KELLY Jones certainly times his visits to Wrexham well.
Last year saw Stereophonics turn up to play the Racecourse Ground’s first rock gig since 1982 the day after Wales beat Belgium to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals.
Next June will see the Welsh band return to the stadium the day before Kelly celebrates his 44th birthday and the frontman is predicting a big night.
“I remember sound checking the night before and I actually watched the Belgium game in the stadium and we had a great night,” he says just hours after Stereophonics confirmed they would be playing the Racecourse in 2018.
“This time it’s the night before my birthday so I’ll probably spend the whole day recovering after the Wrexham effect.
“The last show there was so exciting. It was an amazing atmosphere and I remember saying if we put tickets on sale the day after they’d probably sell out again.
“It was wild – there were people climbing to the top of towers and having to be talked down.
“There were a lot of people singing and dancing and we had Catfish and the Bottlemen as well who bought their following.
“It was just a really high energy gig – everything you want from a gig was given to us and we really did have an amazing night.
“We’re genuinely excited to come back up there – when you only play a place a few times it’s clearly special for people who live there and that makes it special for us.”
Speaking on the day Stereophonics’ new album Scream Above The Sounds is released, Kelly sounds understandably upbeat with figures predicting it could secure them their seventh number one – as many chart toppers as Westlife, Take That and Coldplay.
“The album is out today and we’re in a bit of a race for number one with Alfie Boe and Michael Ball,” he laughs.
“I love the fact that our records are still played on the radio next to someone like Rag’n’Bone Man who’s on his first record – it’s an achievement in itself to keep making music that people are still enjoying.”
Stereophonics’ latest record comes exactly 20 years after their debut Word Gets Around which saw the band emerge from the village of Cwmaman with Britpop anthems like Local Boy in the Photograph, A Thousand Trees and More Life in a Tramp’s Vest.
Two decades on the close-knit three piece have gained and lost members, but Kelly and bassist Richard Jones – no relation – remain and unlike many of their 90s contemporaries, the band are still capable of reaching number one and headlining any summer festival.
As its title suggests, Scream Above The Sounds is an attempt both to reflect on the band’s 20-year career, but also a plea to recapture the innocence and euphoria of the group’s early days when going to a concert didn’t mean you might not come home at all.
“We played in the [Paris] Bataclan early on and we’ve played in the Manchester Arena,” sighs Kelly, who wrote the band’s latest single Caught By The Wind after the 2015 massacre at the French rock venue.
“Having three daughters makes you think – I live in Parsons Green and there were attacks there and it just feels like there is horrible random stuff going on all over the place so looking back on the record and the lyrics all this stuff is creeping in.
“Look at the news every morning and it feels like a 24/7 intrusion and people are making up story after story.
“It took me back to when I was a kid and I just used to roam around with nothing in my head apart from my imagination – nowadays there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time for young people to use that as much because they’re constantly consuming things on various devices.
“It’s not against phones – it’s just about shouting above all that noise because it can get on top of you. You need a bit of time to just lie down and look at the sky.”
Kelly has always had a way with an observational lyric and from the off the band were never afraid to confront the small time dramas which filled their teenage years and made songs like Local Boy In The Photograph’s tale of a young man’s suicide so heartfelt.
“It goes to show that no matter what you go through, when you look out and there’s thousands of people singing the words back to you you realise people are going through the same things and it’s a global feeling.”
In 2010, former Stereophonics drummer Stuart Cable died aged 40 and the new album sees Kelly attempt to come to terms with his friend’s death on a song called Before Anyone Knew Our Name.
“I don’t really know where it came from,” he says, before pausing and clearing his throat.
“Obviously I’ve given Stuart’s death a lot of thought since it happened seven years ago and I think about him every day. We play those songs we made and he’s still in our consciousness. The song came to me one day and I don’t know why or how – at first I wasn’t sure about it being on the record but everyone else was saying we should and now I’m glad.”
Cable had left the band under a cloud in 2003 with allegations that his drinking and off-stage behaviour had caused a rift with Kelly but the pair had patched up their differences and at the time of his death they were in contact again.
“People talk about a cathartic experience or whatever, but me and Stuart went through so much together and I go back and forth to Cwarmmen a lot so there’s a lot of thinking about boyhood going into adulthood,” says Kelly.
“As kids you dream about big things and then big things happen but part of you isn’t there anymore so it’s something everyone has experienced if they’ve lost a brother or a close friend.
“All my memories of Stuart are of him laughing or shouting and he had the largest voice in the world so the memories are very happy memories.
“Stuart’s memory will always live in the band – he was always my biggest fan when it came to lyrics and he was always the person I showed them to first.
“He’s missed all the time but we tell stories about him all the time because he was such a daft character.”
l Stereophonics play the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, on Saturday, June 2. Tickets on sale today at 10am via www.stereo
phonics.com and www.myticket.co.uk. Scream Above The Sounds, the new album, is out now.
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