Almost two decades since the release of their last set - the aptly-titled ‘Getaway' - Reef have finally returned with new album ‘Revelation’. With new guitarist, and son of a Stone Jesse Wood on board, the West Country four-piece have created a sound that mixes soul, funk, gospel and blues that doesn’t stray far from the Reef template. We sat down with Jesse for a chat about the new album, the ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed’ tour, and working with the old man. Lone rider; Eamon O’Neill.
How are you today, Jesse?
I’m very good, thanks very much. I’m in lovely Dublin. We played here last year, and it was great. I’m very biased because by old man has lived here for quite a few years, and I’ve spent quite a lot of my life here, so I love it, I fucking love it!
You’ve just come off the U.K. leg of the ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed’ tour; how was that?
The ‘interestingly titled’ Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour! We obviously didn’t come up with that, but I don’t know, it just doesn’t sit right with me, if I’m honest with you. It was great fun though. The bands were lovely; The Wildhearts and Terrorvision and Dodgy.
It looked like a lot of fun, and the fans seemed to really enjoy it.
Yeah, you got good value for ticket money, I think.
As a newer member coming into Reef, were you a fan of those bands, and that period for music?
To be honest, I only knew a few songs of The Wildhearts and Terrorvision, and I I knew Dodgy because they were a bit more poppy. But yeah, I used to follow all the bands in that era of 90s' music, really, including Reef.
Was there a lot of fun back stage, hearing all the stories about how things were back in the 90s?
I didn’t notice much of that, but they did a few interviews together where they went back in time. I don’t think they actually crossed paths too many times, but everyone was really happy, and there was good vibes.
The ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed’ tour is heading to Australia, which must be an exciting prospect.
Yeah, I’ve never been to Australia, and it’s exciting to play music there. We’re just lucky to go out there. I don’t know about the other bands, but I think it’s very much a market re-awakening after a bit of time away, so hopefully it’ll go down well, and we’ll sell it out and people will be there.
You’ve just released new album ‘Revelation’, which was recorded here in Ireland.
We did it in a few different places. We started it in Wiltshire, in a studio there called The Distillery, we did a bit of it down the road from me in Richmond, but yeah, we did the main bulk of overdubs and singing in my dad’s studio in Ireland, down near Naas. I was lucky enough to have worked there with my dad, and seen him work there with many greats, so I’d say the energy of the place is very creative, and opens you up and brings good stuff out of you. So it’s great for that.
So you’ve brought more to the band than simply being the guitar player.
Well, the location wasn’t free; it was all kind of worked with the record company and stuff, and we used it as a professional studio. But I like to think I’ve brought some kind of flavour to the band and added to what Kenwyn [House, original Reef guitarist] had already brought there as a guitarist, and been amazing at! I’ve put my own thing in there.
Was there a lot riding on your shoulders, taking over from someone who had been there from the start?
There was at the beginning, but I think it’s all calmed a bit. It’s always going to be a bit like that, I think, because he was such a riff master of the band, you know? I’ve really enjoyed learning the songs and his style of playing, and learning his craft my own way.
Coming from The Roinnie Wood Band into Reef must have been an easy transition, as the styles aren’t exactly disparate, are they?
No, it’s all very similar, isn’t it? So I’m quite familiar to all the tunings; you’ve got the normal tunings, dropped D, sometimes open E or something like that. I think Kenwyn used to do a dropped C, which I’m not a master of yet. But I’ve also learned a lot of new moves, because you can always learn. It’s like golf being a musician; you can always perfect your art. Joining this band, learning all the songs, it’s been great. It’s like learning off a master, almost, because he’s a great, technical player.
The sound of ‘Revelation’ is extremely upbeat.
We’re lucky enough we’ve been able to play a lot of the songs over the last couple of years. I joined four years ago, and this last couple of years we’ve been playing a few live as well. We kept writing, and we’ve kept it, genre-wise, open and interesting.
How was it working with producer George Drakoulias?
George Drakoulias produced ‘Glow’ , and ‘Rides’ , and many other bands like The Black Crows and Primal Scream, which is amazing. For me, personally, working with him was incredible. I grew up in the 90s, and looked at those CD sleeves, and I ended up working with him! But, he’s always playing music to whoever he works with – soul and things like that - and he brought a lot of the vibe into it as well. He let us do our thing, and then he brought his thing into it as well.
Did that approach change things a lot from your initial demos?
No too much. He brought a lot of other sounds and vibes and voices, but it was more sort of structural work, really. He did a bit of writing with us, and going in with me on guitar bits, which was great because I tried to sponge it up; I’m sat there with George thinking; “this is fucking great!” And I think he enjoyed it as well. It’s a two-way thing.
Sheryl Crow guests on the track ‘My Sweet Love’.
Well, she’s a great friend of George, and I knew her a long time ago through my dad, because she’s obviously played with The Stones and got up with them a few times on stage. So I’d met her years ago, but I don’t know her that well. But we had been writing ‘My Sweet Love’, and we cut it in Ireland, and in the morning’s we’d all meet up and listen back to it, and he just said; “This should be kind of like a call and response thing”, and yeah, we thought it was a bloody great idea! So we had a few candidates, but he brought Sheryl to the table which was perfect, because it sounds great with Gary [Stringer, lead singer]’s voice.
Does that present a challenge when playing the song live then?
Well, on the ‘Britrock Must Be Destroyed’ tour, we had a few backing singers; Jerry Cunningham and Lynn Jackaman did it. But otherwise, Gary sings it himself, which is just as good.
Given that it’s your dad up there, would it be nice to get Reef onto a Rolling Stones support slot?
Yeah. I think, as you can see by the people they’ve chosen this time around, it’s sort of a bit more of a different level, but yeah, eventually it would be nice to do that, if they’re still doing it.
Have you caught any of the Rolling Stones' ‘No Filter’ shows?
No, because we’ve been on tour at the same time. But I’m going to Twickenham, definitely. My friend James Bay is supporting them, and he’s fantastic, and a killer guitarist as well. So he’s playing, but I’m going to go there with my wife and kids. My second youngest, Rex, he’s five, and he’s been to a couple of my gigs, and I really want to take him to see his grandad on that kind of level, with the colourful lighting and big show.
Finally, it’s taken Reef 18 years to release a new album; does the release of ‘Revelation’ signal the return to more regular recording?
Yeah, I hope so. This one seems to have gone down really well, better than I thought it would. So yeah, I’d love to do another one. We’ve got a few songs already that could go on there that we didn’t put on this one, so yeah, there’s a slight foundation.
What’s coming up in the immediate future?
A bit more writing, I’ll buy and sell a few guitars, and just keep playing, as much as possible. We’ve got a few festivals coming up over the summer. We did quite a few last year and the year before, so we’ve had to back off a little bit. We’re going to go to Europe and do a few gigs in Germany, and Paris, hopefully, and we’ve got a few bits coming up that are exciting.
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Reef's 'Revelation' is out now, via earMUSIC.