The West

When you've survived in the music business for more than 20 years you've got to be doing something right.

Stereophonics were one of the big bands to emerge during the height of Cool Cymru - the Welsh music renaissance that came on the back of Britpop in the late 90s. Two decades and more than nine million record sales since frontman Kelly Jones first unleashed his raspy vocals in a working men's club in the Welsh valleys, the band is still rocking audiences around the world with a catalogue of hits that now includes their latest album, Graffiti on the Train.

"The one thing we hope to achieve each time is that we don't want to repeat the record we made before," Jones says over the phone from London in the lead-up to the band's Australian tour. "We are always trying to challenge ourselves and surprise people.

"Some people will hate the new record, some people will love it but the point is you keep getting your new fans. When you look into the audience and see 14-year-olds in the front row singing (Stereophonics' new song) Indian Summer, that to me is what it's all about - keeping the old fans happy as well as making new ones."

Graffiti on the Train is Stereophonics' eighth album and comes four years after Keep Calm and Carry On - the longest gap between records in the band's career.

During that time they mourned the death of their former drummer Stuart Cable and started their own label, Stylus Records.

Cable had been with Stereophonics since 1992 but was sacked in 2003. He later confessed in his autobiography Demons and Cocktails that fame turned him into a "coke-taking zombie" and his former band members "strongly disapproved".

Nevertheless, his death had a huge impact on the 39-year-old Jones and fellow original band member, bassist Richard Jones, who had been friends since they were teenagers.

"There may have been some pieces written about regret but that word never came out of my mouth," the singer explains. "Me and Stuart were mates all our lives. The only time we didn't speak were the six months after he decided he didn't want to be in the band anymore. It was a tragic accident and affected everyone in the band."

Not surprisingly, Graffiti on the Train touches on the themes of relationships, struggles and death and is arguably the Welsh outfit's most mature album to date.

For Jones, though, the album - the last to feature drummer Javier Weyler, who was last year replaced by Jamie Morrison - is part of a bigger project.

At the same time as writing the music, he also started penning a screenplay based on the album, which he hopes will go into production next year. "The music from the album will feature in the film in theory," Jones says.

For now though, Jones is happy to do what he does best - perform live to fans old and new - and joining him on stage is one of the band's biggest in Morrison.

"He came to see us as a kid but he didn't tell us any of this until after he got the job," Jones says.

"But it helps that he just really understands the music and the band."

Indeed, that Morrison - who plays the drums in his socks, a throwback to childhood when he wasn't allowed in the house with his shoes on - has tapped into the Stereophonics' psyche brings Jones much comfort.

"I think we were all for a long time, and the band still is, very close to each other and we all look out for each other," he says.

"We all have our moments but we get ourselves back and we still are having a great time after 20 years. I'm just happy the band is making music that's still relevant and people are still getting invigorated by it.

"That's all we've ever wanted to do and hopefully we can keep on doing it."

Stereophonics play Metro City on Thursday, supported by Atlas Genius. Tickets from Oztix.

The West Australian

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