All Music Magazine’s UK’s Janet Harding discusses all things with Jesse Wood from UK Surf rock band Reef

MAIN IMAGE BY WARREN MILLAR

 

INTERVIEW BY JANET HARDING

 

Reef is an English rock band from Glastonbury, England. The band members include Gary Stringer on vocals, Jesse Wood on guitar (replacing original guitarist Kenwyn House in 2014) and Jack Bessant on bass.

Emerging at the height of Brit-pop, Reef had little in common with their British peers; instead of sounding like an amalgam of the Beatles, the Jam, and Stone Roses, they were indebted to the Stones and the Black Crowes. But, through constant touring, as well as being featured in a television commercial for Sony’s Minidisc player, they managed to cultivate a large fan base that expanded significantly with the release of their breakout album Glow.

So, it’s a great honour that during a hectic touring schedule (for them anyway!) Janet got the chance to talk to guitar player Jesse Wood.

 

 

INTERVIEW

 

Hailed as one of THE biggest rock bands to emerge from the UK, Reef have been at the top of their game for decades. With the release this year of a new album ‘Shoot me your Ace’ with a somewhat different direction and feel, and mid way through their latest UK tour, I caught up with guitarist, Jesse Wood, to chat about new sounds, longevity, and finally being on tour again, amongst other things.

Having been lucky enough to be at the Manchester date of the ‘Shoot me your Ace’ tour, I can safely say this band are still on fire.

Janet:  Jesse, thank you so much for finding the time today on Good Friday to talk to me.

Jesse: That’s ok, it’s a pleasure. I’m in Cardiff as that’s where we play tonight, and I’m sitting by the river in the sunshine, there are birds singing, it’s quite lovely, so it’s no problem at all.  Sorry, you might hear birds…

Janet: That’s fine, lots of noise this end too, birds aren’t a problem.  So, tell me about the tour, how’s it all going?

Jesse:   So the tour is mid way through now, it’s going great, really good thanks.

Janet:   From being at the 02 Ritz in Manchester show, I can say it’s clear to see you guys love performing.

Jesse: Yeah, we really do, honestly we just love performing live.  Hopefully the passion we have for making and playing our music shows and everybody feels that vibe. We really do give it our all every time. Manchester Ritz was a really good night, it felt immense, such a great venue.  It’s really old and beautiful and of course some greats have played there, like Oasis.  They played there back in the day. I really enjoyed it there.

Janet: That famously springy dance floor! I can assure you that was felt during your set!

Jesse: Yeah I know!  Oh, wow it was incredible, such a good energy, to see the crowd having so much fun and when we play a song like ‘Place your hands’ it just goes up more and we love to see that – especially on a springy dance floor! ha.

Janet: So for those who haven’t been to a gig yet, what can they expect from this tour?

Jesse:  People can expect to hear our new album plus lots of our classic hits. Well, they can definitely expect lots of energy, lots of passion. We love performing so much and we really want to celebrate a return to live sets after a few not very good years with the pandemic, so we really want to make the most of it. Come along, have a few drinks, soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the energy and the music and just have a great time.  I promise we will make it a great night! So yeh, just come and have fun!

 

 

Janet: I think it’s safe to say Reef as a band are known for being great live, a real live band. Would you agree?

Jesse:  Yeah, mainly cos we just love playing, and Reef, before I joined (and I was always a massive fan) were really known for their live sets, real energy and great musicians. We enjoy it, and we have a great time up there. I think that’s what makes a good gig. We try to bring how music feels to us right down and into the crowd, the fans, and the more it goes up, the more we go up, then the crowd goes up more and it just keeps moving back and forth  It’s brilliant, we love it. It’s great to be thought of as a good live band, it means a lot, and I’m glad people  enjoy what we do so much. It’s always so great to hear when someone’s enjoyed one of our shows, so thank you, and I’m really happy you enjoyed Manchester.

Janet: Thank you, because our photographer and myself genuinely loved it! It was wild …I’m guessing you saw that?

Jesse: Yeah we could see it was going off…the crowd response was another level.  It’s great when we get that kind of reaction, we were very happy!

Janet:  The new album, ‘Shoot me your Ace’, it feels to me like a different sound/direction, a heavier feel. Was this a conscious decision, tell me about that?

Jesse: Definitely. Yeah, I’d say it’s much heavier.  We just sat down in a room and played around, played with the beats, the sound, and that’s the sound that came out. Yeah, heavier is good, real rock. Maybe not consciously set out to be, but it headed that way and we were happy, so that’s the sound that came out! Normally Reef record with one lead guitar, but working with Andy Taylor (Duran Duran) who’s an amazing guitarist as well as producer, and a total legend, we had 2 guitars leading the sound on the album, so myself and Andy.

Janet: …and with Gary’s (Stringer’s) vocals…I mean his voice is just made for this heavier sound…

Jesse:  Absolutely.  Yes, Gary has the most amazing voice, and he really respects it and takes care of it and it’s improved with age too, but yeh it really does suit this heavier sound. His is an instantly recognisable voice, so to put it with the new stuff, it’s really exciting. It’s that metal roar, and he s such a great front man too. We just can’t wait for people to hear the new album, especially live on tour.

Janet:  Coming out to ‘Shoot me your Ace’, it’s very impactful…it’s great live.

Jesse: Oh thank you, I’m so glad,  We wanted that impact, that roar, that surge of the crowd, and yeh, I think it worked well.

Janet:  During the set you do a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. Personally I thought it was brilliant…tell me about that.

 Jesse:  Oh yes, the Fleetwood Mac cover.  Yes it does seem to go down really well, I’m glad you enjoyed it. We always do a cover on every tour, usually one of my Dad’s band, ‘the Faces’, but this one came from doing a thing with Virgin Radio. We did a live set and they asked for a cover – now we have Amy in the band it’s something we can do.  Someone said “What about the Chain?” and we all just thought “yeh”.   It’s a different dynamic we couldn’t do before, but now, with a female vocal, it went really well. We liked it, so added it to the tour set.

Janet: It’s brilliant, and you really made it your own.

Jesse: Yeah, we changed it up a bit, put the Reef sound to it. We shortened it, ours is about 3 minutes long, obviously the original is like 6 or 7 or something.  It is one of those songs that the crowd go wild for, it goes up and up, we love doing it to be honest. It’s a great energy one to play, we can feel the love for it every time.

 

 

Janet: So you mentioned making the most of playing live again after a few not very good years. How did you get through lockdown?

Jesse: We went out into nature as much as we could, myself and the kids and my wife, Fearne. It was a very different feeling, much stiller, quieter. London felt eerie, but to be out in nature helped a lot, and to spend time with my family, it kind of made you think more about things like family time, and to enjoy it. We used it almost as a reset. This awful thing was happening and everyday life was totally out on hold, so we tried to just embrace the being together, family time, lots of long walks and stuff.

Janet: And of course it had a massive impact on the music industry.

Jesse: Yeah, everything stopped,  a lot of great venues sadly were lost, people from the music industry lost jobs. It’s just so good to be finally back to being able to safely do tours again and live music can carry on again.

Janet: Music, I feel, was a big part in getting people through the lockdowns, it’s like the thing that kept us all going.

Jesse:  Absolutely.  Yes, music picks you up, motivates you. Not just playing it like us musicians, but of course listening to it, singing along.  The streaming parties were great, I enjoyed a lot of those kinds of things through lockdown.

Janet: How do you feel about new music streaming outlets, like Spotify, as opposed to physically buying vinyl or CDs like back in the day?

Jesse: Well I think these platforms are brilliant, cos it gets the music out there, it’s easily accessible and spreading music and getting it heard can only be a good thing. Sadly it’s very unfair – the percentages of what artists get as opposed to the companies distributing. Something needs to be done as it is totally unfair. Many people don’t realise that when they purchase music this way their money doesn’t get to the musician or artist, or it’s a very low percentage. I think it’s great now that vinyl has made a come-back. As you say, that experience of going out and physically buying it, then holding it in your hands and putting it on the record player. I’m so glad my son who’s 20 gets to experience this, as all he’s ever known has been downloading and stuff. I’m a huge fan of the 90s, back in the day, and buying vinyl.

Janet: The 90s is my favourite music era too.  Who were you into back then? Any inspiration?

Jesse: Yes, so much inspiration, let me think… Wow…yeh I loved Nirvana, Red Hot Chilli Peppers…Reef, of course, always loved them, have always been a fan….Primal Scream – love Primal Scream, Bob Gillespie…what a guy, love him to bits, what a front man! Real performer.  So many bands from the 90s, mainly grunge or rock.

Janet: Well, thank you so much for chatting today. Good luck with the rest of the tour, I know you guys are gonna smash it.  What’s next after the tour ends?

Jesse: Some family time, things like school runs – totally different to touring but equally good…and thank you. It’s been a pleasure, I’m so glad you enjoyed Manchester, and I’ll read the review!

The thing I take away from this interview is the real passion and love and gratitude Reef have as a band for what they do, great friendship and respect for one another, and for their fans. This truly does show in their performance and clearly is the formula, as well as great writing and musicianship to a career spanning decades!  Reef are mightier than ever!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My life is a soundtrack, i track my life through music, photography is my passion, my escape, my expression. Without both i have pieces missing, thankfully i'm blessed and get to combine both. Born in Manchester, lived in Australia for 22 years where i was heavily involved in the Australian Music Industry, firstly in bands (Singer) and then managing bands (all original), I moved back to the UK, Wales specifically 10 years ago and married my childhood sweetheart and life is good.

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