One of the first music acts that the Apprentice Longhair and I attended at the 2013 Grahamstown National Arts Festival was a 10:00 am (yes – in the morning) gig by, Port Elizabeth based, Stuart Reece Band at the Lowlander on the St Andrews School Grounds. This was their first attendance as artists at the festival. See the review by Brittany here: Stuart Reece Band.
After buying their CD at the gig I am happy to report that my initial reaction still holds true and is encapsulated in what I said to the band after the show; “A mature set and impressive linkage by a band that is a credit to themselves, their parents and their home town of Port Elizabeth!”
The Stuart Reece Band was formed in 2010, released their first EP in 2011 and their first album, Chasing Shadows, in April 2012. Both of these were self published and self funded.
Their second album, Storm – one which Stuart is quite excited about – will be released this year.
The Apprentice Longhair and I were recently treated to a cup of coffee and a chat at the ABYC with Stuart Reece.
Reece, who was schooled at Pearson High School in Port Elizabeth, has been playing guitar since the age of 12 and remembers the day he took possession of his guitar quite clearly as it was on the day that 9/11 took place. I remain quietly optimistic that if Stuart and his band continue with their focus and work ethic that their 9/11 moment (as in exploding to fame) on the music scene will happen sooner than we think.
The music that Stuart and his band now plays is pretty different to his formative work which was more rock and punk which saw him playing in many bands such as Cartoon Mayhem, Last School Casualty, Last Township, Enough Said and The Rollers. Main influences post the punk and rock phase are now Jack Johnson, John Mayer and a swing to a more acoustic sound.
Stuart initially wrote and then recorded his own songs with some session musicians with mainly jazz roots. One of the musicians then encouraged Stuart to send the songs to radio stations. The first station approached was Algoa FM who were open to a personal phone call and subsequently playlisted ‘Call the Doctor’. Flushed with this success the guys got together, learned some more songs and secured a gig at the Splash Festival, followed by the launch of their EP at Toni’s Place (now the Music Kitchen) in April 2011.
With time comes a bit more ambition and the Stuart Reece band then set themselves a goal of launching an album in April 2012. By the end of 2011 Stuart had written enough songs for the album, Chasing Shadows, which was launched in April 2012.
The band members have stayed relatively constant with two changes being lead guitar and drums – the original lead guitarist, Rob Thomson left for Cape Town and the original drummer, Devon van Rooyen who got married.
The present members are: Stuart Reece on Vocals and guitar, Wesley Keet on Keyboards and backing vocals, Hugo Kleinhans on Lead guitar, Barry Killian on Bass guitar and Kristo Zondagh on Drums and percussion.
With the band members also playing solo gigs as well as in the band and with only with two main recording studios in Port Elizabeth, one can understand how difficult it is maintain focus, make money and grow a fan base to support the ‘not so hedonistic’ lifestyle. At present Stuart plays solo gigs in order to finance the band and equipment. “I believe that I am in the entertainment business” says Stuart showing that he realises the importance of selling his product.
In order to finance the next album, Storm, Stuart came up with a plan to get business investors involved – all premised around selling 1000 CD’s. His initial idea was to to ask 5 investors each for an equal share of money which would be paid back with the interest coming from a profit share over the lifetime of the CD. In the process of putting the plan together Stuart asked a pupil of his – ‘an older foreign guy’ for input. This ‘older guy’ then sat Stuart down and said; “I have all of your CD’s, I believe in you, I believe that you are a man of your word, so I am going to finance the whole album for you on your terms.”
This investment allowed the Stuart Reece Band to accelerate their recording of the new album which was finished last week and today the hard drive of their recordings left for Cape Town for ‘mixing and mastering’ which will be back on 21 July ready for duplication and printing. Look out radio stations for a little parcel with a sneak peek and advance single from the album.
Ever humble, Stuart noted that he knows friends and other musicians that he rates as far better than him but that in order to become a well known musician skills other than being a musician are required for success, proving to me at least that he was what it takes to survive and thrive in this tough industry.
Reece writes his songs guitar in hand and tries to not ‘bend’ words to fit relying rather on the melody to guide him to the hook first. He draws inspiration from life experiences and says the he finds it “fairly easy” to write.
The lure of Johannesburg is there, though, as Stuart acknowledges that for him and the band to grow they will inevitably have to move to the bright lights, start at the bottom again and ply their trade in a city that offers far more opportunities for a musician. PE’s loss will be Johannesburg’s gain. As Reece puts it; “The market here is one in which a muso can overstay his/her welcome so moving is almost inevitable”.
The stand out highlight for the Stuart Reece band was at Mentorskraal in Jeffreys Bay when they opened for Prime Circle. That gig was the one that made Stuart realise; “This is what I want to do”. Explaining that Mentorskraal is three times the size of a school hall and that the sound equipment was incredible Stuart says; “I was so nervous, this was so much bigger than playing in a restaurant. The sound guys were cool and professional in their little hut talking to via your monitors and they set up your sound. I had never had that type of service in my life. It was the best gig I have ever done in my life so far.”
I will admit that I cannot talk the talk when it comes to music – I know what I like and I have eclectic tastes – cue rolling eyes as I admit to listening to artists as diverse as Mozart, Elvis, Rammstein, Hendrix, van Morrison, Rodriguez, Jack Johnson, Sting, Police, Talking Heads, Faithless, Skrillex, Beethoven, Pachelbel – the list is endless and weird, but I can see myself adding the Stuart Reece band to the playlist.
The band has been getting some good airplay on other radio stations as well. Local stations include Kingfisher and Bay FM. National stations include Radio Sonder Grense, Highveld FM, East Coast Radio and Mpower.
I am a cautious man who does not bet, but I might be encouraged to put a few bob on the Stuart Reece Band – a bunch of thoroughly focused guys and nice to chat to too boot!
Listen to Love Song by the Stuart Reece Band:
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