INTERVIEW: Gary Stringer from Reef

When a band takes 18 years off producing albums, you may believe the end is nigh. The rough and tumble of being a ‘rock ‘n’ roll star’ may have got the best of them, or, the glue that gelled band member to band member might have just dried up. This, however, was never the case for 90’s rock prodigies Reef.

A band who have glided through the testing music industry with both grace and good fortune. From supporting the likes of The Rolling Stones and Paul Weller to reaching number six in the UK chart with the British classic ‘Place Your Hands’, Reef have done and seen it all.

Whilst in conversation with Gary Stringer, following the release of their come back album Revelation, it seems their victorious streak had continued through the 18 years.

“Everything worked out fairly natural, we stopped working in 2003 with Reef, which is when Jack (Bessant) and I made a couple of acoustic albums, one of which was called Yard and one knucklehead rock record on our own label.” Says Stringer

For folk like Stringer, music is never off the agenda: “I thought maybe I could take six months away from music, so I went and bought a house in the country and raised my family, but I’d find myself awake at 3 am, wide awake writing down words, it’s just the pattern of my life” he explained in his usual vehement yet cool manner.

The pattern of bouncing back into the pool of music is consistent for the members in Reef, who played six sold-out shows for Live Nation back in 2010, as well as a stack of festivals, such as the fabled Glastonbury and Isle of Wight Festival.

 

“As a musician, you kind of want to be creative, I love playing gigs, but I like to create new music. So we started talking about it with the band, but our guitarist Kenwyn House had just started his own project thus not being really into it”. When speaking of House, who now focuses on his psych-rock band Goldray, it became clear that Stringer was nothing but supportive toward his friend. He accepted change and welcomed it with open arms.

With the bulk of gigs came new music and with new music came a new guitarist, better known as Jesse Wood, who, (being the son of The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood) unsurprisingly blew Stringer away during auditions. After the addition of Wood, Reef signed under new management and got a publishing deal before signing over in Germany.

“Jesse Wood’s style was quite different from Kenwyns, being quite classic, he instantly had great rhythm playing, it just really worked. One of the things about Jesse that was really amazing is that we actually wrote a song with him in the audition. All of the guys that came to play were great, but Jesse was the only one that we had a jam with.”

The man behind Reef’s platinum-selling album Glow, George Drakoulias, was welcomed back to produce Revelation.

“If we were going to release a Reef record, it couldn’t just be ok, it had to be amazing. We probably wrote twice as many songs as we needed.” He had explained, “we tried them out at gigs, the ones that got a good response we recorded. Drakoulias is a beautiful human, every time I see him I hear new music, he makes me relax, we’ve made something I am really proud of!”

Breaking up the classic Reef rock and roll sound on their newest album is the wonderfully folky ‘My Sweet Love’, a track in which Stringers’ rough-and-ready vocals go hand in hand with Sheryl Crowe’s mellifluous voice. Having already recorded the track, Drakulious proposed the idea of a second vocal.

“He sent her the song which she likes which is a plus, then a few weeks later she recorded it in Nashville, I was in Somerset at my kitchen table, watching over Skype, I tell people I met Sheryl Crowe over the internet! She sang really well, nailing it in five or six takes, her voice is magnificent.”

Though their hit ‘Place your Hands’ still causes mayhem live, giving the crowd a mix of old and new is as important to Stringer,

most people get really spun out when you play new songs, we’re not gonna play the whole of Revelation, we want to be doing new stuff… alright we took six years off, but why shouldn’t we do that? It’s become this heritage business where you go out and play all the songs from 20 years ago, of course, I love all  those songs and I’m proud of them, but we want to be a creative band, knowing that we wanted to make this record bang on, what other option have we got?”

“When I watch the crowd in front of me, I know when people are engaged, without sounding like a hippy, the band and I throw out energy into the crowd and it comes back, bigger or smaller and with that, you rise up. ‘Place your Hands’ connects people all around the world, it has a life of its own.”

As humble as ever, the Reef head honcho, father and undeniable genius told us of his plans for the tour, “we’re going out there to rock out and tear it up. I can’t wait, we’ll be throwing n a couple off the new record, a few old songs, just keep doing what we love!”