STEREOPHONICS return to Scotland in December as part of a run of intimate shows to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their multi-platinum album, Just Enough Education to Perform, which the band will perform in full for the first time.

The celebrated third record – acronymed J.E.E.P. – was considered a breakthrough at the time, producing three Top 10 singles: Mr Writer, Handbags and Gladrags, and Have a Nice Day.

Beyond that, singer Kelly Jones is warming up for an arena tour in March 2022 to promote their next release, Oochya! that will include dates in Glasgow and Aberdeen.

I first heard Stereophonics in 1998 after their local press manager, Neil Adams from V2 Records, handed me a bag of CDs after a gig at the Barrowland in Glasgow. In the collection was the Welsh band’s second single, Local Boy in a Photograph, a song that became one of the anthems from debut album Word Gets Around. So what are frontman Kelly Jones’s memories of that early period?

“Neil still works with us – he’s been with us for 25 years,” says Kelly. “That was an exciting time for us because Scotland felt like the most kind of foreign place we’d ever been really.”

The band was plucked from the social clubs of the village of Cwmaman in Cynon Valley in Wales by Richard Branson in 1996 when Kelly was 22 years old. “We didn’t really play in London. The record company wanted us to avoid doing that and travel all over the country and build up a true fan base – and Scotland became our second home,” he recalls.

“My first visual of Scotland was playing Princes Street for Hogmanay in Edinburgh in 1996. Looking out, seeing grown men in kilts climbing up lampposts. You never forget that.

“We always have a good time in Scotland. I remember playing all these tiny clubs, travelling in the Highlands in the back of a Mercedes Sprinter van. Gigs at places like Inverness Rugby Club. Nights out at Vodka Bar in Aberdeen. We made some friends, we have always been welcomed.

“When I think of Scotland, it’s that first three years of touring – I could never get that section out my mind.”

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Did Kelly at that point think Stereophonics would grow beyond that provincial circuit or were they busy revelling in the impact of their first album? “Well, we had a huge belief in the band from the beginning” he says. “Otherwise, I don’t think we would’ve rehearsed every Thursday, every Sunday for 10 years leading up to signing the record deal.

“When we did that, we genuinely did see it as the first rung on the ladder. Everybody we loved and everybody we looked up to had a catalogue of music, and we knew that until we had that, we didn’t mean f*** all to anyone. Whether we wanted to be like The Kinks or Creedence Clearwater Revival or Tom Petty – it had to be a whole backlog of music that meant something to people. So, having one album, it was cool, of course.

“We didn’t really feel part of the Britpop stuff, but it was nice to kind of learn off the back of it – what failed and what worked. We were always trying to push boundaries. We didn’t quite fit into anybody’s box.

“The critics started realising that and we would have a go at each other but in the end we just did the music anyway, it became our own thing.”

After selling 8.5 million albums in the UK alone, Stereophonics can stride with ease across stages of the largest venues and festivals in the country, but they’ve decided to start small to get back out on the road. Does Kelly take a different approach to make a connection with this size of audience compared to stadium-size gigs?

“When I do theatres or if I play a solo show then I try to not just use the gap between the songs to take a drink of water,” he explains. “You can talk with the audience a lot more. The impact is a lot faster, if you crack a gag then people get in a lot quicker.

“When you do it in an arena, it’s a lot more about the production of the show, the big songs and all that kind of stuff. So, I quite like going back to do theatre because it’s really nice contrast to the bigger shows and on these J.E.E.P. shows particularly we’re going to be playing the whole album in its entirety, going off and then coming back on and doing eight or nine other songs and then mixing it up a bit in the encore.

“It’s been really good playing the album in rehearsal, it’s not something we’ve done before. We have been adding different sections to the songs and jamming out a bit.

“So, I’m really excited to play again on top of the fact we haven’t been able to play for two years and I’ve been stuck inside the house washing dishes for four kids every day.”

Alongside domestic chores, there’s been an opportunity to look back over his music writing back catalogue and conjure up some new tunes.

Kelly says: “It’s been a funny time because we recorded the new album last April. So it’s been there for quite a while. It was never meant to be a new album because people were talking about throwing a 25-year anniversary kind of compilation out.

“Originally I was just looking for two or three new songs. Then I was going through the hard drives and I found a lot of songs we hadn’t finished or hadn’t released, and I started working on them.

“Then as soon as I started that, I began to write new ones – before I knew it I had 15 songs. It was then a really quick, two-week process of recording.”

Kelly says new album “offers you a really good time”, moving away from what he felt was introspection in their previous release.

“Oochya! I don’t know what it means. It was just a word I used to write on whiteboards backstage and say. It’s a good time feeling thing.”

With the band back in rehearsals and a big year ahead, Kelly is in the process of putting on the familiar cloak of a rock ‘n’ roll frontman and switching gears to get back into the music.

“I am looking forward to getting back into it, three different sets of things. From the Just Enough Education to Perform shows in small venues, then we go to Cardiff and play two football stadiums gigs, then we do all the arenas next year. It keeps us all on our toes and the boys are buzzing. Thankfully, we all still like each other.

“When you have been sitting around for this long, part of you starts wondering is this all I am, this musician guy? Because I’ve been doing this since I was 12 years old. And you forget how much the music we’ve made helps people or gets people off. People have a good time driving a car or going out drinking to it or whatever it might be.

“You forget who you are really because you basically change your mask. You become a full-time dad and it’s quite a weird juxtaposition in some ways. It’s a bit like when I moved from Wales to London.

“All my heritage, my roots are back there, all my stuff I do with my job is up here, then all my mates are pretty much back there.

“You’re constantly changing your identity a little bit. So that’s the main thing I noticed over lockdown in and among lots of f***** dishes.”

Oochya! by Stereophonics is set for release on March 4 by Ignition Records