The Kooks are just another group in a long line of British bands that have caused a frenzy across the pond. Earlier this year it was the Arctic Monkeys. Before that, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand. Go back a little farther and you have Blur and Oasis. What is it about the Brits and their love for young, raucous rock bands?
But there's something different about the Kooks. Their music screams tough guy, lad rock but when you get down into their lyrics, into the soul of the music, you understand that there's passion – even some romance – behind it. Twenty one-year-old singer Luke Pritchard leads this four-piece collective from Brighton and after talking to him, it's obvious he's more than tabloid fodder for shagging pop starlets like Lily Allen and Katie Melua.
While the band has already gone platinum in England for their debut Inside In/Inside Out, which sees them genre hopping across rock, reggae, jazz, pop and more, they've hardly cracked the surface in America. Whether they break over here will depend on what sort of impact they have when they launch a proper tour in 2007. Regardless, the band will push on and likely enter the studio in the early part of next year. In fact, they're now trying to book Abbey Road to record an interim EP with other young bands, including the Mystery Jets.
Can they keep up the momentum? According to Luke, they'll just get on trying.
Read the full interview below or just stream it here.
Q&A with Luke Pritchard of the Kooks
SomethingGlorious: You already achieved massive success in the UK and have drawn comparisons to Arctic Monkeys, in terms of the rise in popularity. But the difference is that you're virtually unknown in the US – do you think that's to your advantage?
Luke Pritchard: I don't see that. We're just doing what we do. Hopefully it works for us. What happened in England, the Arctic Monkeys blew up and were everywhere. And we weren't. Then our songs started getting played. I like the idea of being more popular here and it allows people to get into you for the music – and not because people tell them to. I think they have had a hard time with it. They've had a good year and it's hard to deal with all that pressure.
SG: How different is that from what [bassist] Max [Rafferty] is going through – is he just exhausted or could he not deal with the sudden fame [Max is taking a break from the band]?
LP: It wasn't the fame. When we got on tour he didn't enjoy touring. Some people can't tour.
SG: Do you think he'll tour again – how did it affect you as a unit,
when one of your best friends who's an original member of the band has
someone step in and take his role on the road?
LP: We haven't really dalt with the situation yet. Max is at home and once we have a time to have a bit of perspective, we'll figure out what to do. I don't see why he can't tour again. He just had a hard time. It's not resolved yet.
SG: Do you think it had to do with the five-day ecstasy bender – is that what put him over the edge?
LP: [laughs] I mean, I think when we first started touring, we went a little bit crazy. On tour, it's quite hard sometimes – especially when you are taking drugs.
SG: Have you kept up that partying pace or slowed down a bit?
LP: You know the shows get bigger and you're playing longer sets. The shows become more important so you have to have some kind of balance.
SG: So you still party but don't go over the top then?
LP: It depends. On this tour I've been really chilled out. I got really sick – I had tonsillitis and have this recurring throat infection. I'm trying to keep it from getting out of hand. Whatever, we're young guys.
SG: You were just named Best British Band at the MTV Europe Awards – what does that mean to you?
LP: You know, it's voted for in the whole of Europe and that means a lot to us. We weren't really championed by a lot of people until now. It felt good because we hadn't been hyped. People in Europe got into us by word of mouth – and they voted for us. Because it was voted for, it made it much more important for us. We're kind of in this little bubble. I think people really fuckin love the album and like seeing us play.
SG: Obviously people like the album and I read that you think that
what you're doing is the best thing happening in British music. You
said what you're doing is so fresh and new – how is it so different
than other thing that have come out?
LP: I think we're not like those bands at all. I think that we try and make great songs and the album is an album of songs. That's kind of different. We haven't really got one formula. We don’t stick to one way of doing things. We're pretty open-minded guys. It's hard to talk about what you are … I don't really want to know what we are. It's more spontaneous than that. WE change with the time. We're a different band than we were even the other day. That's what makes us different. We chose to be eclectic and open-minded.
SG: So you think it's more the attitude than the sound?
LP: Yeah, I do think we have a particular sound of our own – that's what I'm talking about. We're following the lineage of bands where each song was it's own entity rather than finding a formula and sticking to it and making money off of it.
SG: What are some bands you try to emulate that have done that same thing?
LP: I think bands like the Clash who started as a punk band and they evolved and changed into a multi-faceted pop group really. I mean the Beatles are a quite good example or the Kinks. I think they're just like pop music in the best sense of the word. It's different now anyway. In our generation there's so much music. You don't have to have foot in one place. We're just trying to play music – any kind of music.
SG: this album is an eclectic mix of genres. Do you think you can go into a whole different direction on the next album?
LP: Definitely. I don't think we'll know what will happen until we get into the studio. I would like to keep the vibe the same on the second album and go in with the same philosophy, where by not being contrived and like "it's our second album, let's fuckin make it the best." I hope we surprise people. It's an important thing about being in a rock and roll and a lot of bands aren't like that.
SG: No, it doesn't and it's refreshing to hear you say that. Most bands
just say, "I want to make good music and want people to listen to it."
They're not necessarily about the surprise.
LP: We're trying to use what's happened to us to become an important band and we have potential to do whatever we want. That's again how we're quite unique. As musicians we've developed and do whatever we want – and I don't mean that in an arrogant way.
SG: Do you think you would stand out as much if you'd been from Brooklyn or the Lower East Side of New York?
LP: I dunno. We were just in Brooklyn not long ago. It's pretty cool. We played a gig in Williamsburg – it's great, a really cool vibe. I like to think it would be the same anywhere. I've always s been fascinated by the scene in New York when I was younger. I like to think if we had been around we could've been involved. It's a good place to make music. It's kind of like Brighton. It's full of young people who are creative and lots of artists.
SG: When are you coming back to the States to do a full tour – are there plans?
LP: We're trying to figure something out. It was weird in America – Virgin didn't want to put out our record. We didn't really feel like we would do it until our second album because there wasn't that much interest. It's only recently it's happened and we want to do our second album now. It's tough for us. I've got some plans to maybe do some shows on my own when we have a break. But that's just like an idea. As for the whole band, hopefully before we do the album, we'll come do a few shows, but I don't think we'll do a whole tour. It'll probably be sometime next year.
SG: Musically, you have this tough guy exterior sound but when you dig
in, the lyrics are a little soft and sappy. How do you blend the two?
LP: [laughs] I know what you mean. I think one of the concepts of the album, not intentionally, but what happened was, I think the lyrics I write … I sometimes write love songs or whatever or they're dark and we try to do the contrast between doing a bouncy song and the lyrics are quite, um, it's not a nice story. I like the idea of bringing back the old school mentality of "love love me do," you know what I mean? I like that. In a rock band it's pretty traditional.
SG: Everyone in the band brings a little something to the table and you
all have different tastes in music, is there any one sound or band that
you all can't live without?
LP: Having spent three years together your tastes tend to mold a bit. Probably the Rolling Stones. We all kind of like Bob Marley. Classics you can't … I mean. To be fair, there's not a helluva lot we don't like. When we met we all just played like Blondie and the Police and then Motown and soul that lapsed into reggae and punk. We kind of all share the same kind of music we like. When we got together I never thought of singing reggae or Ska but we got into. Everybody is open-minded when it comes to music. That's one of the keys – we rarely have an argument not to do something. It's always appreciated that makes us how we are. I hate analyzing what we're about.
SG: Let's talk about the song "Eddie's Gun" [that talks about not being able to perform sexually] – who couldn't get it up?
LP: [laughs] Cheeeky. I think the thing with that song it's based on experience. I think it's an interesting subject. I'm ok down there. When I was younger it may not have happened. It's actually quite interesting a lot of people don't talk about. People say it was bold or stupid, but I don't give a fuck. People get quite squeamish about it.
SG: Speaking of getting it up or not, I know the tabloids love to talk
about you and Katie Melua or Lily Allen. What's your opinion of the
LP: You kind of … I supposed it's a necessary evil. The tabloids are pretty fuckin' harsh. A lot of music press has gone that way anyway. Even stuff that had integrity. That's why it's refreshing going to other countries in Europe or the US. We're at a stage right now that know us are into the album. It's refreshing having someone ask you about the songs. It's quite awkward being in the press.
SG: So who are you sleeping with? Only kidding.
LP: [laughs] Ah.
SG: When do you think you'll go back into the studio for the second album?
LP: February … we want to go soon but we don't want to rush it. We've got a lot of songs to go through. We're constantly writing. We had hundreds of songs on the first record we didn't use. Now it's a matter of getting to the point of recording. We're all songwriters and are pretty prolific, but I'm sure I'm going to write stuff in the studio. On the first record, some were written in studio and some were written before I met the guys. We're quite spontaneous really. You can't really tell what's going to happen.
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