AN UNSIGNED Chester band who started out making music in a caravan have had two of their songs played to millions on national radio.
BBC Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine was sent a copy The Reads’ debut album Stories from the Border by the group’s producer’s mum and liked it so much he featured two of the tracks on his lunchtime show.
Now the group, who had a song featured as BBC Radio Wales’ Single of the Week last month, are preparing to release song Good Omens as their debut single.
The Reads are made up of singer and rhythm guitarist Stuart Bennett, from Hawarden, lead guitarist Jamie Russell, and keyboard player Marcel Delrue, both from Chester, bass player and lyricist Clare Goddard, from Gronant, her husband Chris, who provides backing vocals, and his brother Matty on drums.
The radio airplay is the culmination of years of work for the band, who have been together, in various forms, for a decade.
Stuart and Clare met when they were working in HMV and Stuart started to put Clare’s poems to music.
Meanwhile Marcel and Jamie, who met when they both attended Argoed High School in Mynydd Isa, were using Jamie’s caravan in Llay as a base to make music.
Stuart said: “I was at a house party one night when a mutual friend of mine and Jamie’s decided that he should introduce us.
“We drove round to his caravan in the early hours of the morning and just started having a jam.”
Chris and Matty joined later after being ‘kidnapped’ from another band.
But it took four years before the group, then known as The Quays, plucked up the courage to play their first live gig at The Letters Inn in Tattenhall.
Clare said: “I think we were quite happy just to sit in the caravan every weekend making music but we started to think it was about time we let other people hear us.”
The group, who are all in their 30s, say they started to take things more seriously about three years ago.
Then last summer, after a friend offered to fund an album, they got in studio and started to record.
Marcel said: “Because it had taken such a long time for us to get there we had a backlog of about 300 songs to choose from.”
The band say they practically lived in the studio while recording and say it was ‘pretty intense’ but made them better musicians.
They enlisted the help of producer Jim Spencer, who has worked with names including Oasis, The Doves and The Charlatans, to work on the record and composer Joe Duddell took time out from working with Elbow to come up with string and brass arrangements for five of the 12 songs.
Duddell offered his services for free after hearing one of the tracks.
Clare said: “Hearing what was almost an orchestra playing our music was surreal.
“It was brilliant to see it all written down as sheet music because we don’t read music, we just make it.”
The support they’ve had from friends and families has been key to their success, they say.
Stuart said: “People have gone out of their way to help us.”
After a quiet spell following the recording, the past month has seen things take off for the band.
Stuart said: “You start to get a bit frustrated with where it’s all going and then all of a sudden, just because a copy of the CD has been sent off, it’s all good.”
He added: “We’ve all listened to Jeremy Vine before and have never heard an unsigned band being played on his show, let alone twice in one week, so this is a really big deal.
“Record companies dominate the play lists by promoting songs and we seem to have leapfrogged that just on quality.”
The Radio 2 DJ got in touch with the band within five days of receiving their album and, along with the station’s assistant head of music, has been keen to offer advice and support.
The group are now hoping that Good Omens could become a permanent fixture on the station’s playlist.
Chris said: “It’s never been a case of what we want to happen, it’s all just happened and seems to have fell into place and that seems to be down to the songs.”
But the band are not quite living the rockstar lifestyle, with rehearsals scheduled around full time jobs, families and new babies.
Marcel said: “The dream for us is to be able to make music full time.”
Other ambitions include performing at Glastonbury, making another album and being played on a Match of the Day montage.
Clare is set to achieve one of her ambitions next month, when the band perform at The Tivoli on a line up with her teenage idol Evan Dando, frontman of the Lemonheads– who appeared at the Buckley club in 1994 with Oasis.
Stuart said: “The Tiv used to be the stomping ground for me, Jamie and Marcel so it’ll be great to go back and perform there.”