The Reads have been making music together in some form or other since the year 2000, but their story goes back even further. There have been highs. There have been lows. There have been middles. Read all about it here…
Marcel Paul Delius Delrue and Jamie Russell first meet at Bryn y Baal primary school in Mynydd Isa, North Wales. In secondary school, they discover a shared interest in music, exchange mix tapes and start creating sounds together. Their early musical guises include (amongst others) The Funk Electrician and Thunder Lizard.
Stuart Bennett and Clare Stevenson meet whilst working at HMV, Chester in 1999. When their seasonal contracts come to an end (and all the ‘Westlife’ calendars have been sold…), they keep in touch and discover that Clare writes poetry, Stu plays guitar. They put the two together and start writing songs.
Stu’s mum encourages him to play in front of an audience and puts him in touch with Matthew Morgan who helps run an open mic night at The Borough Club, Flint – a typical, smoky, suspended-ceiling social club, tucked away amongst the houses. After a number of visits, Stu finally plucks up the courage and plays a couple of tunes – most likely ‘Babylon’ and ‘You Do Something To Me’. Paul Davies, aka ‘DJ Zebedee’ and ‘disco bus’ driver extraordinaire kidnaps Stu (and his guitar) from a house party in the middle of the night and spirits him away to a caravan in Llay, North Wales. He is introduced to Jamie (and his guitar). Unbeknownst to Stu, Marcy is having ‘a little lie down’ in the next room. The two don’t officially meet until some months later, during which time they still manage to collaborate on a number of tracks.
Marcy, Jamie, Stu and Clare begin meeting regularly at the caravan in Llay and Marcy’s bedsit in Cambrian View, Chester to write music together. They amass almost 100 tunes using home recording equipment and Marcy’s trusty computer. A friend suggests it’s probably about time they shared it with other people and play a gig. For a brief time, they call themselves The Quays… The nautical reference explained by the fact that they practiced at the Cross Keys, Buckley, which had a Mr Q’s pool lounge. Clever, eh?
A drummer and bass player are enlisted, in the shape of Matthew Wilson and Matthew Morgan, respectively. A set list is prepared and they play their first ever gig on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Tattenhall. Their second gig follows shortly after… that evening in fact; the same set, in the same pub, to some confused, but thankfully, inebriated locals.
Following ‘creative differences’ it is decided to return to the original 3-piece, plus lyricist.
They continue to perform gigs and get sucked into the world of battle of the bands; a kind of ‘pyramid selling’ scheme for musicians, which involves dragging family and friends to attend various rounds of competition in order to vote you through. In truth, NO ONE is eliminated and every band makes it through to the never-ending-final at the Carling Academy, Liverpool. The band wins 10 free T-shirts… which never arrive. They send a follow-up email 10 years later, but still no T-shirts.
14 years on, they’re beginning to think they’ve been duped and – at the time of writing – are considering sending another, more strongly worded email.
The lads finally persuade Clare to pick up something other than her pen during band practice and so she begins fumbling round on the fret board of a bass. More tunes are written and Marcy’s gentleman’s dwelling in Cambrian View, Chester is a hotbed(sit) of creativity.
Now known as ‘the reads’ (lowercase), they are signed by ill fated, independent label, Leaping Cat Records. They record a 3 track EP and play the bright lights of the Blackpool Opera House (and its 1,800 empty seats).
They enlist the help of (or, more accurately, ‘steal’) Matthew Goddard, as part-time drummer. When his own band, Ethergy, breaks up he joins the line up as a full time ‘read’. This signals the beginning of the end for Marcy’s laptop ‘Proteus’. Never the most reliable of percussionists, Proteus’ skipping-stroke-glitching had become more and more frequent and he was becoming a liability. Matty was infinitely more reliable – and talented – and his introduction heralded a new direction for the band.
The band continues to produce its own recordings and build up a regular calendar of gigs, largely involving beer festivals. They find new practice space in the shape of a barn within a microbrewery; Spitting Feathers, Waverton. They regularly play to an audience of two: Quito and Porter, beautiful Welsh Collies with an exceptional taste in music and – to this day – some of their harshest critics. Paws have been known to cover ears.
Having seen them perform on several occasions, Matt Plumridge approaches the band and offers to help them record their debut album… and so, that’s what they do! Together with wife Lucy and sister Kathryn “Team Reads” is formed; a formidable marketing and promotional outfit which helps the band raise their profile, book more gigs and generally make it appear to the outside world like they know what they’re doing. (They don’t). Fuelled by Spitting Feathers Real Ale. It is recorded at Eve Studios in Bredbury, Stockport across the summer and autumn of that year.
‘Stories from the Border’ the debut album from ‘the reads’ is released! Live dates are planned, kicking off with an album launch at a packed Telford’s Warehouse, Chester on 26th March. Chris Goddard, Matty’s brother and Clare’s then husband, is added to the line-up to beef up the live sound and shake his thang.
The album receives favourable reviews and is picked up by BBC Radio Wales with ‘Orange Days’, ‘Good Omens’ and ‘Galaxy Egg’ each becoming Single of the Week. The band plays numerous sessions for the station, including an extra special evening session with the late Alan Thompson in their Cardiff studio. On the drive home the following day, they hear their music played on Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show and their phones go into meltdown! This would be the first of many plays by “Jezza” who is a fan of the band!
The band plays a hometown gig at the Tivoli, Buckley, supporting Evan Dando of Lemonheads fame. A dream come true for Clare. (She STILL dines out on the fact that he borrowed her guitar strap). More and more gigs follow including an ill-fated appearance at Kendal Calling, but the band survives (just!). Clint Boon plays tracks from the album on his XFM show… The Reads get a mention in despatches for the inaugural Welsh Music Prize… but don’t win. Pah!
The band signs a publishing deal with A Songs – home of Fatboy Slim and the Stereo MC’s amongst others – and edge a little closer to the dream of their music featuring on a deeply inappropriate advert, someday.
They play a PRS ‘almost famous’ showcase gig (oh, the irony…) in London and meet more celebrity fans; Bryn ‘TV Chef’ Williams and partner, Sharleen Spiteri.
They continue to promote the album, playing gigs across the North West and further afield, including a few stinkers and tensions run high. Things nearly end completely after a spat between Jamie and Stu in a field outside Hay-on-Wye, prompted by no sleep and some poorly cooked bacon butties.
Everyone is fed up.
A decision is made to get back to writing and recording, as thoughts turn to album #2…
The band whittles down tracks for the new album and call in Jim Spencer’s services again. It is recorded across spring/summer at The Charlatans’ Big Mushroom studios in Middlewich.
Having been introduced to her via mutual friend, Ian Haughey, the band ask Clare ‘Fluff’ Smith to play fiddle on a folkey little number called ‘Scarlet’ and Fluff soon becomes a permanent fixture for future live shows, with Audlem Music & Arts Festival, Spitting Feathers’ Beer Festival and gigs at Telford’s Warehouse becoming regular dates in the diary.
Mastered at Abbey Road (CLANG!), where the band bump into Nick Mason on a stairwell (CLANG!!!) ‘Lost at Sea’ is released on 21st April to another sell-out show at Telford’s Warehouse, Chester. They find a new fan at Radio 2 in Janice Long, who plays lead single ‘Spitting Feathers’ in full on her night-time show, with an accompanying rave review of the album. Subsequent singles include ‘Scarlet’, ‘Drowned’ and ‘Shifting Sands’.
The band supports Turin Brakes at The Live Rooms in Chester, who, they discover, have a shared passion for spreadsheets.
After Clare and Chris part company, Chris departs the band.
The band is due to support Finlay Quaye at The Live Rooms in Chester. They turn up, he doesn’t.
They play the inaugural ‘Good Life Experience’; a family-friendly festival in Hawarden, North Wales and chat to curator Cerys “Rrrroad-rrrrage” Matthews. Stu makes an ill-advised and Mrs Merton-esque enquiry about “Charlie” over the microphone. They aren’t invited back.
They support Justin Currie (of Del Amitri fame) & Friends at a fundraising gig for Myeloma UK at The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. An incredible venue and a poignant evening.
R.I.P. Rodd Alexander.
Not much happens.*
*Marcy and Jamie keep things ticking over and continue to meet at the farm to write music, drink, put the world to rights and, occasionally, disagree.
Marcy shares a CD of new music, Clare sends out a batch of new poems/lyrics and the first new material in a long time begins to take shape.
The band comes out of a longer-than-planned period of musical inactivity with a renewed commitment to making music.
Minus Clare, who is a ‘new mum’, they tackle the recording process in a different way with Matty and Jamie on bass duties, tracking drums at Hope Mill Studio, Manchester in Spring, before moving onto overdubs back where it all began at Eve Studios, Bredbury in the Autumn.
They finish recording during an insanely hot week in, erm… February.
(Global warming is a myth, right?)
The album is mixed later that year, with Clare drafted in for some ‘stunt bass’ at the 11th hour.
The band plays a couple of gigs to blow the cobwebs away. It feels great and better still to have Clare back in the fold.
The album is mastered at Abbey Road in the autumn and plans begin for the album launch and worldwide domination in 2020…
The band begin yet another year rehearsing in a frosty ban in Waverton.
As before, they learn to play the songs as they actually sound on the album and, come March, they’re just about ready to launch their 3rd album, Crossfire.
Then the whole global pandemic thing happens.
Gigs are cancelled, plans are shelved and Stu enters the world of Facebook Live for a thrown-together launch night of a very different kind.
The year unfolds and the band is back on the airwaves, with Janice Long and Adam Walton at BBC Radio Wales flying the Reads’ flag… including an ‘as live’ session for Janice’s show.
The year ends with hopes that 2021 will give them – and every other musician – a chance to play live once again.