Music Interviews

Interview: The Kooks

The Kooks are the latest in a long line of bands to emerge from the current musical hub that is Brighton, and are here to put a smile on your face.

Aged between 18-22, their effortlessly energetic and ultra catchy three-minute pop songs recall the bygone era of Britpop, a time when simple and accessible songs ruled the roost.
2005 has certainly been a memorable year for the band – debut single Eddie’s Gun was a summer hit – charting in the top 40, it earned them a devoted following across the country and a number of sold out headline shows. musicOMH caught up with the band in London recently to discover what all the fuss is about…

On the question of the band’s history, front man and chief songwriter Luke Pritchard told me: “We were all at college together, and met each other through friends and stuff, and we just met up and had similar ideas about music, then we started jamming and got some gigs really.”

“Virgin seemed like really cool people – they just seemed to really understand where we were coming from.”
– On signing to a major label.

He continues, stating that it wasn’t very long before record labels started knocking on their door: “It was really quick how it all happened, we did a demo with a mate of ours in London, which we sent off to one guy to get some gigs, and he turned out to be a manager. He rung us up and it kind of went from there.”

The band eventually secured a lucrative contract with Virgin, where they can count the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Thrills and Willy Mason amongst their label mates. Luke, although clearly happy with their decision to sign, ensured me it wasn’t the easiest choice to make:

“We were way too early to sign a record deal to be honest with you. We were really young, we’d been together like two or three months, so we really didn’t want to sign. But then we thought it’s a really good opportunity and Virgin seemed like really cool people – they just seemed to really understand where we were coming from.”

Hailing from the South Coast city of Brighton, I ventured the question as to whether they felt they were part of a particular scene down there. In recent years, bands like The Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power have emerged out of Britain’s gay capital and on to the mainstream – so are The Kooks the next name on this venerable list?

On the contrary, insists Luke: “We’re not part of that at all – I don’t know any of them. The scene that we know is just are friends really, our mates who are in bands. Bands like Cat The Dog and The Rivers. That’s kind of our scene, but it’s not really a ‘scene’ – we’re not a cliquey band. We just play songs.”

As far as songs are concerned, I enquired about their song writing process. Luke assures me that there’s little design to those irresistible pop numbers that we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the months to come.

“It’s just like an idea, like a chorus, and then we just jam on it – it happens in loads of different ways. The best songs I find always come from the subconscious, like when you don’t think. Not to be pretentious about it, but usually songs just blurt out rather than thinking about it. I never write lyrics and then do a song, I find that really hard – that’s like a real skill. Like Dylan, or Leonard Cohen, they write poems and then obviously put them to a song, we just jam and blurt stuff out!” he admits, almost sheepishly.

Eddie’s Gun, the first taster from their as-yet-untitled debut album (Due out early next year, I’m reliably informed), hit the airwaves back in July. Much was made about its subject matter of supposed – wait for it – erectile dysfunction, prompting much speculation about Pritchard’s former relationship with MOR queen Katie Melua. But what would the man himself say his lyrics are about?

“Loads of stuff – I try and write honestly really. Obviously the first song that came out was quite obvious what it was about in a way…” speculates Luke. “But mainly just stuff that’s happened to us,” he adds.

“We’re musical whores!”
– The Kooks on their influences…

At this point, we’re joined by the rest of the band. “We’re talking about song writing,” he politely informs his cohorts. Moving on – how would the band describe themselves to someone who had never heard them?

“Eclectic!” all of them unanimously declare. “We kind of do a bit of everything really,” Luke offers. “We’re musical whores!” declares Hugh, their guitarist. “We’re really song based, you know, catchy songs…” Luke continues.

As far as musical influences and inspirations go, I’m informed that there are far too many to name – they could go on for hours.

Drummer Paul offers an economical response: “Anyone and everyone who’s good – covers a lot doesn’t it?” “Everyone’s into different things, and there’s some things we all meet in the middle on,” interjects bassist Max.

“We all have a common love of classic Stones, Dylan, all that kind of stuff of course,” ponders Luke. “Then we all go our separate ways, that’s where Hugh goes into – who’s that guy who did Lady In Red?” asks Max.

Chris De Burgh?” suggests Luke. “Yeah, Hugh loves Chris De Burgh, which is pretty sad really!” he declares, to widespread laughter.

Not content with creating a buzz in Britain alone, the band ventured to the hedonistic paradise of Ibiza over the summer to play a gig at the newly revamped Manumission nightclub. So what did they make of this rather novel experience?

“Going to Ibiza was cool,”Paul states. “It was our first time outside of England, so it was different.” “Ibiza was good, but it’s full of angry beer louts!” states Max. “With short hair!” adds Luke. “The gig was good, but Luke managed to break three amps during the set so we were lacking one guitar for the whole thing. But it still went down well,” Max continues.

“We can’t wait to go and play around different places in Europe.”
– The Kooks aren’t content with exciting crowds in Britain alone.

Which is hardly a surprise, given the fact that their songs are incredibly difficult to dislike, and seem to have a niggling habit of making you want to move your hips – and that’s what Ibiza is all about, surely.

The band are excited about the prospect of entertaining more crowds overseas: “We can’t wait to go and play around different places in Europe,” enthuses Max. “That would be ideal for us wouldn’t it?” agrees Luke. “America would be wicked as well, I haven’t seen much of America.” And with a major label backing their undoubted talent, it’s surely only a matter of time before they realise such ambitions. As their hero David Bowie would say, it’s all looking very hunky dory…

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