Groove Records was my local haunt as a teenager, a high-fidelity emporium of vinyl, cassettes and a smoke-stained stack of ‘Kerrang’ & ‘Raw’ magazines overflowing in the corner. Usually I could locate any band from across the pond to soundtrack my wave expeditions, but a certain advert sparked my intrigue – a new format minidisc and this lashing riff writhing all over it – and I became an annoyance to the shop owner because I wanted this sound! What is this band?
Surfers / musicians Reef have come full circle. Here are 10 moments with Jack Bessant and Gary Stringer…
When did you first discover music and surfing?
JACK I discovered music when I was about 14. I entered into the world of metal and borrowed my uncle’s bass. Surfing came later, when one of our gang was able to drive. We took many trips from Somerset to the north coast of Devon with no idea of how the surf was gonna be. All fun.
GARY When I was 13, I turned up at a friend’s house and found a couple of them playing drums and electric guitar… I wanted to join in, so I sang. I first went surfing at Saunton when I was 16, and can remember there being snow on the beach. AC/DC link these events.
What’s in your board quiver and your guitar quiver? Any standouts?
JACK I’ve got two cool old Fender basses – a Precision from the 70s, which sounds punk and metally, and a Telecaster bass, which sounds fat. My Hap Jacobs (Mike Purpus) 9’6” makes me happy, plus I have a 8’6” pocket rocket shaped by Paul Blacker which is fast with singlefin action.
GARY I have a 9’6” Blacker longboard and a 7ft gun; a Taylor acoustic guitar and a Fender Strat. I love all my toys, both aquatic and musical.
When was the first Reef gig? And are you back now?
Reef played their first gig in London at the Swan in Fulham. We’re playing seven shows this year, plus few festivals:
14 April Monto Water Rats, Kings Cross, London
17 April O2 ABC, Glasgow
18 April University Of East Anglia, Norwich
20 April O2 Academy, Birmingham
21 April O2 Academy, Bristol
23 April O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Shepherd’s Bush, London
24 April Academy, Manchester
13 June Isle of Wight Festival, Seaclose Park, Newport, Isle of Wight
Has touring taken you to any surf spots?
JACK Surfing and touring has coincided very well over the years. We’ve been surfing whilst gigging in Australia (east, south and west) Japan, California, France, the Maldives, Portugal, Scotland, Jersey, and England. Our most recent happy coincidence was a Stringer Bessant gig in Newquay last year, where Gary and myself had a fun time in the sea. We always make the most of it on tour, and we’ll find any way to get to the beach on a day off and get in. Happy days.
GARY We recorded two Reef albums in Los Angeles, so Malibu got plenty of visits, Zeros too, I think. We’ve been to the Gold Coast, Manly, Avalon, and Perth in Australia. In England we’ve frequented Devon and Cornwall’s northern coasts, and I seem to remember getting a visit to the Maldives courtesy of the Surfers Path that was vaguely related to music.
My eight-year-old son knows all the words to ‘Moving Up’, but for those that do not know Them Is Me, can you please explain?
JACK Them Is Me is a band that Gary and myself started after Reef had finished. We wanted to come back with a fresh heavy-rock sound. We have a debut album called ‘Them Is Me’, which we’ve been playing around the country. We played at a Longboard competition in Jersey two summers ago, which was a coincider.
GARY Our sound is quite dark and a little metallic but still a whole host of fun, if that makes sense. Me and Jack sing and play bass respectively, alongside the brilliant Jonas Jalhay on guitar and Tugg Curran on drums. Love it.
Do you know any good cider haunts?
Mudgley cider farm in Somerset.
So who is Stringer Bessant?
JACK StringerBessant is us again. We’ve got a new album, ‘Yard’, that’s to be released on 12 July. It’s a life- and surf-inspired album written by Gaz and myself; we’ve been working on it for a while, and now it’s finished. It has more of an acoustic feel – it’s ace, and been natural and fun.
What does the future hold?
JACK Classic Hawaiian curtains in our caravan.
GARY Music, family and saltwater.
Any thanks-yous / shout-outs?
JACK Shouts to Surfers Against Sewage, friends and the sea.
GARY Lee and Chrissy for all the great times at the Smithy, Ben Hall at Live Music Connections, Bessants one and all at Garston, and Bruno Ellingham, top man.