Introducing: Stone Angels

Hard-grunge rockers Stone Angels have just released their new album ‘Up In Smoke’ (available directly from the band HERE) and here are the guys with what you can expect when you drop that needle on the album:

What are the origins of Stone Angels, how long have you been playing together?

Niall Kersey (frontman/guitar): James and I had both been playing in bands that imploded/split up around the same time back in 2011 and we’d played the same bill together a few times so we knew each other from the scene. I just dropped him a message on Facebook out of the blue seeing if he fancied getting a new project together. It was originally going to be some kind of solo thing for me, but after some major persuasion from James, it ended up becoming Stone Angels.

James Innes (lead guitar): Yeah, my ego is too big to be a backing musician in the Niall Kersey Project, so I quickly put an end to that of course!

What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Stone Angels?

NK: I’d describe us as a diverse band, we all come from varying influences of the rock world. I grew up listening to rock bands from the ’60s/’70s, into the ’80s too. It works for us and shows in our music and how we play, it’s a high-energy, big, and loud rock show with big tunes and catchy choruses!

JI: While we draw from many different styles, Grunge, Metal, Southern, and a dash of Country here and there, at our core we are a hard-hitting rock band.

How did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!

NK: That was some time ago! I’ve always suffered with some form of nerves before a show, call it stage fright for a better term, so those were certainly there, worried about how we were going to go down as literally, no one had heard our music as we had nothing recorded at that point. Thankfully, like most bands’ first shows, there weren’t that many people there haha! But the people that were there, including the other bands we were playing with at the time – they stuck around and enjoyed what we had to offer at such an early stage.

JI: It was definitely a mixture of excitement & nerves… mainly nerves, however, it was great as I am just in my element onstage & I couldn’t wait till we got back on it again.

Sam Sayers (bass): My first gig with the band was not long after the first lockdown we were all plunged into so I was quite psyched to get on stage with the guys. The guys had all played together before so I did have some nerves about my first show but my fellow Stone Angels made me feel more than welcome as part of the ensemble

Loz Ford (drums): I remember feeling excited for my first gig with Stone Angels as I felt I was now playing with more professional musicians than I was used to playing with. I still today have the same excitement for the way the band is run to this day!

The new album, ‘Up In Smoke’, was released March 22nd, in the run-up to its release, were you nervous, excited – both and how do you feel now it’s out?

JI: The album had, unintentionally, turned into our own “Chinese Democracy” due to several reasons, so while I was both nervous and excited, I was mainly just relieved as it was a mental itch that I could finally scratch!

NK: Very much both! Nervous as to how it’ll go down with the fans as well as the press, and also excited because I just want the people to hear it in its entirety! But thankfully so far it’s had nothing but great responses from everyone all round!

SS: This is the first album I’ve ever been a part of releasing so it’s been a fun ride getting it out there for the world to listen, so I’d have to say I’m more excited than nervous!

LF: Definitely excited! It was such a long time coming, I still can’t believe it’s finally out, even though I have a copy of the album on my desk to remind me every day!

In what ways do you feel that the band has grown since the release of the debut album ‘Give In To Temptation’ nearly 10 years ago? For instance, do you see growth in songwriting?

NK: We’re incredibly proud of that first album, but since that time in our lives, a lot of important things have happened, not only personally, but in the world as well that’s affected us as a band. It shows in the music on the record, there’s a lot more emotion involved, and you can hear all the literal blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into making this the best it possibly can be.

JI: As Niall said, we are very proud of what we achieved on the first record, but yes, one of the main goals that I had was to try and make sure that we pushed ourselves creatively on the record. I learned to play slide guitar for a couple of tracks as well as share some of the lead vocals responsibilities (on the title track), not to mention that we have a couple of songs that feature string arrangements.

What was the gestation period of ‘Up In Smoke’ like, you had that pesky worldwide lockdown to contend with, do you think that the album would have sounded different had it been released a few years earlier?

NK: I do think it would sound a little different for sure, we had nearly all the songs there, but having the lockdown period gave us time to go over what we did have and see how we could improve and polish the tracks even more so the best content was put out.

JI: It would have been a different record entirely. My house burnt down just before lockdown and I used that first year to write about that traumatic experience, so at the very least the album would have been called something else. Also, during the pandemic, we met our producer Mike Krompass who helped take the album to another level.

You mentioned working with multi-platinum award-winning producer Mike Krompass on the album, does it help that he is also a high calibre musician himself? And what did you learn from the experience?

JI: We recorded the original demos with George Donoghue and he helped flesh out and colour our songs, but when Mike came on board, he took us to a completely new level, just going to his studio alone was an amazing experience. I was trying to be a musical sponge and take on everything he was saying. One of the things that stuck with me the most was learning how impactful creating a bit of space for a beat or two before the chorus kicks in can be. The devil is in the details as they say. Mike being a multi-instrumentalist was phenomenal as it meant that he could help convey any ideas that he had for our music.

NK: We learned a hell of a lot working with Mike and George on ‘Up In Smoke’. Both are amazing musicians in their own right, and pushed us and helped us be the best sounding we can be. I personally learned a lot about using my voice working with them, being pushed to the limit to really bring the best out in each vocal take, and how best to layer up vocal harmonies and how they sound within the mix.

James, with the album title being so personal, was the title track a difficult one to write?

JI: Oh, man, it was. Being inside my home as it burned down was the most traumatic experience of my life, but everything that followed in its wake took a serious toll on me. I had to spend a month in a cheap hotel that the insurance company put my wife and I in while we tried to sort out the temporary rental accommodation. As I’m self-employed, it felt like I was under house arrest as I had nowhere to go outside of those four walls, so I started drinking too much as a means of escape. When we eventually found temporary accommodation, the insurance company said not to bother unpacking as they only expected us to be there for a couple of months, then Covid struck, and as a result, we were stuck in the rental for pretty much a year. A year of not being able to go back home was heartbreaking, but challenging myself to open up and write about the experience was very cathartic. I was able to let out all these waves of emotions rather than bottle them up, which I feel is captured in the powerful raw emotion of the song.

What made ‘Where The Crows Fly’ the first choice for the lead single from ‘Up In Smoke’?

NK: As we’ve been away for a while since the first album came out, we wanted to come back big and strong with a huge bang, so that’s what the song really is, big loud, and in your face to say ‘Hello world! Stone Angels are back, baby, and bigger than ever!’ It’s also why we put it as the album opener, it really gets you going with the heavy riffs and catchy choruses.

Which song made the arm hairs stand on end when you heard it back for the first time?

SS- When we heard the first single ‘Where the Crows Fly’ back from our producer I was blown away. It’s great fun to play live & shows off our heavier side.

LF: I’m really a fan of the title track ‘Up In Smoke’. It was the first time for us hearing James’ vocals at the forefront of a track and I think it really sounds great!

In terms of a similar audience, which band are Stone Angels best suited to open for?

NK: In that dream situation, I would say we work well opening for someone like Black Stone Cherry or Alter Bridge, we have the big riffs and choruses to match. I think we’d go down really well with their audiences and in theory, end up gaining a ton more fans from doing shows with them!

JI: AC/DC would be the ultimate dream, but we really wouldn’t be out of place on the bill with bands like Alice In Chains & Queens of The Stone Age.

Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?

JI: There are so many great bands out there that are bubbling just under the surface, so it is really hard to just pick one. But if my house was on fire (again) and I could only save one, I would have to say Skinny Knowledge. Those guys write great music and are a lot of fun to watch live.

NK: There’s a fantastic band that are currently rising up and taking Tik Tok by storm by the name of Revenant, full of lots of awesome heavy blues rock riffs that end up getting stuck in your head all day, would gladly share a stage with them as well at any given time.

Who are you looking forward to catching at Station 18 Festival Swansea in May?

NK: I’m looking forward to catching the headliners on the day we’re playing, South Of Salem, they’ve been going up in the scene at a humongous pace. Another band I’m looking forward to seeing on the same day as us is The Now, their new album ‘Too Hot To Handle’ has been a regular player on Spotify for me so I can’t wait to hear those songs in the live environment.

What are your first musical memories? And what lightbulb moment made you go “I want to do that”?

NK: I remember mine like it was yesterday, I’ve been going to gigs since I was about 6 years old. My dad would work security at a very well-known local venue, the Brighton Centre, which would house and still does house lots of very big artists. I remember when Status Quo would tour and do 2 nights there, he would work one night and take me and my brother to see them the other night. Standing there looking up at the late great Rick Parfitt in front of a giant wall of Marshall stacks that were all on and blasting my ears out hammering out song after song just kickstarted a fire inside of me and made me have that ‘yeah, I wanna do that, I wanna be where he is’ moment. It’s something I’ve always tried working my hardest to get to now.

SS: A lot of my first musical memories involve either road trips or family weddings! I first started to get a taste for wanting to play rock music when I started getting into the likes of Guns n Roses & Green Day. I then picked up my first bass when I was 15 and had my first gig when I was 16 so pretty much half my life I’ve been gigging. I think feeling that ‘rumble & groove’ of the bass in live music was what pushed me to become a bassist.

JI: The first time I heard “Back In Black” by AC/DC, it blew my socks off! At that time I had never heard such a powerful riff that instantly hits you in the face and from that day being a lead guitarist in a Hard Rock band is all that I’ve ever wanted to do.

LF: It was my big sister’s interest in the drums that first inspired me! It was for her that we first got a drum kit in our house and in turn, she was my first teacher. Beyond that I was really obsessed with the band Slipknot and Joey Jordison’s drumming greatly inspired me then as it does now.

What current social issue are you particularly passionate about?

NK: One thing that’s been a huge thing right now that not only affects me, but a whole ton of other musicians is the downfall of the grassroots venues. Daily there are a lot of small venues being forced to close for one reason or another, be it lack of funding, or new housing being built too close and the new tenants making noise complaints even though they know it’s a music venue they’ve moved next to, Thankfully there are people like the Music Venues Trust that are working tirelessly to help these venues carry on and thrive as without them a lot of smaller bands have nowhere for them to get their start and cut their teeth in the live music scene.

SS: One thing at the forefront of my mind is the cost of living crisis in the UK right now. It saddens me to see so many big energy companies profiting whilst a lot of us barely survive paycheck to paycheck. That feeds into the main theme of ‘Western Dream’ on the new album. I think there are a lot of systemic issues that need to be addressed within this country & at times like these music is one thing that can bring us all together in times of adversity

JI: Last year I set up a festival called “Pride Rock” which is Brighton Pride’s first rock/alt/metal event. Pride itself is incredibly important for the LGBTQIA+ community, however, musically, it only really caters to fans of the Pop & Dance scenes. As an ally, I wanted to help better represent musical diversity in the Pride community as there are so many great alternative artists out there. Imagine a world without the likes of Freddie Mercury, Rob Halford, or Elton John. But more importantly, I wanted to provide a space for people who might not feel like they are best represented by the main Pride events.

The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

NK: Most people look at me and assume I’m Mr. Heavy Metal or something similar, but I try to keep my tastes pretty broad. One particular musician I love and have seen live a few times is Jools Holland! I love hearing a bit of boogie-woogie/rhythm and blues piano going on as to me, it takes quite a lot of skill to learn and perfect that type of playing! Well, it’s that or someone like Nickelback or Creed! Haha, I like those bands people love to hate for some reason, but I’m sure they are laughing all the way to the bank!

SS: I think this would surprise most as you might expect that I only listen to rock/metal but ‘An Evening with Silk Sonic’ by Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars is always one of my go-to albums when I’m feeling down and need a pick me up!

JI: The year it came out, my younger sister got me James Blunt’s “Back To Bedlam” album for Christmas. I would never have bought it myself, but you know what? It’s a really good album from start to finish.

LF: That’s a really great question and I can think of quite a few contenders. I listen to all kinds of music from jazz to hip hop, but probably one of the more obscure ones would be Tubular Bells. It’s one of my absolute favourite albums, ever!

Everybody is a fan of something, who or what are you a fan of?

JI: I got a laser engraver about two years ago and I just love creating designs and patterns on things like guitar bodies & leather jackets, but mind you, burning leather does not smell pleasant. I’m already saving up to get a bigger, better, and faster laser.

NK: Motorcycles. I only ride a 125cc myself but I’ve always loved bikes from an early age as my parents were both bikers in clubs, and that love for it has been passed down onto me. Going out riding for me is a form of therapy, go out, get the wind in your face. I’ve met some amazing people through riding motorbikes.

What does 2024 hold for Stone Angels?

JI: A lot of gigs! Along with Station 18, we’re playing Monsterfest in Inverness Scotland in an ace bill with Ricky Warwick, Black Spiders, MuddiBrook, and Marco Mendoza. We are looking to spend a fair bit of it on the road, with, hopefully, one or two UK tours.

How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?

JI: We are reasonably active on social media because being a modern artist requires frequent content to stay relevant, but we aren’t about to start doing TikTok dance videos…yet.

The best places to keep up to date with us are our Facebook, Instagram & Spotify pages:

SOCIAL MEDIA

Official Website

Facebook

Spotify

Instagram

YouTube

TikTok

Twitter/X

Colour promo photos courtesy of Luke Bateman

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