Don your gladrags to enjoy Stereophonics at Doncaster Dome on March 25
AS ROCK bands from Wales go, you do not get much bigger than the Stereophonics. Yet although the band might be huge now, it has been a long and exhilarating ride.
Early on, one sign that they were to make something of themselves was the fact they signed a record deal with Richard Branson's V2 label. And to celebrate cashing their first pay cheques, the band – made up of Kelly Jones (vocals/guitar), Richard Jones (bass), Adam Zindani (guitar) and Jamie Morrison (drums) – headed to London and bought Levi's jeans.
Remembering the start of their rock 'n' roll lifestyle – and how long it has all lasted – Richard said: "It's longer than it feels – it's pretty much all of my adult life. For us, musically we haven't changed and we've still got the same goals and ethics to be the best as we possibly can. The only thing that's changed is how to get ourselves out there – we meet more fans virtually nowadays.
"I'm still enjoying it as much as I did 20 years ago. I think for us, playing with the Rolling Stones and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – who are our favourite bands – is one of those big moments for us because they are our heroes."
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Along with original drummer Stuart Cable, who died in 2010, they began writing and performing music in Wales' working men's clubs in 1992 as a teenage cover band known as Tragic Love Company.
The band also made the occasional trip to London because they thought that was the best place to get noticed.
"We looked up to bands that had longevity," said Richard. "We sang a lot of songs that we were used to – songs that were around at that time. Some of our favourites were The Beatles and Alanis Morissette – we even did an Oasis cover. We'd slip a couple of our own songs in between to see what fans thought of them.
"It was getting to a point where people knew all the songs we were playing – we were getting recognised for our writing in a good way.
"We were beginning to get a big reputation for being a live act. We worked on a small circuit and soon realised that you had to invite record companies to your gigs and for us it was worth them turning up."
It was definitely worth it. At the band's gig at their local Coliseum Theatre in 1996, they impressed band manager John Brand so much that he signed a management deal with them after the concert.
"When we got a recording contract, we each got £200 cash and we headed to London," said Richard.
"The £200 burnt a hole in our pockets. We all went out and bought a new pair of jeans that day – some Levi's 501s because we couldn't get that brand in Wales. The only jeans we could get were Lee.
"Our lives got busier. Everything before that gave us the learning tools to craft, now it's about putting in the hard work and showing people that we can do it."
The Stereophonics went on to release hit songs such as Local Boy in the Photograph and Thousand Days.
Although the band has lived a rock 'n' roll lifestyle, Richard said they never took advantage of their position and did not order as many free beers as possible.
He said: "Some artists are like a kid in a sweet shop when they have everything at their disposal, but I always asked myself: 'do you really need it?' Most of it ends up down the toilet or the drain."
In another high point of the group's history, the band collaborated with Tom Jones on a cover of the Randy Newman song Mama Told Me Not To Come for Tom Jones's album Reload.
Richard said: "It was great working with Tom Jones. The easiest thing that we could have ever worked on."
Years of hard work and numerous top 10 hits finally paid off when Stereophonics scored their first number one hit with Dakota in 2007 – but this meant the band had to prove themselves for the singles that followed.
Richard said: "You're only as good as your last record and it's pointless trying to copy something you have already done, so we always do something people haven't seen or heard before.
"Some of my favourite songs to perform are the ones that never leave the set list like Local Boy in the Photograph. We have played it at every gig we've done."
Stereophonics were at the apex of their success when the band released their third album, Just Enough Education to Perform, in April 2001.
The album included the track Mr Writer, which includes lyrics that criticise a critic whom the band believed gave them an unfairly negative review.
Richard explained the reasoning behind the song: "We had one person who was a journalist. He came with us on the road for three or four days and we thought he had become a friend and he wrote some stuff that we knew wasn't true so we wrote the lyrics to our single Mr Writer – our words lasted longer, than his did. Other critics thought the song referred to them, but it was about one person."
If dealing with critics is one of the mainstays of rock 'n' roll, solo project spin-offs is another.
But despite some band members pursuing solo careers, Richard says he's never wanted to do the same.
He said: "Kelly just had some extra material that didn't fit in with what we were doing in Stereophonics, so he made a solo album.
"I can't sing as well as Kelly, so I wouldn't want to shoot myself in the foot – he's the better person in the business, so why try singing to be not as good?"
Speaking about the upcoming tour, Richard said: "Doing smaller shows like these allows us to be more intimate in venues that are five times smaller and with great audiences. Fans can absorb the songs in a way which they wouldn't get the chance to in a bigger venue."
The band will be playing the new album Graffiti on the Train in full, along with some of their old hits.
You can see Stereophonics perform at Doncaster Dome on Monday, March 25. To book tickets at £32.50 a time, visit www.gigsandtours.com