BIMM Brighton students attended a revealing Masterclass session recently when ‘90s and early ‘00s alternative rockers Reef paid the college a visit en masse to chat about their music, career to date and new album ‘Revelation’. Band members joining us were singer Gary Stringer, drummer Dominic Greensmith, bass player Jack Bessant, guitarist Jesse Wood and Andy Wallace on keyboards.
The Masterclass was hosted by none other than Martin Wright – BIMM Brighton’s College Principal; a personal friend of the band, who is a musician and drummer himself who’s worked with names such as Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Beverley Knight, Andrea Corr, Procol Harem, Natalie Imbruglia and BIMM graduate Dani Wilde.
Reef kicked off the session by explaining how they formed. Gary started singing in the late 1980s as a teenager when he lived in Glastonbury, Somerset, and met Jack at college. The pair went to Cornwall together for six months where they started gigging at a local venue, earning £40 a night. Before too long, they went their separate ways, with Gary travelling to Morocco and Jack relocating to music college in London where he met the rest of the original band, including Dom (as well as our very own Martin Wright!).
In 1993, Gary came back from his travels and the band ended up living, rehearsing and playing together, eventually meeting their management and landing a record deal with Sony offshoot, S2.
The band told the Masterclass audience that their first tour was a ‘toilet circuit tour’ of small UK venues but it was a great experience as it really helped them learn their craft. It also helped them bond as a group, thanks to random adventures like stopping to swim in rivers!
In 1995, their first single ‘Good Feeling’ reached #24 in the UK charts, and their second single ‘Naked’ was used on a Sony Mini Disc TV commercial, gaining them a #11 hit.
Over their career the band has worked with Kula Shaker, Feeder, Paul Weller, Soundgarden and the Rolling Stones. They’ve played festivals including Glastonbury, Reading and the Isle of Wight, and have had nine top 40 hits and five top 40 albums, including a Number 1 record with 1997’s Platinum-selling ‘Glow’. Their most famous song, 1996’s ‘Place Your Hands’, charted all over the world, reaching #6 in the UK, and is still considered one of the most legendary tunes of the Britpop era. Reef continued on their journey until 2003, when they decided to split.
In 2010, the band reformed, eventually adding Andy (who was a session player they used to watch perform at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea) and Jesse (son of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood) to their line-up – in fact, it was Martin Wright who introduced Jesse to Dom.
During the Masterclass, the band members had some sound music industry career advice for our students, recommending that they “learn through living” by getting involved in things themselves, with Gary admitting:
“Dealing with bad promoters, we learnt that you don’t wait for someone else to do it for you.”
When it comes to songwriting, the band believes that the best way to see if your track is any good is to play it for an audience:
“Try the song out, see what energy there is in the room, test it out live, and see what the response is.”
We’d like to say a massive thank you to the members of Reef for visiting us. We loved hearing all about their 25-year career and wish them the best of luck with the upcoming tour and of course, the new album!
If you’re interested in applying to study music at BIMM Brighton and gaining access to groundbreaking Masterclasses like this one, book to attend an Open Day, download a prospectus, or call the BIMM Admissions Team today on 01273 626 666 or [email protected]