I T is 16 years now since Stereophonics burst out of their South Wales hometown, Cwmaman, with their debut album Word Gets Around. Performance And Cocktails, their follow-up released two years later in 1999, kick-started a run of five chart-topping albums. To date, they've sold more than 20 million albums and worked with The Who, The Black Crowes, Tom Jones and Paul Weller.
Being so busy came at a price, however. In Stereophonics' case, particularly that of frontman and songwriter Kelly Jones, it seemed to be the drying up of ideas.
Their seventh album, Keep Calm And Carry On, released in late 2009, was their poorest selling and lowest charting, peaking at No 11.
A year later, after almost three-and-a-half years of constant touring, the 'Phonics, as they're colloquially known, decided to stop and regroup.
The result is Graffiti On The Train, their eighth album and easily the best since 2005's Language. Sex. Violence. Other?
"We finished touring in November 2010, not out of fatigue or anything – it was all very positive," says Jones. "We'd just never had our own studio before and that was something we wanted, and it seemed like a natural time to take a break."
Along with fellow founder member Richard Jones, the band's bassist and backing singer; the now departed drummer Javier Weyler, and guitarist Adam Zindani, Jones opted to rethink the way they approached making an album.
"I really wanted to concentrate on songwriting again. The first two albums we had so much time to write, and it was all a collaborative effort between the three of us," says Jones – the three being himself, Richard Jones and drummer Stuart Cable, who died in 2010.
"After that the band got bigger and busier and I was writing whenever I could, on the bus, in a hotel or whatever."
While Jones wouldn't admit it himself, it wasn't good for his songwriting, at its best when he's writing stories. Given his background as a film and animation student, that's hardly surprising. He was offered a job as a scriptwriter by BBC Wales before signing a deal with Richard Branson's V2 label.
As the new album progresses there's a marriage proposal, a Romeo and Juliet-style romance and, ultimately, on Violence And Tambourines, the death of the protagonist.
"Lots of things started unfolding as I was writing the album," says Jones. "At the same time I started writing a screenplay about these two kids who leave a small Welsh town to go across Europe to watch bands. There's an element of autobiography in that because that's what me, Rich and Stuart did.
One thing not discussed at much length today is the death of Stuart Cable. Jones sacked his old friend and bandmate in 2003 when his drink and drug abuse became problematic. The pair patched things up in just over a year and at the time of Cable's death (he vomited in his sleep and choked) they were on good terms.
Graffiti On The Train is the first album since then and an air of mourning runs throughout it, without ever dealing with the issue directly – although the final track No One's Perfect comes close.
"If he'd lived I think he'd have ended up back in the band," says Jones. "What happened between us was stupid and if we'd been more patient at the time I think we could've ironed things out then. After all, we're only a band."
They are only a band, admittedly, but one that thousands of people want to see. Their sell-out tour this month is testament to that, and will see Stereophonics performing in venues they grew out of long ago.
"They're all around 2,000-capacity venues, so not tiny," says Jones, "but small for us I suppose. We know what it's like not living near a big venue, though. No one ever came to our town, so we were always going off somewhere to watch a band.
"As old-fashioned as it sounds, we're taking music to people. That's how we built the fanbase in the first place, going to small towns and universities, and I think that's why a lot of people have stuck with us because they respect us for that. We've got a lot to thank those people for."