Ron Wood's son boosts return of silver surfers Reef

Reef may look like their surfing days are over in their latest publicity photos but one listen to their new single and recent live album and that notion crashes on the rocks.

Reef with new guitarist Jesse Wood, on the far right.
Reef with new guitarist Jesse Wood, on the far right.

From Cornwall to LA, St Ives to York, where their new tour arrives shortly, incidentally, the last proper British rock band to emerge from these shores have journeyed far and wide since early hits such as Place Your Hands in the mid 1990s.

But nothing this energy-packed, heart on their sleeves four-piece group has ever done has been for affect.

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For a kick-off, they do actually love surfing.

Talking to Reef bass player Jack Bessant a few weeks before their show at Fibbers in York on Friday, March 18, this is how he describes their first experience of LA when they went there to record their Rides album with top producer George Drakoulias at famed Ocean Way Studios in 1999.

“We were very lucky. It turned out double thumbs up. We lived in Santa Monica. George showed us around. I loved Malibu.

“Our typical day consisted of surfing first thing in the morning, then stopping for a massive breakfast and then onto the studio to record.

“We really were living the dream.”

Anyone who’s seen Reef recently performing their recent cracking, soulful single How I Got Over, an old Aretha Franklin tune, on BBC 1’s The One Show or Channel 4’s TFI Friday, may have noticed something different.

One member didn’t look like an ageing surfing guru. He looked like he may still surf, though he possibly wouldn't want his slicked back hair damaged.

The man in question is Jesse Wood, who replaces original guitarist Kenwyn House.

Jack said: “We always loved Kenywn’s playing but it has gotten difficult to create new work with him and be a great rock n roll band.

“Our drummer Dominic had played with Jesses before and had a good feeling about him. He’s got a great sound when he plays guitar.

“He’s a little bit Stonesy but has contemporary touches, too.”

Before you ask, yes, Jesses is Ron Wood’s son.

I suggest to Jack that despite hit albums such as Replenish, Glow and Rides and a sound that welds gritty guitar riffs with big choruses and soulful, scorched vocals from larger than life frontman Gary Stinger, Reef have never quite become as big as they might have been worldwide.

Jack is happy to admit the course of success didn’t run entirely smoothly during the days when they were the rock band Britpop fans could like.

“We weren’t quite ready for fame. We weren’t ready for the things you have to do to be successful in the USA, all those things which matter but have nothing to do with the music.

“It was also hard to categorise us, musically.”

Reef took a break in 2003 after their record label turned their planned new album into a ‘best of’ set with only a few new tracks.

Jack is sanguine about it rather than bitter.

“We weren’t chuffed but I don’t think we were capable of writing a whole album at that point. The songs we did write, we were proud of.

“We never called it completely quits. We just needed a break. We’ve ended up in a cool place.”

Now that Reef are a band with a 20-year history with the son of a Rolling Stone on board, they’ve got the pedigree of the major rock band they deserved to become.

As one of their biggest hits says, they have, indeed, come back brighter.

“We are really excited about where we are now. It’s wicked. The guy who originally got us signed back in the day is back with us.

“We’re getting played on the radio again. People believe in us again and are opening doors for us.”

The new Reef are not along simply for the ride. To be convinced, just play the recent live album they recorded over two fevered nights of homecoming at St Ives shows

The setlists featured a few brand new tracks which sound strong and Jack says the band are planning to go into the studio in April or May with the aim of recording a whole new album.

So, place your hands and get ready to applaud the new Reef.

Silver surfers or not, it looks like they’re on a rising curve once more.

Jack said: “We’re playing seven new songs on tour. It’s full-on live. Pumping bass and new Hammond keyboards.

“We’re a great live band. We’re a proper rock n roll band again.”