the audience‘s veins to bulge with pleasure. Stringer has a huge goofy grin plastered across his face and is throwing his arms into the air with the same vigour that propels him around the makeshift stage. Bessant has just dropped his bass and dived into the crowd. Judging by the roar of approval which goes tip. full- contact concerts are the way forward.
The sun hasn‘t set yet and the shopping aisles are filled with happy fans pogoing as though it isn‘t going to rise tomorrow. When Reef play current single ‘Come Back Brighter’. the screams of recognition reach a crescendo. To use a word which Reef are rather fond of. it‘s ‘wicked‘. Actions speak louder than words and why talk about something when you can sing your socks off instead‘.’
Reef come from the West Country. down Barnstaple. Cheddar. Glastonbury way. on the fringes of cider country. The four of them
‘Rock 'n' roll is an attitude, whether it's drinking and shagging or going home to your
mum and having a cup of tea.’
moved into a London house together when they decided they wanted to take the band a bit more seriously. ‘When you live together you don't have to call someone up and arrange a rehearsal or whatever. You just scream “Get up!" at them and play.‘ explains Bessant
helpfully. Reef were called Naked before they realised there were stacks of other bands
kicking around the country with the same handle. so a brainstorming session was required. In a roundabout way the BBC test card with the girl and the clown is responsible for their name. ‘We phoned up the BBC to ask what the girl‘s name was and they said it was Carol llersey.‘ says Bessant doubtfully. ‘We couldn’t really call ourselves that so we were thinking: “Carol. coral. coral reef." Reef. it‘s a living thing that just keeps growing. That’s pretty cool.‘
Sony picked them up in April I994. Remember the Sony Discman TV ad where the fat cat record company boss throws the aspiring stars‘ demo disc out of the window and it‘s picked up and appreciated by the cool skate dude‘.’ Reef were those aspiring stars and stardom was not guaranteed. The band paid their dues on the toilet circuit.
‘The worst gig was at Corby in England.’ reckons Stringer. ‘There were about twenty people in the room. There was a DJ on the decks. only he wasn‘t a DJ. More of a Dave Lee Travis type and he kept interrupting. We’d start the set and he kept on commenting on the songs. “You’ll know this one, it‘s their first single.“‘
A support slot on Paul Weller’s Wild Wood tour earned them new friends and sparked interest in their debut album Replenish. a no- nonsense rocker. shot through with a hefty dose of hip-swinging funk. The next couple of years saw tours of Australia. America and Japan and a growing fan base in Britain due to numerous festival appearances.
Which brings us to 1997 and Glow. The album went straight into the charts at number
one. Produced by George Drakoulias, the man '
who helped give Primal Scream and The Black Crowes their loose-limbed groove, Glow puts
its head down and rocks but does so with a double dose of funk. Led Zep-style riffing and emotion-filled vocals. courtesy of Stringer. There is also a healthy touch ofgospel in there - if Reef could have their pick of the world's music makers to play at their party. it comes as little surprise that they would have James Brown and Tools Mayall on vocals. Bootsy Collins on bass. Keith Moon whacking the skins and Jimmy Hendrix on guitars. A mixture of sinuous funksters and out there wreakers of sonic mayhem. mirroring Reefs
Would they describe themselves as a ‘rock‘ band'.’
'We're a rock 'n' roll band.’ intones
Stringer with a heayy emphasis on the 'roll'. "that‘s quite important. I think ()asis are a rock 'n' roll band. Prodigy are a rock 'n‘ roll band. Nowadays those boundaries are starting to crumble. Rock ‘n‘ roll for me was always more of an attitude. whether it‘s drinking and shagging or going home to your mum and having a cup of tea. lt‘s doing your thing. being strong enough to be yourself.‘
Live. Reef are upfront party animals but their lyrics are a lot more sensitive than their antics would suggest. Last November‘s single ‘Place Your llands‘. is about the emotional hole left by death of a loved one. lately Stomping‘ tells ol'just how good it feels to get to a place called home after months of being on the road while ‘('onsideration‘ tells us Stringer doesn‘t hayc a problem with
compassion. Emotions. feelings. intangible soft things in a rock band'.’
‘l.yrically the songs are based on things that have happened to me.’ reveals Stringer. ‘lt‘s funny. liverybody calls us a feel-good band but if you were to sit down and read the lyrics you‘d see they are a way of ridding yourself ofcack emotions. whether it‘s hurt or loss or whatever. I feel good at the time because singing is a good way of releasing bad feelings from my body.‘
Not that Reef are averse to more Beavis and Bullhead-style japes. Stringer has made a habit of dropping his pants in interviews. ()r there was the time that indie kids :Vlansun were w 'king down a corridor in front of Reef at Scouish 'l'elcvision. Reef switched off the lights. plunged the place into darkness and then fell helpless with laughter at the sight of Mansun sprawled on the floor having cautioned into one another. Or how about the occasion when Reef were doing an in-store at the new Tower Records in Birmingham when the band sparked mayhem and the ire of the shop's management by handing out the shop‘s stock during a power cut.
‘We filled the fucking record shop for them.‘ says Stringer with a look of wounded innocence. "The power goes down. we hand out a few (‘l)s. mebbe 2(lt) quid’s worth. You get them a lot of publicity and they wet themselves over a handful of (’Ds.‘
The aggrieved look fades and a twinkle flares in Stringer‘s face. ‘It was a good laugh lhough.’
Reef play Barrowland, Glasgow, Wed 26 Feb.
Reef on the look out for mischief
21 Feb—6 Mar 1997 THEIJ8T11