he tells me. “I only did two of them, but it was good. They allowed me to pick every song. I don’t think I would want to be a DJ where they hand you a playlist.
“Then we were part of the Piano Room month too — we had to play a few different arrangements for songs and a new song. All with an orchestra at the BBC Maida Vale studios. Piano and rock — that shows how different our music is.”
Jones is now getting ready to go back out on the road as Stereophonics kick off an arena tour in Manchester on March 18.
Jones says: “I’m not one for anniversaries but this record is a reason to get out there.
“Oochya! is a huge record for the band and I felt a little bit more indulgent putting so many songs on it, particularly after being locked up for two years.
“People have received the first three songs we’ve put out well. It’s been amazing. It is a strong album. The upcoming tour is going to be cool and we have some big shows in the summer too to play these new songs.
“I don’t know what this album marks for the band, but it is certainly not a backwards step. We are still progressing forward with big songs 25 years on. How many bands can say that?”
Kelly Jones says: ‘It’s been a very fast 25 years in many aspects. But look at all our music and it’s like a diary of your life in songs’Credit: Scarlet Page
Kelly adds: ‘Oochya! is a huge record for the band and I felt a little bit more indulgent putting so many songs on it, particularly after being locked up for two years’Credit: Scarlet Page
Stereophonics Oochya! is out today