Reef’s first studio album since 2000’s ‘Getaway’, the bracingly thrilling ‘Revelation’ is what its title promises: an ear-tingling, heart-stirring, head-spinning comeback record that is less the sound of a group reborn than one born for the first time.
In 2016, Reef returned with their first single since 2003, ‘How I Got Over’, which was A-Listed at Radio 2 and saw the band perform live on Chris Evans’ radio show and on The One Show on BBC1. Reef were personally invited by Chris Martin to support Coldplay at Wembley Stadium, and also released their live album ‘Reef: Live At St Ives’, recorded over two sold-out nights at St Ives Guildhall. Mark Millar caught up with bassist Jack Bessant to talk about the bands’ success back in the day, the bands split and the recording of ‘Revelation’ – their first album in 18 years.
Reef formed in 1993 and released nine Top 40 singles – most famously ‘Place Your Hands’ which was featured every week on Chris Evans TFI Friday show. How did that feel? Did it become annoying after a while?
No, it was all good we let it all go over our heads in a way, but it was great publicity. We were on that show every week because they played the clip and we were on it performing. It’s just a great song, and we still love playing it now, and everyone knows it. It’s all positive.
Between 1993 and 2003 the band had great success; do you have a standout moment from that time?
It was great to go to far away places like Australia and experience travelling which perhaps we wouldn’t have done had we not become successful. It was great to go to places like that and play our music in front of music loving people. That’s my standout moment from that period. It was fantastic. Also when we played Glastonbury on the headlining stage at about 6 o’clock in front of all those people that was amazing for us and such an adrenalin rush.
After four studio albums, Reef disbanded in 2003. Why did you all choose to call time on the band?
We had just had enough. I think Dominic (Greensmith) our drummer left about six months previous and we already had a tour booked in Japan, so we got a stand-in drummer who was cool. It just wasn’t working anymore – we had burnt ourselves out, and we needed to have a break from it. We took seven years away from the band, and when you look at it, it’s almost standard now. You’ve got to go away and look somewhere else and become grounded again even as something as basic as trying to find out who your friends are again. We were doing so much travelling and touring and when we weren’t doing that we were writing music. To find the love of music again was vital for me because I love music so much.
The band reformed in 2010 and In 2014 Jesse Wood replaced original guitarist Kenwyn House after he amicably left the group. How did Jesse fit in with the band dynamic?
We had met Jesse before and knew of him, and Dom knew him well – they are good friends so we had him audition, and in those four years, he’s embraced the whole thing. His number one thing is music – he’s grown up with that entire umbrella of music with his dad being Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones. He’s has been brilliant and it has been great to have fresh blood to write with. Its just shaken things up a bit and he works really well with George Drakoulias. Jesse is cool.
Reef will be releasing new studio album ‘Revelation’ this week. Which is the bands first in 18 years. Did you go into the recording with any preconceived ideas how it should sound and the kind of songs you wanted to write about?
We were just doing our best to write some good songs with good riffs – more like proper songs if we could. And the whole time we have been working with the guidance of George Drakoulias and Lincoln Elias who signed us back in the day. He has come back around, and he manages us a bit with a guy called John Bryce. Lincoln suggested we try a few different covers and even taking something like ‘How I Got Over’ on with its rootsy playing, and gospel sound has been quite good for us. I think we have become better musicians and better songwriters. Its taken us four years of writing songs and with their guidance to finally pick the songs that are on the record and to finally finish it.
Although four years seems like a long time it has been perfect, and now we know the songs and how they should go, and we know our parts. When we play them live they sound so great right now. This is whats been exciting about the last few gigs we have just done – they have been brilliant fun, and the songs sound epic. I’m excited about the album coming out on Friday, and we are on the Chris Evans show Friday morning, so you will probably hear us saying “it’s your letters.” (laughs)
The band recorded the album in Ireland Was it an enjoyable experience recording there?
We were lucky to go to Ronnie Wood’s place. He has got a studio out in the country about an hour away from Dublin it was beautiful. We had a lovely time there the place was so relaxing and helped us focus on the music and work out what the songs needed to make them work and get the album done.
The album features a guest vocal from Sheryl Crow on lead single ‘My Sweet Love.’ How did she get involved with the song?
She got involved through George Drakoulias – he knows a lot of people I guess he’s a mover in the LA scene. He just lives music – he is amazing I cant big him up enough. He knows Sheryl Crow he asked her and she liked the song – It’s as simple as that. She recorded her part while she was in Nashville while George was in his living room in LA and me and Gary were watching the whole thing on Facetime and listening to it happen – it was quite cool in a way.
What would you like people to take away from listening to the album?
I hope people get joy from it and it puts them in a good place. We enjoyed making it, and it gives me a good energy from listening to it, and I hope people get that same reaction.
Do you have a record that you always return to?
I’m a big fan of Neil Young – I love ‘Tonight’s the Night.’ At the moment I’m listening to the Allman Brothers – ‘Live at Fillmore East.’ Picking one particular record is hard.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
I really like ‘The Man’ by Goat Girl.
Reef are: Gary Stringer (vocals), Jack Bessant (bass), Jesse Wood (lead guitar), Dominic Greensmith (drums)
Reef ‘Revelation’, tracklist:
2. My Sweet Love (featuring Sheryl Crow)
4. How I Got Over
5. Don’t Go Changing Your Mind
6. Precious Metal
7. Just Feel Love
8. Ball And Chain
9. First Mistake
10. Darling Be Home Soon
11. Lone Rider
12. Like A Ship (Without A Sail)
May 4 Academy, Manchester (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 5 Digbeth Arena, Birmingham (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 6 Eventim Apollo, London (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 10 Sub89, Reading
May 11 Concorde 2, Brighton
May 12 Waterfront, Norwich
May 18 Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
May 19 O2 Academy, Glasgow (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 20 O2 Academy, Newcastle (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 24 O2 Academy, Leeds (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 25 Motion, Bristol (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 26 Guildhall, Portsmouth (Britrock Must Be Destroyed! Tour)
May 27 LeeStock Music Festival, Suffolk
May 31 Green Room, The Academy, Dublin
June 1 Harmony Live 2018, Holywood, County Down
June 23 Beautiful Day Out At Eden, Eden Project, Cornwall
July 8 B LOVE Festival, Basingstoke
August 24 Watchet Festival, Somerset