Stereophonics have the kind of career longevity many bands can only dream of. Now, after more than 25 years together, the Welsh rockers are gearing up to release their twelfth studio album ‘Oochya!’ next month. This wasn’t initially the plan, though.
A happy accident of a record, frontman Kelly Jones and the band’s original aim was to make a second Greatest Hits album to mark their quarter of a century together. However, things went in a dramatically different direction when Jones went into the studio to search through his archives of music and discovered a trove of material recorded during previous album sessions, including several songs recorded for 2013 album ‘Graffiti On The Train’ and 2019’s ‘Kind’ that didn’t make cut.
These discoveries inspired the band to start work on a brand new album instead of a Best Of record. The revived tracks all made it onto the new record, meaning ‘Oochya!’ is a varied album filled with different musical stylings, from the straight up rock and roll intro of opening track ‘Hanging on Your Hinges’, to the intimate and surprisingly candid biographical tune that is ‘Right Place Right Time’.
For the latest in NME’s In Conversation series, Jones talks to us from his home studio and breaks down what it took to make ‘Oochya!’, a record that includes some of his most emotive music yet, alongside a song about a fox that still makes him laugh. Here’s what we learned.
‘Right Place Right Time’ is one of Jones’ most honest songs ever
With lyrics that discuss everything from his early days as a boxer and his family life, to meeting Stereophonics founding member and original drummer Stuart Cable, Jones left no stone unturned with the candid ‘Right Place Right Time’. It was written on the day he had his first COVID jab, and found himself wandering around London in search of inspiration for the album artwork. “It was a really sunny day and I ended up sitting on a roof terrace, and I just wrote loads of verses. It’s a ‘how did I get here’ kind of thing,” he recalls.
On the track, he goes in deep about his love life: “I’ve never mentioned three girlfriends in one song before!” he jokes. “It’s quite strange actually, but it’s about serendipity and destiny. That kind of song could go on forever if you named everybody in your life you’ve ever had an encounter with.”
The band originally planned a Greatest Hits compilation to celebrate 25 years since their debut
During lockdown, Jones realised that it was both the 25th anniversary of Stereophonics’ debut album ‘Word Gets Around’, and that they hadn’t released a Greatest Hits since 2008’s ‘Decade In The Sun’ compilation, so decided to get cracking on a new one for the celebration. Whenever the band works on a Greatest Hits, Jones says, they usually try and put two or three new songs on it. “I came in the studio and looked through some old hard drives. I found a bunch of stuff which I really liked, which we hadn’t used before,” he says.
This original aim then shifted as Jones rediscovered older tracks, and these dives into past material became the starting point for something different. He invited the rest of the band to come into the studio to work on the songs, and explains: “Before we knew it, we had 14 or 15 new songs, so we said, ‘Fuck the compilation record, let’s just put a new record out’, and it was a catalyst.”
The album ends on a song about Jones’ vendetta against a fox
The lyrical content varies hugely on ‘Oochya!’, and one of the more surreal moments comes at the end of the album with ‘Jack in a Box’ – a folksy number that slowly unravels. “It’s a daft song about me wanting to kill a fox in the garden that keeps shitting on my car,” he says.
“It’s kind of like our ‘Octopus’ Garden’ [by The Beatles]. We played it live, we had George Drakoulias [producer] in the room. We had Mike Campbell from Tom Petty playing the banjo on it!” Jones can’t quite believe how the song turned out: “Adam [Zindani, producer] does an amazing guitar solo on acoustic which I still to this day thing was a fucking fluke! We just recorded it three times live and picked one take.”
It was the reaction of his children that made Jones realise they were onto a winner, as “every time we put it on, they would start jumping up and down. We thought we’ve either got to find some animated movie about a fucking fox, or we just stick it on the end of the record. It takes you on a journey and finishes off with us laughing.”
Stereophonics have a host of Gen Z fans
Even after decades in the band, it still blows Jones’ mind that younger generations are discovering his music. Jones recently bumped into a young Stereophonics fan while on a bus, noticing the boy doing a double take, despite him wearing a mask.
“He turned around and says ‘Are you Kelly Jones? I’m listening to you right now!’. He was listening to [Stereophonics’ 2003 album] ‘You Gotta Go There to Come Back’, this kid must have been about 17 with a skateboard under his arm. He goes: ‘Your music is such a big inspiration’, then skated away from the bus.” It was both a rewarding and eye-opening moment for Jones. “I just thought, fuck, he wasn’t born when that was written!”
There are no Glastonbury plans… yet
Jones said in 2017 that he was waiting on a call from Emily and Michael Eavis to ask them to play the legendary festival once more; but when asked about it today, he shrugs it off: “No calls from Glastonbury, no. We had our Saturday night on the Pyramid Stage [in 2002] and that was that, we’re not going back.”
The band are keeping busy with their own touring plans though, with a huge stadium show with Tom Jones and Catfish & The Bottlemen that was rescheduled to June of this year: “There’s some good stuff to look forward to! I think we had under 1 per cent of people wanting a refund. If anything, we’ve opened up more tickets. So I think in June, it’ll be even better.”
Stereophonics’ album ‘Oochya!’ will be released on March 4.