Interview: Reef/StringerBessant

StringerBessantWhen Reef exploded off the back of some massive tunes, key members Gary Stringer and Jack Bessant always wore their roots proudly, from the tales of growing up in Glastonbury on “Summer’s In Bloom” to the jubilant homecoming sets at the festival. Proving a fitting headliner for 2011’s Godney Gathering, the boys returned as StringerBessant for 2012 – whose warm, acoustic sound went down very nicely indeed. Back in June I, Matthew Nicholson, spoke to Gary and Jack ahead of their appearance and conducted an interview. Last year you played The Godney Gathering as Reef. What are your memories of the event and what brought you back? G: The Godney Gathering was a real beaut for us last year, both as Reef and StringerBessant. It had a real ‘local’ feel to it whilst remaining inclusive. It was lively and exciting but wasn’t aggressive, you know? In fact, folk from around the country commented on our social media sites how ace they thought it was. Hats off to Mike [Daniells]. J: It was just great to be playing twice on the same day. It was a well-run event and I am happy to be playing again this year. Dom Greensmith from Reef on drums and Amy Newton on bass and electric guitar will be adding to our StringerBessant sound. You grew up in the Glastonbury area. It’s a very unique place with a great energy about it. Outside of music, what are your memories of the area? G: I grew up in Glastonbury town and there is no short answer to this. Eating pasty and beans at Tor Rugby Club, passing the daily gathering in front of St. Johns church to get my Panini football stickers, swimming in the Brue…. J: I grew up in Cheddar and spent a lot of time on my parent’s strawberry farm and also exploring the Gorge and the surrounding countryside. I loved being outside enjoying nature. What music inspired you when growing up? G: I remember buying a Harrington jacket from Wells market and being into Madness, but it wasn’t until I heard Bon Scott’s AC/DC that everything changed. J: I remember how beautiful I found some music recordings sounding when I was really young. At fourteen I fell in with some friends who played guitar and turned me on to Heavy Metal and playing the bass. My uncle had a three quarter size electric bass in the boot of his car so I learned on that until I could afford my own. From here I just opened up to different styles. Sly And The Family Stone, Massive Attack – music that had great songs and sounds. Rage Against The Machine is another inspiring band that comes to mind and I also loved the sound of just stripped back acoustic with someone singing. You are of course a Glastonbury Festival favourite. Having watched the celebratory atmosphere from the crowd, how have these experiences been from your perspective? G: Glastonbury festival has been both great for us and to us. When we played our Reef comeback show on the Saturday lunchtime slot on the other stage, the crowd reaction and size was comparable to the Florence & The Machine show on the Friday night. It was amazing! J: I really enjoyed playing there especially one year when we played at about 6pm on the main stage. I just remember getting so into playing that it was really intense. We’d just flown in to the country having played a festival in Switzerland the day before. Playing to a super large crowd with the surrounding Somerset countryside in the distance is just brilliant. Whereas Reef’s music and lyrics were often about being young and having a great time, StringerBessant seems a lot more reflective and mellow. Do you like documenting your life through music? G: Yes, but not all songs are autobiographical. J: I love having music to express emotions with and enjoy writing in a natural way. Things, life and events around me do tend to inspire what comes out but I hopefully do it in a subtle way, which leaves it open to interpretation. Do you still keep a close eye on the Somerset music scene and are there any local acts you particularly follow? G: Julie Daske has some great songs. J: There is a band I like called Ooni from Street and Cheddar. A young heavy rock band called Tale Of Two Cities from Bridgwater/Cheddar and also Amy Newton who has moved up to Somerset from Devon. She’s a great sounding guitarist and singer/songwriter. Generally, anything else you’ve particularly enjoyed listening to lately? G: Neil Halsted. J: I agree. We did a gig with him recently. He sounded great. You seem to tour some really interesting and picturesque places, sometimes a little off the beaten track. Do you get a say in where you play and how do you choose? G: Of course we do! We played a StringerBessant show in Portugal last month, we surfed every day on beautiful waves, and did a great show in Lagos. I’m typing this in the Czech Republic after a cool festival show in Zamberk. Surfing and music combined tends to help the booking along! J: We spent a long time with Reef touring where we were suggested to play, so now it’s better for us to be a bit more choosey, especially when you are going to be away from your family. You want to be playing somewhere that you know will be worthwhile, inspiring and with the possibility to get some surfing in. What is your greatest moment on tour? G: It’s waking up on a moving bus and peering out of the curtains. J: We were on tour in Australia and played a gig in Perth. We had a day off the next day so I headed down to Margaret river with a friend. I was paddling back out to get some more waves at a surf break called Leftees and saw a whale passing right in front of me. I noticed that Reef have got some dates this summer, e. g Frome Festival. Can you tell us a little more about what the band will be up to over the summer? G: Yep, Frome on July 6th and we’ve got maybe 6 or 7 shows with Reef this year. Other than that we’ve just released a fantastic box set with an excellent photo book, vinyl, 9 audio CDs and a DVD (details below), while we have started work on our second full album with StringerBessant – it’s going to be great. J: Have a look on and for dates and releases and general things that we are up to. ** Since the interview StringerBessant has launched a campaign to fund their new album through Pledge Music at – In addition to pledging in order to download the album you can pledge more for exclusives including tickets for their gig at Metropolis Studios in London, where the album was recorded. A percentage of each pledge will be donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust. You can find out more about StringerBessant including details of all upcoming gigs at or Gary himself can keep you updated on Twitter at