There is a type of band you know you’ve heard of but can’t quite recall any of their songs. You know they’ve been around for a while (long enough to record eight studio albums) but for some reason nothing stands out. You find yourself humming an Oasis tune, knowing you’re in the right ballpark, but its not quite it. Stereophonics is that band.
BeatRoute caught up with Stereophonics lead singer Kelly Jones to solve the mystery of this low-impact but largely successful alternative rock band.
The ‘Phonic’s, as referred to fondly by their fans, is commonly called a “meat and potatoes” band; dependable and consistent, able to churn out “solid” album after “solid” album. Translation: Politely predictable. Meat and potatoes.
“We’ve been hard at work, plugging away at it for 15 years,” says Jones, and it sounds more like he’s talking about a desk job than a rock band. This kind of attitude would explain the complacency you hear on their latest album Graffiti on the Train, which has shot up European charts like a rocket.
The title track finds Jones repeating “Graffiti on the Train” incessantly, accompanied by overwrought guitar chords and a seemingly out of place orchestra. While the band’s eightth studio album hasn’t found much success in North America, this doesn’t bother Jones one bit.
“[The album has] been so well received, it will probably be platinum by Christmas,” Jones says cooly. Clearly his struggles include humility and songwriting. Which naturally explains why Jones would say this:
“I have actually written a screenplay about the album.” His monotone voice makes it hard to detect the sarcasm I expect because, come on, he can’t be serious.
“It’s about a young couple,” he continues. He is serious.
“A couple that falls in love, and the boy writes the girl graffiti messages on the train cars for her to see when she goes to work every morning. One day, he writes ‘Will you marry me,’ but the train crashes and he dies.”
Jones falls into a deep silence, to allow the emotion, the profound impact of the plot twist to really strike my heart. It never quite hits. I expect all the ‘Phonics fans will be eagerly awaiting that straight-to-DVD release though.
The U.K. Telegraph calls them a love-them-or-be-completely baffled-by-their-success sort of band. What is most baffling is that their Vancouver concert is sold out. Love them or not-really-know-who-they-are, they have a dedicated fan base, despite the fact they have never really charted on this side of the pond.
Jones goes on to mention a list of awards, chart rankings and festivals they have played over the course of their career. It was a self-congratulatory tangent he took the liberty of making himself, one that would even embarrass Kanye West.
“We’ve been at this for 15 years,” Jones explains, once again, “and I have no intentions of retiring, just writing more music and more screenplays.”
For those who have been following this band, that must be great news. For everyone else, well, you probably won’t even hear about it.
Catch U.K. legends Stereophonics at the Commodore Ballroom on October 6th.
By Meighan DonaldsonBC, British Columbia