Reef interview: Revelation

Henry Lewis caught up with Jesse Wood to talk about the band's brand new album - their first in 18 years - and plenty more.

Henry Lewis

Date published: 2nd May 2018

Image: Reef (credit)

The release of Revelation this month marks the first studio recorded output to come from Reef in 18 years. It’s their their fifth album and following such a lengthy hiatus, you’d be justified in wondering whether the band so famously known for the 90s smash 'Place Your Hands Up' could ever reach the height of their supposed ‘pomp’ some 20 years ago.

Put simply; with this record they’ve reached and in a number of ways, surpassed the work they’re best known for with a truly stunning return to form.

The record has moments of balls out rock and roll yet with tender feelings too. The opening is an AC/DC type rocker with a based, solid riff, searing vox and a ridiculously catchy chorus, while say 'Don't Go Changing Your Mind' and the Sheryl Crow hook up 'My Sweet Love' show delicate acoustic moments, that capture your imagination and attention just as much as the tracks that scream in your face.

It’s the Crow collaboration where new guitarist, and son of some guy called Ronnie from a band called the Rolling Stones, Jesse Wood comes into his own. Introduced by a slick shout out from lead singer Gary Stringer. Jesse launches into a languid solo that fits effortlessly within the swampy jam Reef have created. It’s clear his playing style has slotted seamlessly into Reef’s ethos as a band, and is a huge factor behind why the band are recording again.

To talk about breathing new life into Reef, avoiding the rain at Wembley plus much more – we caught up with Jesse Wood.

Hi Jesse, what have you been up to?

I was out with my kids on the bike, I was like oh my god I need to get back so thank you for waiting.

No worries man, decent morning then?

Lovely, soaking up the old vitamin D.

We met last year at Camper Calling festival and you headlined and we were doing a festival challenge…

Blimey that’s cool, you must have been knackered after that…

Yeah man, I was [laughs] How is the world of Reef?

Wonderful mate, I love it. Nice that we’ve finally made an album. 

So you joined in 2014, what was the vibe like when you first joined?

It was a really good one, cos Kenwyn, lovely Kenwyn, decided to leave the band amicably and they had a few gigs left and so they had some auditions. I think I was the 9th guy they tried and I’ve known them for years – so they said will you just effing try out and I hadn’t even thought. I’d recommended a few people for them but I was like ‘I guess I could try’ but yeah I turned up and I learned all the songs and bands always say this but the chemistry was there.

I've been a fan of Reef for ages, I’ve followed them since the 90s so I was pretty enthralled and we got the gigs over and done with and they were like do you want to come jamming and that went well and they were like do you want to just join then we can do all this again so I was like ‘yeah’ so it was a nice unfolding of goodness.

Did Kenwyn stick around to help teach you riffs etc?

He didn't actually. I used to play with him in another band funnily enough with a guy called Gareth Hale called the Black Swan Effect and I was playing bass and guitar with them and the live versions we did we got Kenwyn in to play guitars so that was really good playing wit him. Without realising it I soaked up a few things off him and when it came to replace him I had already learned loads and became a better guitarist because he is technically brilliant and has written some great riffs which I now get to play.

The new album gave you a chance to write, that must have been great –

It was very challenging and the lifelong core fans are used to Kenwyn so I think a few didn’t like it but a lot more did. I brought my own style which is a lot more laid back I think so not quite sloppy but everyone is different aren’t they. We wrote some nice stuff, and having learned a lot of reef songs and then writing with Gary Jack and Dom it all came together with a blueprint I already had in me.

The other guys must have been in a great place and really happy to be recording because its been a while since they last put anything out? (18 years)

They kind of stopped and split for a while so the momentum was restarted in around 2010 so I guess this is born out of the magic that happened when we first played. It felt nice and right and it always had done. Every gig we’ve played every rehearsal session we’ve had – we all get on and it just works which is great.

Did you notice a boyish enthusiasm from the others to be recording again?

Yeah we have a really good band sense of humour taking the piss out of each other, I felt like Id been in the band for years, no disrespect to Kenywyn or anything. As I've said I've known him for a while so it kind of helps, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. It’s like a continuation of Reef but with me, which many bands do – like my Dad [laughs].

You’ve said you really enjoyed being in Ireland recording, I gather you've spent a lot of time there?

Oh absolutely, my Dad’s had a house there for thirty odd years now – I didn’t grow up with my old man but spent a lot of time with him out there in Ireland in my teens and stuff and he had a studio there and we used that a lot which brought out a lot of good veins of creativity. Whilst we were writing parts which was great for us.

I’ve heard the lead single of the track with Sheryl Crow, her’s and Gary’s voice compliment each others incredibly well don’t they?

It’s better than we could have ever imagined, it’s made the whole song so good and complete . And lovely that she agreed to do it too. She’s such a lovely lady.

She’s a good old friend of  George Drakoulias and we didn’t have the time to go to LA to record it so he did it with her and Gary was talking to her about how it goes and I've met her a long time ago with my Dad, she’s worked with my Dad and she’s supported The Stones a lot so it all went click suddenly – so we were like let’s work with her, and it really worked and it sounds amazing. She’s such a pro singer.

We were playing that song for a whole live, and its always gone down well. We knew it was going to be a good one and Gary has been singing it for ages which was great. We were sat in Ireland and I think George probably suggested it cos hes a producer – we were all kind of thinking it that it needed a male female vocal, cos it’s a summery love song. Then Sheryl popped out, which is great and was perfect. 

You first came back with music in 2016 with a soul cover 'How I Got Over'

George first suggested and weren't sure but yeah we really made it work and it got A listed at Radio 2 and that was platform for everything to start up again.

Was that what sparked the comeback?

We were writing anyway, but it was good to dip our toe in the water with me on it and George recording it. People seemed to like, Chris Evans liked it and it just went down really well – we played it on TV and it kind of made us realise ‘oh right this is good, let’s keep doing it’.

So in the four years you’ve been with Reef – in that time has the Coldplay support at Wembley been your biggest show? 

Chris Martin and the boys were really nice about it, and they let us support for two nights which was really great with Lianne Le Havas. It was great. It wasn’t full when were on obviously but there was a good 40,000 people there which was great.

They were scared it was going to rain so they had these huge canopies over us which was pretty surreal. You’d step out from under them and look up a bit and be like ‘wow fuck me it’s Wembley stadium’ – it’s great fun actually and very nice of us to do that, cos they’re absolutely massive. Chris is a big Reef fan from the past like me, so he was dead happy.

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