We’ve always loved The Kooks, so we were pretty chuffed when we got the chance to chat to their frontman, Luke Pritchard, about their Best Of album, ‘percussive sonnets’, and all things Bob Dylan:
You guys have been together for ten years now – does it ever feel like longer?
‘Haha, I guess sometimes it does! It feels like forever sometimes. We’ve spent our entire adult lives in this band, but it’s been great. It’s kinda become more like family; like brothers, almost. That’s not just the case with the band, either. We’ve had our whole team with us for the entire time: our manager, for instance, we’ve had with us from the beginning; same with our tour manager, too. It’s like a big family. I mean, sometimes that’s great, but on the flip side it means that sometimes people can drive you crazy… I think I prefer it this way, though. I’d prefer that we stick together.
What’s it been like, playing these songs from your first album that you haven’t played live for so long?
‘It’s been good! It’s probably been as much of a nostalgia trip for us as it has been for all the people who’ve been coming to the shows. We brought up a lot of memories and stories while we were rehearsing and playing these tracks, so it’s been good… I mean, Matchbox I don’t think we’ve played for five years, so it’s been cool to be able to play songs like that again. Before doing the tour, I listened to our first couple of albums for the first time in a while, and you do kinda turn around and go ‘oh, god, yeah, I remember that one!’. It’s a nice feeling; I can’t help but to feel a little pride, y’know?
Have any of those songs been going down particularly well?
‘Genuinely, I’ve been surprised with which ones have been going down the best. I think the first album is the one that I’d expect to go down well, purely because it’s been our biggest album in the UK. With this tour, though, the ones that have been freaking me out have been the songs from the fourth album. I mean, I’m so proud of that record, and it was such a cool record, but because we stepped out of what people thought we would do I don’t know if it did quite as well as it could have. It’s been going down really, really well, and I’m really happy with that. From that record, Around Town is probably the one that’s freaked me out the most. It was a single, to be fair, but people do seem to go nuts for that song, whereas it didn’t seem to connect as much the first time around, so it’s kind of cool.
It must be nice for you guys to know that no matter what you guys do – even if you go and make, as you phrased it, ‘percussive sonnets’ – your fans are still going to be there with you.
‘Haha, oh man… What a pretentious bastard! Who said that? Damn. I mean, I think that even though I’m sure I said it in half-jest, there was more to what we were doing at the time than anything we’d done before. We were inspired at the time by the producer we were working with, who came from a gospel, soul, and hip-hop background; it was great.
‘In fact, I think that even before we met the producer, I was doing a lot of demos on Logic and getting into a lot of funk and soul; so, I suppose there was always going to be a dance and funk influence on there. Our drummer Alexis was really pushing the Prince vibe on that album, too, so he was a great influence on the rhythm and percussion tracks on the album.
‘But yeah, it was, it was completely different to anything we’ve ever done. And, like I said, it didn’t seem to quite click with people to begin with, but now it seems to be having its time. I think part of it comes from music being so openly discoverable online nowadays, too. I mean, you can finish an album on Spotify, and it’ll give you the next album to listen to straight away. It almost becomes like its own little radio station.
You put out two new tracks on your Best Of… So Far! album, too, and they certainly more closely resembled your sound on your first two albums than anything you’ve put out recently: was this deliberate?
‘Yeah, for sure. It was definitely thought out; we really wanted to do something that would complement the Best Of… album, so we went back to three chords and some ‘da da da’s and just took it from there, really! It was definitely a conscious decision, though. It was what we wanted for that release, but it’s not necessarily the best indicator of the whole of the new album…
Have you recorded most of the next album yet?
‘Yes; I’d say that it’s about ninety percent done. I wouldn’t like to put a release date on it yet, though. There’s just so much that’s yet to be done, and we’ve got so much touring to do… We’ve got a world tour going on for the next eighteen months, so we’re starting to wonder how we’re going to promote it properly if we put it out at some point this year. We’ll re-evaluate over the next couple of weeks, though. The first mixes are going to start coming in pretty soon, so if we all listen back to them and go ‘oh, wait, we need some more songs’, we’ll go back and do some more songs, which could take us to the end of the year.
Don’t you think that there’s a risk of people thinking ‘that’s it, The Kooks are done’ now that you’ve done a greatest hits tour and album?
‘I don’t really worry too much about that, because, like I say, we’ve got this new album. I think there’s a funny thing about that in the modern world, to be honest. I mean, one of the things that was cool about doing a Best Of… album was that it was a bit against the grain. It was so old-school; nobody does it any more. For us, though, it’s certainly something I remember bands doing a lot when I was a kid, and it was never something that’d make you think ‘oh, that’s the end of them, then’ – it was more something that allowed you to look back at what they’d already done, and look forward to what they were going to do next.
‘I don’t think it’s going to harm our new record at all. I think if you put out an amazing track, people will appreciate it. That’s my personal viewpoint; but, still, people do say to me quite a lot ‘oh, so are you guys finishing up, is this your last tour?’. Well, the answer to that is: no.
‘It’s more of a celebration, really. We get to do some really great touring without having the pressure of having to do a new record, and the people coming out to the shows know that they’re going to hear the songs they want to hear. It’s like, for me, being a fan of other bands, if I knew they were going to play all the songs I know them for, then I think it’d be quite a cool experience, because I’d be expecting that when I was walking into the concert hall. I think – I hope – that makes these shows pretty cool for the audience.
Out of every song ever recorded, which one do you wish you’d written?
‘Ah, that’s hard! I’ll have to go with Don’t Think Twice by Bob Dylan. There are a handful of songs in the world that are just perfectly written, and that’s one of them. It’s so dismissive and yet so emotional; it’s cool, but deep. I don’t know how he does that.
If you could be in any other band, which would it be and which instrument would you want to play?
‘Oh my God. I don’t want to be in any other band! I’m perfectly happy where I am, to be honest. I think it would be an experience to be in, like, Fat White Family, but still… I mean, if I could go back in time, I… I wouldn’t want to be in The Beatles, because that would just be a fucking nightmare. It would be amazing creatively, but you’d basically have the worst life ever. I’d probably be in The Rolling Stones, though. They had all the vibe, and all the love, but without all the crap that The Beatles had. Yeah, I’d like to be in The Rolling Stones. They’re still kicking about, too! They’re still doing it! It’s amazing.
Describe yourself in three words?
‘Urm… Mate, that’s hard! I’ll go with silly, kind, and passionate.