2005 was a spectacular year for the Stereophonics. Their fifth album, Language. Sex. Violence. Other?, heralded a fantastic return to form, sending them out on tour in front of sell-out crowds all over the world, including over 200, 000 fans in the UK alone. It was the result of both hard work and a re-examination of who they were as a band.
First Javier Weyler stepped in behind the kit and then, more importantly perhaps, the band re-discovered what they wanted from their music. We had been a little lost, says singer Kelly Jones. Last year, we really found ourselves again. We went through a lot of difficult times and we were searching for what we wanted to be and I think weve hit on it now.
What its meant is that theyve become a live force to be reckoned with. A newfound confidence, coupled with an excitement in the band that bassist Richard Jones compares to the very early days, has led to some truly extraordinary live shows in the last year. I dont think Ive ever felt as comfortable onstage as I have done recently, says Kelly. Weve got a lot more confidence than weve ever had before too. Getting back to playing as a three piece onstage as opposed to having extra musicians there has really worked, its what we were originally and we feel stronger for going back to it. Weve been really fucking energized too. Weve got that raw feel back too, adds Richard. Even just when we were rehearsing it felt really energetic, gritty and in your face. As soon as we started playing with Javier it felt so natural. We felt like a unit onstage it was like the old gang mentality. It was just the three of us and we knew we all had to pull together. The shows last year were among the best weve ever played. The energy and excitement was similar to when we first started playing big shows. We have the same fire burning in our chests now as we did then.
Its been something of a whirlwind for Javier Weyler. Within months of joining the band, he had a Number One album on his hands, was touring the world and playing in front of a global audience of millions at Live 8. Everything happened so fast, says Javier. We were touring like crazy which meant I didnt even have a chance to be nervous by it all. I watched our Live 8 performance for the first time a few weeks ago and I didnt realize how big it all was at the time. When I watched it back, I was like, Oh fuck! Its been great to be out on the road though. It feels like the other two have been initiating me for the last 18 months! Theyve been to a lot of places before but Im seeing them for the first time, so theyve been taking me to all the crazy places and getting me drunk. Its been fantastic!
So successful has their year been that the band felt they needed to do something to cap it off. The obvious choice was a live album. We didnt want to do a greatest hits package or anything like that, says Kelly. We wanted to do a live album because it feels like a celebration of the year weve had and also of the ten years that this band has been going. I wanted to put this out as a souvenir, for the fans and for ourselves, because I wanted to capture the moment where were all really into the band again. To not share that would be silly. The feeling and excitement in the band hasnt ever been as strong as this which is why weve never done anything like this before.
We werent really planning on doing a live album, says Javier. But the vibe of the shows was so good that we wanted to find a way of storing that somehow. We wanted to do something for all the people that came to those shows too because theyre a big part of the reason that it was so special.
It meant having to trawl through hours of recordings from every show the band played during the last year a strange experience according everyone in the band.
It was quite painful at times, says Kelly Jones. But I was pleasantly surprised at how rocking it was. It was good to hear songs like A Thousand Trees or Too Many Sandwiches fitting alongside Dakota or Superman. It was quite satisfying to hear how the energy of the first album still fits with what were doing now but also how something like Mr Writer can fit in the middle of it. The way weve made all the songs work together has been great because all the albums are very different in terms of dynamics.
All three of the band sat in the recording studio, alongside producer Jim Lowe, and played back every night of the tour. The selection process for what made the live album was very simple: It was all about the vibe and energy of the recording, says Kelly. It didnt matter if wed played it faultlessly or not, as long as it made us feel excited when we listened back to it. Theyre really not all perfect recordings either, some of them are pretty raw at times but thats what we liked about them. We didnt want to do overdubs or anything like that, adds Javier. Whats the point of that? If you spend ages tweaking stuff in the studio, then its not a live album anymore.
More important still was trying to recreate the live atmosphere, the combination of venue, crowd and performance that makes a show so special. It is hard to re-create the buzz of being at a gig, says Kelly. When youre out, youre tanked up and having a good time with your mates. Hopefully this is as close to being at one of our gigs as you can get. There are a few songs in there that break the pace up a little but, for the most part, its right in your face from beginning to end. With a bit of luck, there arent any moments when youll want to get up and go for a hot-dog, or whatever else you can do at a gig!
The aim was to produce the definitive Stereophonics live recording and Kelly, for one, thinks theyve succeeded. I do actually, he says. If youve never been to one of our gigs before, then this will make you want to come. If the only perception you have of us is from a few singles on the radio, then this will totally change your mind. If you were at one of the showswell, you know what its all about and hopefully this will be a great souvenir of your night.
Check out the band on stereophonics.com
Stereophonics formed in Cwmaman, south Wales in 1996. They immediately marked themselves out as songwriters of distinction with singles like Local Boy In The Photograph (1998), Hurry Up And Wait(1999), Mr Writer (2001), Maybe Tomorrow (2003) and the bands first Number One single in 10 years Dakota (2005).
They have released five albums (the last four all reaching the top spot consecutively): Word Gets Around (1997), Performance And Cocktails (1999), Just Enough Education To Perform (2001), You Gotta Go There To Come Back (2003) and Language. Sex. Violence. Other? (2005). Stereophonics have toured the world and sold in excess of 8 million records.