INTERVIEW: STONE FOUNDATION

Stone Foundation 27/03/17

Jones and Sheasby write the lyrics – how do your writing styles differ and what are the main ideas you write about?

 

We wanted this record to hold a mirror up to the world around us. It was really important that we spoke about the diverse communities that we lived in and the struggles that we all go through in day to day life. We wanted to make a record that had the same feel as a “What’s going on” or “Is it because i’m black” and hopefully give the listener the feel of walking through a city and taking in the characters and situations within it. We’re living in troubled times and i’d like to think we’ve hopefully made a record that will make people think about life and the world around them. We both tend to write with dictaphones and usually start with melodic ideas, be they horn lines, guitar progressions or in Sheas’s case bass grooves. I do a lot of running and quite often songs will start to come to me when i’m out on the street. I also spent a large part of this record locked in a room at home working on guitar ideas and writing in a more standard way. Sheas would fire over a lot of the ideas he’d been working on at home and we’d also have sessions with Phil, Rob and Ian working on feels that would then begin to take on the shape of the songs you hear on the record. I work on the basis that if you can remember the hook to a tune the following morning you’re usually onto a winner.

 

When Paul Weller contacted you, what was your reaction and were you a fan beforehand? How long did it take to start recording together?

 

Yeah we’re all massive fans, the initial call was quite unexpected and i guess it took a while to sink in. To have one of the guys who inspired you to start playing music in the first place call to say how much he’d enjoyed your music was really special. He said my voice reminded him of Felix Cavaliere from The Rascals which was more than alright with me. We spoke quite a lot to start with, he had a backing track he wanted us to have a look at and we grabbed the opportunity with both hands to add vocals and horns to it. The song became “The Limit of A Man” and I guess he must have been impressed because he asked if we’d like to come down to Black Barn and run through some ideas. After the first day we had about 7-8 tracks on the desk and Paul looked at us and said “You’ve got half of a really good record here lads” we never looked back from that moment really.

 

You have played our Vive Le Rock stage at Guilfest twice, what was your experience of Guilfest like and how did the gig go?

 

It was always one of our favourite festivals Guilfest. The thing i loved the most about it was that we were always put on between punk bands (which we loved) and anyone who’s ever seen or been to our gigs will testify we’ve always tried to play British soul music with a punk rock mentality. We loved bands like the Rumour, Dexys and the E Street Band when we were first getting the line up together and i think that gang mentality that we try to bring to our performances has never gone away.

 

 

 

You’re known as a band with a solid musical grounding, blending blues, soul, ska and early R&B – What do you love about those older styles and what albums would you recommend to your fans?

 

I think the sound from those late 60’s early 70’s records has never been beaten. I grew up listening to a lot of soul music in my formative years and i particularly loved the southern soul sound that came out of Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Incredible singers like Johnnie Taylor, Arthur Alexander, Aretha, Mavis Staples, Frederick Knight, Syl Johnson and OV Wright to name a few. That music had real grit in those grooves. “Tell The Truth” by Otis Redding is always a good place to start for someone coming to that southern sound for the first time. When I first heard that record it was like walking head long into a hurricane and coming out the other side, everything felt like it had been turned upside down. Soul as it should be heartfelt and real!

 

How do you all get on in the band? Is there a leader and have you been friends long?

 

I guess it’s mine and Neil Sheasby’s vision when push comes to shove. Someone has to drive the train and carry the load and in that case we’re lucky there’s two of us for that. We’re also lucky to have some tremendous guys that are crucial to that Stone Foundation sound. Phil, Ian and Rob have been with us for quite some time now, they’re great players, great fellas and more importantantly are so essential to the distinctive heartbeat that the band has. They also help to shape and mould the sound of the songs. The sound of Street Rituals is essentially the five of us and Paul playing together and vibing off each other in the studio. We’re also extremely lucky to have a new Stone Foundation horn section for this record and moving forward. Steve, Anthony and Dave have really raised the bar in the playing department live and in the studio. It’s easily the best line up we’ve had, we’re all singing off the same hymn sheet and can’t wait for the tour dates in March/April/May.

 

Tell us about your upcoming tour, where are you playing in 2017 and where are you looking forward to playing most?

 

Well first up we’ve got a warm up gig at the Yellow Arch Studio’s in Sheffield on March 4th, it’s an intimate venue and will give us a chance to play every single song that people are likely to hear on the tour. We’re doing a special two hour elongated set for that one. Then the tour kicks off in style at the Royal Albert Hall supporting Paul Weller, that’s going to be really amazing for sure, especially as it’s on March 31st the day Street Rituals is officially released. We’ve two really special nights planned at Coventry Empire on May 5th and Islington Assembly on May 13th which will feature the “Street Rituals Orchestra”, we’re hoping to replicate the sound of the album on those two nights and we’ve got some special guests lined up for those gigs as well. Personally I’m looking forward to every single gig on the tour, we’ve some first trips to Edinburgh and Norwich, plus long overdue returns to places like Manchester and Glasgow. The way the band is playing right now i wish the tour was tomorrow!

 

When recording ‘Street Rituals’ how was the working dynamic between the band, Weller, Lavette and Bell? How long did it take to record?

 

The working dynamic with Paul was fantastic, it was as though we’d always worked with him, we’ve all become good friends and share so much in common musically. The sessions just flowed so naturally and we worked and re worked changes into the songs on the spot. It’s easily the best experience i’ve had recording a record, having Paul there as a producer and sounding board was such a refreshing experience for me personally. He would always throw up suggestions that you probably hadn’t thought about and 99% of the time they would work. In Bettye’s case we sent her “Season of Change” to record in a studio in NYC. What struck me the most was how much preparation she had put into her vocal performance. The first time I heard the takes she sent back it practically brought me to tears. An amazing voice and an amazing singer. With William I was lucky enough to be able to fly out to his studio in Atlanta Georgia to record his vocal with him. His “Phases of Reality” album was one of my favourite Stax records ever made so the three hours i spent in his company working with him on that track will live with me for the rest of my life. A true gentleman and a bona fide legend of soul music.

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