Reef are an English band from Glastonbury, England. The band members included Gary Stringer on vocals, Kenwyn House on guitar, Jack Bessant on bass and Dominic Greensmith on drums.
Although most members of Reef have West Country connections, it was not until the four members met in London that the band was formed.
In 1993 while Bessant and Stringer were looking for band members, House had met up with Dominic Greensmith (from Barnstaple, Devon) in London, and discussed forming a band. The foursome finally got together, and started to jam, producing the extremely rare "Purple Tape" demo. The band initially called itself Naked, but later renamed themselves to Reef as other bands had the same name.
After recording a couple of tracks, the band spent much of 1994 touring and building up a fan base. They signed to S2, an off-shoot of Sony. Their first single "Good Feeling" was released on an independent label, but financed by Sony, then as an official Sony S2 release in early 1995. This paved the way for "Naked" which was used in a TV advert for the Sony MiniDisc in which a record company executive hears the track on MiniDisc, throws it out of the window disapprovingly, but a young man outside picks it up, listens to it and likes it (demonstrating the format's durability). There has been some disapproval of the band's participation in this campaign, but in interviews they have emphasised that they were a young band and were offered a chance that any young band would not resist.
During their touring in '94 and '95 Reef supported Paul Weller, The Rolling Stones and Soundgarden, amongst others.
Both the Good Feeling and Naked singles came from Reef’s 1995 release, their now gold debut album Replenish. The album was recorded in the remote Cornish Sawmills recording studio and in a studio in Bath.
"We wanted our first album, Replenish, to be a really honest statement. Four people playing in a room and getting something that’s totally their own. It was recorded in the most basic way possible. Minimal room sounds. Up until recently, all I used for effects was a wah-pedal and I only used that on two songs." Kenwyn House.
Hot on the heels of Replenish, in summer 1995, came a non-album, four-track single release entitled "Weird". It was a very non-commercial track and Reef had said the release was aimed at the fans. Sunrise Shakers, one of the B-sides to Weird, was later featured in snowboarding film Day Tripper, by independent film maker Christian Stevenson. Stevenson, known for his films about extreme and free sports, was later to direct a promotional video for Reef, for their Sweety single in 1999.
The follow-up to Replenish was 1997's Glow, which was more diverse, with the band using different instruments and creating a more interesting style. Glow was recorded under the direction of The Black Crowes' record producer, George Drakoulious and engineered by Jim Scott, in Los Angeles. It spawned the hit singles "Place Your Hands", "Come Back Brighter", "Consideration" and "Yer Old" which increased Reef’s profile in the UK and abroad. On the week of its release, Glow went straight to number 1 in the UK Albums Chart.
"Place Your Hands", released on 21 October 1996, was Reef’s most successful single to date, reaching number 6 in the UK singles chart. The song explains the grief that Stringer felt following the death of his grandfather, and easing the pain of death. The video for "Place Your Hands", directed by David Moulder, features the band members on pulleys and wires to create an energetic aerial display.
During their touring in late 1996, Reef were supported by Feeder, who were at the time laying the foundations for their own career.
In early 1999 Reef released their third album Rides, recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles, the same studios used by The Beach Boys for Pet Sounds and Michael Jackson for Thriller. They swapped instruments on some tracks with Stringer and Greensmith playing guitar and Bessant singing on one song. Working again with Glow producer George Drakoulias, the band also enlisted the skills of David Campbell (father of American artist Beck) for the string arrangements. Rose Stone of Sly and the Family Stone fame features as a backing singer. Jack told NME magazine that the album was showing a more mature side to Reef but they were still having fun, using slide guitars, and trying to achieve a “filmic” feel to some tracks. The album was very well received by critics, but commercially could not match the earlier success of its predecessor Glow.
The fourth album and most commercial work yet, Getaway (Sony) was released in 2000, and was produced by Al Clay, who has also produced for the Pixies and Stereophonics. "Set The Record Straight" was the highlight of the album, and this track was also used as the theme tune for the BBC Television drama series Red Cap, starring Tamzin Outhwaite.
The "Superhero" single released in the same year, features a video of an impromptu gig held at Bessant's Hoxton Square flat, in London, in the summer of that year. Bessant was vacating the property and used the opportunity to hold a small gig with a select guest list, predominantly from the music industry. One notable guest was Andrea Corr, whilst also in attendance were BBC Radio 1, plus Kerrang! and NME magazines.
The third and final release from Getaway, was “All I Want,” a ballad, and substantially different from the first two releases. Despite good airplay on Radio 2, the single only peaked at number 51 in the UK charts. The video features the members of the band stranded in a drifting lifeboat, drawing straws for who would sacrifice themselves to save the others.
Late 2000 saw Reef facing legal action from the U.S. company South Cone Inc. for infringement of their trademark, Reef Brazil (as found on sandals and footwear), on the basis that t-shirts, and other merhandising such as stickers, caps and keyrings could cause confusion in the marketplace. The South Cone action failed on account of their mark actually being REEF BRAZIL rather than REEF, and because their primary business and reputation was with the sale of sandals and footwear. Also important to the outcome was the fact that Reef (the band) were using the t-shirts and other items as marketing for the band rather than trying to promote the t-shirts (or any other clothing, including footwear) as a commodity in themselves. Reef (the band) were awarded £1000.
During 2001, after a low key tour supporting Texas, they took a long summer break, in North Devon, to write new material for their fifth album. The self-financed sessions were deliberately performed at arms length from their record label and the music industry in general, and Reef enjoyed the opportunity to return to their earlier, more basic approach to making music. In an interview to the BBC Jack said “It's a harder sound, like when we first came out - a deep sound, heavy, I really like that.” Whilst they had a lot of new material, Sony forced Reef to only use around a third of this material as part of a greatest hits offering entitled Together - The Best of Reef released in January 2003. Jack Bessant denounced the complete lack of support from Sony and Kenwyn House called the release “a kiss of death.” Many fans felt the new material had been some of their best work for some time.
At the end of 2001 Reef played the Surfers Against Sewage Christmas Ball, in Bournemouth. They had previously played the SAS summer ball in 1995 in Newquay.
In January 2003, their original drummer Greensmith quit the band on the eve of a major UK tour, and as the greatest hits were released. He was replaced by the relatively unknown Nathan Curran. Curran had also drummed for Basement Jaxx and R&B act, Lady Sovereign.
It was on this tour that the Live DVD was recorded at Bristol’s Carling Academy. Around this time Reef also appeared on the BBC's re:covered programme covering Black Sabbath’s "War Pigs", which appeared as a B-side to "Waster", Reef’s last single, and their only single on the Snapper Music record label.
Headlining the Falmouth Regatta Week, on 15 August 2003, was to be the final live Reef appearance, before the band split up.
In total they have had eight UK Top 20 singles.
"Place Your Hands" remains a party and compilation favourite. Reef played a small parody of this for Chris Evans TFI Friday show in the late nineties, for a feature called ‘It’s Your Letters’. Evans claimed that the band had contacted him to stop playing the clip, as fans were apparently singing along at gigs, but these allegations were largely unfounded. However Evans later denied the claims stating he was misquoted. Indeed the band had written to Evans, however Gary Stringer explained it differently, “We don’t want people to think that’s all we’re about” and went on “... he’s gone on telly and said we storm offstage whenever someone in the crowd sings that version of it. But no-one ever does sing that version. I think he thinks his influence and power is a lot more widespread than it actually is.”
They also played at the Reading Festival in 1999 and have had several appearances at Glastonbury Festival, and its local offshoot the Pilton Party held every year in September for local residents.
2004 - Change of direction
Reef took a long break from their constant touring.
Stringer appeared at the Bristol Academy as a guest DJ on 28 February 2004.
Tragedy struck on 3 April 2006 when Martin Gilks, their former manager and The Wonder Stuff drummer, was killed in a motorcycle accident. He died aged 41, from internal injuries at St George's Hospital, Tooting, London. Gilks managed Reef with his brother Tank, alongside other bands, through their management company Furtive Mass Transit Systems. The original Reef line-up reformed to play three songs at the memorial in April 2006.
House formed a short lived project called McArthur, while Greensmith started touring with his new band, Kubb fronted by vocalist Harry Collier, formerly of Cornish funk band Rootjoose. Kubb released their first album in 2006, and during spring 2007 they are writing material for their second album. In March 2007, he was recruited as a touring member of Carbon/Silicon, a rock duo consisting of punk rock legends Mick Jones of The Clash and Tony James of Generation X.
In 2006 their "Come Back Brighter" was named the thirty second best indie anthem of all time by The Hits. The band were reported as being "delighted and honoured".
House is also a teacher and assessor at Brighton’s Institute of Modern Music.
Stringer and Bessant formed a new band "Them Is Me". Other members include Jonas Jalhay on guitar (other bands: Lady Sovereign, Imma) and Nathan "Tugg" Curran on drums (ex-Reef, Basement Jaxx, Kano). Stringer and Bessant continue with their original roles as singer and bass player respectively. Having rehearsed in London over the summer, they played their first gig at the Sandsifter bar in Gwithian near Hayle, Cornwall, on the 14 September 2007. After several low-key venues in Cornwall, they recorded some demo tracks at a recording studio in Monmouth.
Stringer and Bessant have an acoustic project called "StringerBessant" with both musicians playing acoutic guitars. Their debut album "Yard" is released on "Xtra Mile Recordings" on 12 July 2010.
In November 2009, Reef announced a reunion tour consisting of six UK concerts planned for April 2010. Tickets went on sale on 30 November 2009. The warm-up appearance at The Monto Water Rats in London, was their first in seven years. The band also performed at the 2010 Isle Of Wight Festival, Cornbury Festival and Glastonbury Festival.
On 7 August 2011, Reef played before the Community Shield final between Manchester City and Manchester United.
In May 2012 they played at Lakefest festival. and on July 29, Reef headlined the annual Steelhouse Festival in Ebbw Vale, Wales.
Reef performed at the Reading Festival in 1995, 1996 and 1999 and at Glastonbury in 2010 and 1997. They also played Australia's The Fall's Festival in 2000
In May 2012 they played at Lakefest festival. Reef also appeared at Triumph Live 31 August
- Gary Stringer - vocals
- Jack Bessant - bass guitar
- Kenwyn House - guitar
- Dominic Greensmith - drums (1993–2003, 2010 onwards)
- Pawel N - guitar (to January 2004)
- Nathan ‘Tugg’ Curran - drums (February to August 2003)
- D. Lewis (backing vocals)
- Replenish (1995)
- Glow (1997)
- Rides (1999)
- Getaway (2000)
- Official Reef website
- Unofficial Reef website
- Official "Them Is Me" website — Jack Bessant and Gary Stringer's new band
- Official "StringerBessant" website — Jack Bessant and Gary Stringer's acoustic project
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Image from Discogs