Inside Looking Out, Outside Looking In…
Formed by Neil Sheasby and Neil Jones in 1998, Stone Foundation are not only a fabulous band in their own right, incredible live and on record, but for us Paul Weller fans, they’ve also created some amazing collaborations that have given us some extra (and very, very special) Weller-related releases outside of his own solo work over the past few years.
It is a really exciting time for the band – an ever increasing fanbase with each release and live performance – word of mouth growing by the day and they are clearly building something very special with a community of fans that are super passionate about their output and part of a special club (the fans remind me of those who love The Style Council – bet your life if they launched a ‘Stone Society’ they’d have hundreds of members signed up within the hour!) Thinking about it, in a way they do with their brilliant Patreon Membership providing exclusive content (find out more here).
It’s all so well deserved after years of hard graft and as they hurtle towards their 25th year together, they have some big plans for 2022 including their 10th studio album, to be released in March, called Outside Looking In. The new album has been described as ‘simultaneously a fresh start for the band and a continuation of their long-held approach. With 3 consecutive Top 40 albums under their belt, a refusal to make the same record twice is evident in the house piano of Echoes of Joy, the choirs of Soon You’ll Return and the heavy groove of Stylin’.
Jonesy, Brother Sheas and The General (Steve Trigg) have all featured on The Paul Weller Fan Podcast and it was a joy to hear their stories of being fans of the great man – whether it’s solo, The Jam or Style Council and forming a friendship through the creation of great music together over the past few years.
To be honest, it was worth starting this podcast just to see Neil Sheasby’s collection of Torch Society magazines over Zoom and hear how he gets handed Weller’s unwanted shoes (a gift to a mate).
They’re all lovely fellas too – funny, smart, stylish, super talented, warm and super generous with their time to me and lots of fans on social media and after gigs – clearly grateful for everything they have (and IMO they so clearly deserve) and from what I hear the whole band are all the same.
So let me share some stories, and point you in the right direction to find the Weller links with the band, and make sure you dive in to my podcasts for exclusive conversations about their work with Paul and watch the videos that I have added at the end of this article for some musical magic featuring the band and Paul.
Once you’ve done all of that make sure to immerse yourself within their own rich back catalogue of soul anthems from 2005 to now and discover a sound and style that is uniquely theirs.
You’ll also see that Stone Foundation has given us some amazing collaborations with Weller alumni / godlike geniuses – Mick Talbot, Steve White & Dr. Robert along with Episode 49 Podcast guest, Kathryn Williams, Melba Moore, Laville, Durand Jones, Hamish Stuart, Peter Capaldi, Nolan Porter and Graham Parker.
It would be remiss of me not to call out the incredible talents of the whole band too – Dave Boraston, Phillip Ford, Ian Arnold, Rob Newton and Anthony Gaylard.
In fact there are even more Weller links with On Sunset and Fat Pop – with many of the brass arrangements coming from Steve Trigg (and band members playing too)
Stone Foundation Live
A night out with Stone Foundation is a very special one and I was lucky enough to get along to the Jazz Cafe back in July 2021 for a gig in real life as we began to get back to live music and socialising again – which whilst being one of those strange table affairs that we’ve seen around the pandemic – was an absolute joy (thanks to the fabulous Andy Kennedy for the tickets too).
I’m not embarrassed to say that a few moments really brought tears to my eyes as the reality of missing live music over the past couple of years and the specialness of what I was seeing in front of my very eyes hit home. It was also a real delight to say Hello to the guys before and after the gig too. I can’t begin to imagine how hard the past couple of years have been for the band, having to re-imagine how to create, record and promote their music – trying to make a living through releases, online gigs and Patreon memberships for fans to get special podcasts, radio shows and performances. Seeing the band live – it also strikes me how bloody funky they are. I mean they’ve always had that groove right? Listen to When You’re in My World or Speak Your Piece or Beverley and you’ll see what I mean. Outstanding! But when they dial up the funk – they blow my mind. So so good. Echoes of Mr Weller and that first solo album spring to mind too. What we’ve heard of the new material for next year promises another shift from a band who are constantly pushing forward and trying new things (remind you of anyone?!).
The band will return to London on Friday 11th November for a headline gig at KOKO for what is almost certain to be their only headline show in London in 2022….
Tickets available here
Music with Paul Weller
Sheas, Jonesey and Trigg all talked to me on the podcast about the inspiration of Paul Weller and his approach to making music, to being in the same studio as him and seeing how he works, to a friendship and ‘I’ve got your back’ mentality.
Their work together started when Paul produced and appeared on 2017’s Street Rituals – which was recorded at Black Barn Studios (Weller HQ) in Ripley, and also featured soul legends, William Bell and Bettye LaVette on a track each too. Paul played guitar and piano throughout the LP, and was on lead vocals, with Neil Jones, for album opener Back in the Game and Track 6 Street Rituals, and even pulled out his autoharp on Your Balloon is Rising which Paul also sings lead on. Mr Weller even adds some lovely words to the sleeve notes. “Dear Listener – what a pleasure and a privilege it was to work with these fellas. The music flowed naturally and that’s exactly what you hear in these tunes. Nothing was a bother, no dramas and everyone united with a common goal, to make the best record possible. These are dark, dark times so I was glad to hear a positive voice and vibrations in the words and joy in the music. Peace and love. Paul Weller.”
That album broke into the Top 40 and quickly was followed by a live album – Live Rituals – recorded at Islington Assembly Hall on 13th May 2017 – featuring guest appearances from Paul Weller, Dr Robert (The Blow Monkeys) and Danny Champ (of Danny & the Champions of the World).
The sleeve notes sum up the live experience of the band perfectly “There’s not really such a thing as a typical Stone Foundation gig, each & every night brings an air of unpredictability. They approach each performance as it were to be their last. It’s well documented that they are reluctant to refer to what they do as a show, it’s certainly not theatrical and definitely no act. Stone Foundation has always had a solid connection & bond with their audience, they view live events for what they should be… spontaneous, unique and exciting. What you hold in your hand is just a small snapshot of one night with Stone Foundation captured for posterity, long may they continue to inspire and thrill. Memories are made of this…”
2017 – Street Rituals
I’ve added some notes on where Paul features on this terrific album below…
- 1 – Back in the Game – Vocals, Piano, Guitar
- 2 – Open Your Heart To The World – Guitar, Backing vocals
- 3 – Love Rediscovered – Piano, Guitar, Backing vocals
- 4 – The Limit of the Man – Piano, Backing vocals
- 5 – The Colour Of… Piano, Guitar, Backing vocals
- 6 – Street Rituals – Vocals, Guitar
- 7 – Strange People – Piano, Backing vocals
- 8 – Your Balloon is Rising – Vocals, Piano, Autoharp
- 9 – Season of Change – Piano, Backing vocals
- 10 – Simplify the Situation – Vocals, Guitar
- Buy the album here
2018 – Everybody, Anyone
Everybody, Anyone quickly followed in 2018, consisting of 11 new Stone Foundation tracks, the album was again recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studios (engineered and recorded by Charles Rees).
It continues the band’s collaboration with Paul who plays on 5 of the album’s tracks – with other guest appearances from Kathryn Williams (Don’t Walk Away) and Hamish Stuart (Only You Can) and even an appearance from three Style Councillors – Paul Weller, Mick Talbot and Steve White who played on record together for the first time since the Stanley Road LP. It’s the stuff of dreams folks!
Again I have added info below on where Mr Weller pops up on the album.
- 3 – Don’t Walk Away – Backing vocals
- 5 – Next Time Around – Piano, Backing vocals
- 6 – Carry the News – Backing vocals (Steve W on drums, Mick T on keys)
- 7 – Only You Can – Guitar
- 9 – Belief – Guitar
2020 – Is Love Enough?
Arriving in September 2020, Is Love Enough? saw Stone Foundation change style once again, featuring what the band have described as ‘more of a neo-soul sound’. Stand-out collaborations included soul newcomers Durand Jones and Laville, as well as a spoken word meditation from legendary Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi.
You can’t keep Paul Weller away as some of the album was again recorded at Black Barn, with Paul providing vocals (with Neil Jones) and piano on Deeper Love, playing guitar on AF-RI-KA and Loves Interlude III, singing on Picture a Life and playing piano, acoustic guitar and singing backing vocals on Help Me. The sleeve notes also give a shout out to Paul Weller ‘for his generosity, friendship & musical solidarity.’ and to ‘Brothers Steve White and Mick Talbot for their big boss grooves..’
Despite promotional opportunities being disrupted throughout the pandemic, the band pioneered the concept of the online gig with their first such event taking place in early April 2020 well before the words “global livestream” became mainstream! The online stream kicked off with The Making Of Is Love Enough which featured lot of great moments recorded at Black Barn Studios, with so many special guests including Paul, Mick Talbot and Steve White. We then move on to a live performance from the band, and it is all a really amazing watch – I’ve added a link at the end of this article so dive in as it’s couple of hours well spent!
Oh and their version of Rappers Delight is f**king amazing too!
Is Love Enough? was released to great acclaim and became the band’s third consecutive Top 40 record.
2021 – Deeper Love + That Pleasure Remixes
2021 saw a limited edition Record Store Day yellow vinyl release of remixes for Deeper Love with a 7 minute Opolopo Remix on Side A and Weller alumni Ernie McKone delivering a Late Night Jazz Fund Mix under the banner of Boogie Back on Side B (with his Soul Weekender Mix of The Light In Us closing the limited edition). You can get a CD or digital download of the remixes here
Weller fans also got an extra treat in October 2021 with some digital releases of remixes from the album Fat Pop (Vol 1) and it was Stone Foundation who stepped up to the plate for a fabulous reworking of That Pleasure. Have a listen to the remix later in this article. Here are some notes from Neil Sheasby’s Facebook page with more… “What a pleasure it was to remix “That Pleasure” for Paul Weller. It’s moments such as these that you take a step back and think to yourself how far we’ve travelled creatively to be asked to remix & rework a tune for an artist such as Paul. It was fun too (which is another emotion that should never be overlooked). Another high for me was having my son Lowell step up to the SF squad for this project. We kept the vocal and some string lines from the original track and then Lowell programmed the rhythm track along with some keyboard sounds & then recorded my bass part and Neil’s rather marvellous guitar layers on his laptop in Jonesy’s kitchen, we received the stems at half past one on a rainy locked down weekday and by half past four we had the arrangement for the mix nailed & recorded. Ian added some keys and Trigg wrote a horn arrangement for the lads to record remotely. An SF vs PW mash up was born! We hope you dig it. ‘Get up & Get involved’ indeed !
PLUS if you were at the Weller Tour in Coventry on 15th Nov 2021 and wondering why the pre-gig tunes were to bloody fabulous… It was Neil and Neil who warmed the crowd up with a special Stone Foundation DJ set!
2022 – New Album – Outside Looking In / Tour Dates
The new album landed on 25th March 2022 through 100 Percent Records.
Recorded again at Black Barn Studio (PW HQ), and featuring the man himself with a few Backing Vocals and instrumental contributions, the album also features a knockout guest lead vocal from legendary disco diva Melba Moore on ‘Now That You Want Me Back’. The album also boasts slots from Sulene Fleming, Laville, Sheree Dubois and Graziella Affinita; whilst Stone Foundation always bring a fresh new approach to each record, and a point of contrast to what came before, some things just do not need to be altered.
Order the album here
Stone Foundation on The Paul Weller Fan Podcast
EP26 – Neil Jones – Stone Foundation – "Moved by an action that changes the pattern of things…" – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
EP44 – Neil Sheasby "Brother Sheas" – Stone Foundation – "Brother to Brother, One for another…" – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
EP47 – Steve Trigg – Trumpet Player / Arranger / Composer – Stone Foundation… – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
Stone Foundation Discography
- 2005 – In Our Time
- 2005 – Small Town Soul
- 2008 – In Our Time
- 2010 – Away from the Grain
- 2014 – To Find the Spirit
- 2015 – A Life Unlimited
- 2017 – Street Rituals
- 2018 – Everybody, Anyone
- 2020 – Deeper Love
- 2022 – Outside Looking In (released 25 March 2022)