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Members include Jack Bessant (born, 1972), bass player; Domenic Greensmith (born, 1971), drummer; Kenwyn House (born, 1971), guitar player; Gary Stringer, singer. Addresses: Record company-Epic Records, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3297.
Reef, from England's West Country in Somerset, astounded even their staunchest fans in 1997 by attaining the number one position on the British. charts with their second album, Glow. This feat was foreshadowed by two back-to-back top ten singles, "Place your Hands" and "Come Together," before the release of Glow. The Los Angeles Daily News included Reef's Glow on their "Best of '97 Music" list and described the release as, "Bluesy, guitar-driven rock from Britain of the sort the Rolling Stones used to make." Jim Farber of the New York Daily News wrote, "(Reef) clearly recalls the early-'70s rock-soul of Humble Pie and Spooky Tooth . Reef's not as slavishly retro as, say, the Black Crowes or Primal Scream-even though they share the same producer."
Vocalist Gary Stringer and guitarist Kenwyn House were raised in Somerset, England near Glastonbury. Bassist Jack Bessant and drummer Domenic Greensmith were raised in nearby towns. Stringer told Live magazine's Tom Lanham, "When I was fourteen and living in Glastonbury-7,000 people, real small town-there were no cool clubs to go to, nothing to do. So I went over to my mate's house and noticed he had a guitar. My other mates had a drum kit and a bass so I started shouting, which turned into singing-it was just something to do.... From then on, I never, ever thought of being a singer. I was a singer." Lanham described Stringer's vocal style as "a unique blend of Joe Cocker and Van Morrison, with a little scratchy Howlin' Wolf thrown in for good measure." Stringer and Bessant met while studying at Strode College, where they formed a band that eventually became known as Chief. Chief included future Kula Shaker drummer Paul Winterhart. Stringer told Lanham that his friends all chuckled when he quit college to work for the equivalent of $125 a week at a local newsstand, but he knew what he wanted. He was saving up for a P.A. system.
When Chief disbanded, Bessant went first to Canada, and then to America. He bought an acoustic guitar and began to write his own material. Stringer took a three-month trip to Morocco and began crafting his own songs, as well. When Stringer and Bessant returned to Somerset they formed a new group. After relocating to London, they met drummer Greensmith, who introduced the duo to House. House was already somewhat familiar to Stringer from a pool hall in Glastonbury, where House was perceived as a bit of a pool hustler. The four began playing together in 1993 as Naked, and were soon signed to Sony's S2 label. After hearing the band's demo tape, Paul Weller invited them to join his tour as an opening band. Stringer told Lanham, "We used to pick fruit on the farms in the mornings to make ends meet. We'd cut our hands up from picking so much, and we'd be real dirty as well. (We would) straight away dive into the sea and catch those waves. Then we'd go onstage at night with wet hair. Wicked laughs, wicked times."
After changing their name to Reef, the band's second single, "Naked," rose to number eleven on the British chart. Their debut release, Replenish, followed soon after and established a trademark sound for Reef , characterized by tough, solid guitar riffs, relaxed drums, and a soulful, scratchy vocal style. Their popularity blossomed after non-stop touring, which included high-exposure tour dates with the Rolling Stones and Soundgarden. Replenish, reached the British top ten in 1995 and Reef performed for the first time in the U.S. later that year. After their U.S. tour, the band toured Europe for the remainder of 1995, and then toured Japan and Australia at the start of 1996.
Reef teamed with American producer George Drakoulias, in 1996 for their sophomore release, Glow, on Epic. Drakoulias had previously worked with such diverse musicians as Black Crowes, the Beastie Boys, Maria McKee, and Charlie Rich. Reef's members were initially skeptical about working with Drakoulias because they wanted to avoid comparisons with the Black Crowes, but the match proved to be ideal. The sessions for Glow began in England and were finished in Los Angeles, since Drakoulias wanted Reef to work with his engineer, Jim Scott. Drakoulias and Scott inspired Reef by playing "Proud Mary" and other hits by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Reef's Glow reached number one on the English charts in 1997.
Glow's first single and video, "Place Your Hands," revealed a new direction for Reef: the fusion of a gospel choir with a reggae beat, and sad, poignant lyrics. That song was written about the devastation Stringer felt after the death of his grandfather. "Place Your Hands"-meant to ease the pain of death-reached number six on the U.K. charts. Farber, writing about the band's new sound, said, "Without accompaniment Gary Stringer begins "Place Your Hands" by aping the most salacious phrasings of Mick Jagger-only knocked down an octave to recall the gritty drawl of Otis Redding." Glow's second single, "Come Back Brighter," reached number eight on the U.K. charts. Reef toured the U.S. in 1997, traveling from the east coast across the Midwest. The band's video for "Place Your Hands" was directed by David Moulder and features band members on pulleys and wires to create an aerial dance. MTV chose the video for its coveted "Buzz Bin," which prompted Epic to push up Glow's release. Glow pushed Reef squarely into the mainstream, and Stringer revealed the bands' outlook and basic tenet when he told Lanham, "I always believed that if you just make a good record, then people are gonna pick up on you at some time or another."
by B. Kimberly Taylor
Stringer and Bessant met while studying at Strode College, where they formed a band that eventually became known as Chief and included future Kula Shaker drummer Paul Winterhart; the four band members began playing together in 1993 and were signed to the Sony label under the name Naked; toured with Paul Weller; after changing their name to Reef, the band's second single, "Naked," rose to number 11 on the U.K. chart; released debut album, Replenish, 1995; toured with the Rolling Stones and Soundgarden; debut release Replenish reached the U.K. Top Ten in 1995; performed for the first time in the U.S. in 1995; released Glow, 1997;Glow reached number one on the English charts in 1997.
- Bass Player, May 1997.
- CMJ, September 1997.
- Live!, July 1997.
- Los Angeles Daily News, December 28, 1997.
- New York Daily News, July 7, 1997.
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