With Wales enjoying previously unimaginable exposure as a birthplace for rock and pop bands during the 90s, Ether emerged as the region’s newest torchbearers in 1997. Their rise to notoriety was even swifter than that of the Manic Street Preachers, who originated from the same home-town, Blackwood, and employed the same manager, Martin Hall. Following a week of rehearsals and one gig, a media scrum ensued in order to secure their signatures. The group’s personnel were already highly experienced musicians. Lead singer Rory Meredith, the possessor of a distinctive soul/R&B voice, came from a musical family, his father owning an eight-track studio. He had originally formed an earlier incarnation of Ether as a teenager, a band that included drummer Bret Sawmy, who graduated to the second version of the band. The new line-up was completed with the addition of bass player Gareth Driscoll. Their debut performance in Cardiff was watched by an A&R representative from London, and word of their highly commercial, bubblegum rock spread through the majors. After the release of their 1996 debut single, ‘He Say Yeah’ (on Regal Records), they signed with Parlophone Records, who put them into the studio with producer John Leckie. ‘If You Really Want To Know’ emerged in June 1997, its fresh-faced vivacity somewhat reminiscent of Supergrass. Touring engagements with Mansun, baby bird and the Supernaturals helped to increase their profile before the release of Strange, an admirably quirky collection of power pop songs.
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