The Kooks: Going Back To Grass Roots
Updated: Feb 5, 2020
As much as I love discovering new music from across the Globe, nothing makes me smile more than when I think of the remarkable musicians that we have here in the UK. Over the years music fans have witnessed many great minds such as The Beetles, The Smiths and even the likes of Led Zeplin who have gone on to inspire future generations, and still very much have much influence even to this day.
Fast forward to more recent times and for people of our generation there is one British band who for the past 15-16 years have been bringing their fun and vibrant approach to the music scene, and regardless of what type of music your into, will be guaranteed to put a smile on your face whenever you hear one of their songs. Who I am I talking about I hear you say, none other than The Kooks.
Following a busy summer which involved the release of their latest album, Let’s Go Sunshine, the band travelled across a number of locations over the UK in September to play a series of intimate gigs. I was truly blessed therefore when I was finally able to meet with frontman, Luke Pritchard when the band came to Middlesbrough Empire in September 2018.
How have you been enjoying time on the road so far?
Yea I am enjoying it, we have been doing different types of shows to what we usually do, which is exciting because they are much smaller and intimate shows like we did back in the day so has that nostalgic feel to it. The show we did at London was over at the Moth Club which holds about 200 people and was just like the old days. It will be good to see how that applies to the other venues too, especially given that there is so much excitement and energy around the band lately.
What do you enjoy most about the intimate approach to the shows?
All sorts to be honest. One of them is kind of the grittiness and that you cant really get away with stuff as much. You have to be on it. I also like the fact you are face to face on a much more personal level with people because you can see the excitement in their eyes where they had bought their tickets and today is the day they finally get to see us live. That sense of passion that comes with seeing one of your favourite bands, much like I experienced when I was first going to shows growing up.
Massive congratulations on album number 5, Let’s Go Sunshine which came out at the end of August. Is the feedback you have heard so far making you get those butterflies that make you smile?
Yea definitely. There have been some really nice moments especially from fans. Some of the songs have already embedded themselves in the minds of the fans. I feel it is still very much early days though because the album has only been out since August. So yea I feel good and can say have a fairly healthy amount of butterflies from this album. Also with this album it is like we are going back to the roots of the band. It is bringing us back around which is good.
What was the main vision behind this record? Was there anything you wanted to differently to past things you have released?
There was some big thought on this one. I think when you do get to number 5 that is where you kind of have to redefine yourself especially after having the Best Of album, so we were fighting for our identity a little bit. There was a conscious effort to do a guitar record so we felt that we wanted to go back.
We felt that we had to kind of reinvent the rehearsal room band, because with the 3rd and 4th album we had become more recording studio focused. We did a lot of work to try and get back in the same room where we could rehearse with each other, and as a result it kind of created a much more of an old school style of record. It is not meant to be a retro album, but more about making something in the style of how records used to be made which was quite important for us.
It’s good to have a bit of humour as well. That is what I love about your grass root British bands because there is always a little bit of Monty Python style humour which is quite tongue and cheek. We kind of lost that a bit in our last few albums so was good to have a few tracks where we could have a bit more fun with.
Album aside your summer has been pretty busy too with the likes of Reading & Leeds. What was that like?
It has been a really cool summer. Reading and Leeds was great because they were our only festival appearances in the UK, so we had our friends and family come down to see us which was exciting. Shame the weather sucked, but hey you kind of expect that when it comes to those festivals. There was a lot of hip hop on this year, so was nice to be picked as one of the bands representing our genre. It was a good experience, the crowd were amazing, and to be honest I think Leeds was the better of the two appearances. I think the more north you go the better the crowd get, definitely true. Haha.
Also you were supporting Rolling Stones, take us through that and what was going on in your mind when you heard the news?
It was nice, because we had done a few shows with them before and was lovely to get the chance to be invited back but also be part of music history. It was an honour man. I am not going to lie; they were quite hard gigs as you have to remember they are not your shows so you have to flip back into the mentality of how to create a good vibe with the crowd as a support band, which is a totally different thing. The team looked after us well.
So yeah when I got the news, I phoned my mum and told her “Oh Mick called again, tut! I better do it then!” ha-ha!
Having been together since 2004, how would you describe your relationship and evolution as a band?
Rocky! It is a really tough thing unless you have a pure dictatorship in a band which some people do, but it’s hard to keep that going over long periods of time. There is a lot of dynamics to consider, and it is pretty much like being married to 4 people so it is tough. At same time though, it can be a beautiful thing when it does work. Yea we have had a few member changes over the years, but for the most part in much more recent times we have been pretty solid. I am very proud especially considering how myself and Hugh have stuck together for 15-16 years regardless of what obstacles we had to overcome.
I still feel good about it, and just like a marriage you have to keep the romance going.
What is great to see is that even in 2018, The Kooks continue to draw in and inspire new fans. That must be pretty special?
I like hearing about people discovering our first album, especially teenagers as I guess our songs on that record are quite youthful so it’s cool to see that happening the second time round. It’s important though not to overthink that stuff too much because you can’t really predict the when, why, how scenario. What is good though is when you see some of the newer bands who say they are inspired by us, so that could be part of the reason why we are seeing a new wave of fans discovering our music on platforms like Spotify.
How grateful are you for the choices, opportunities and risks you took over the years that bring us to where we are today with the Kooks being one of the most loved and respected British bands around?
Well that is very kind word. I feel two ways – first grateful, but second it has been really hard work. We’ve really had to push ourselves on all levels and fight for it and just chip away. Although I do feel like we had quite a lot of luck and have a very loyal fan base, we are not quite there yet because we still have a lot of work to do. We have had a lot of love from a lot of people which I am very grateful for.
As four guys, what is like being able to walk on stage not just as friends but brothers too?
Pretty cool feeling. It is like roman-esque, like soldiers as cheesy as that sounds. You have to trust each other and know that you have each other’s back even when you make a mistake or something. You need to feel like you’re going to war. To share the music and connect with people as a result is a beautiful thing.
In your mind, how would you describe the spirit of live music?
Attitude really. Live music it has to be on the edge, on the border with danger – the good kind of course. To put on a good live show you have to show you mean it every time and has to be exciting.
What are the elements that go into making a good strong album?
Great songs helps haha. You have to have little universes in each song with their own message. Then spirit and vibe, combined with a bit of intelligence on how to orchestrate it all. Also balance! When you are making a full album you have to think about the dynamics and also the journey.
Having made 4 other brilliant records in the past, do you feel that each one has its own identity?
Yea I do. I don’t think we ever made the same record twice. It was cool to always move on. Every time you have to redefine, and have to prove your worth.
Based on this year alone, what would you class as your top 3 highlights?
One of them is Berlin with Rolling Stones, second Sziget Festival, and third, album release day.
What did you do to celebrate on album release day?
Me and Hugh went for a curry and got some champagne too – proper rock and roll I know haha! That’s what the proper rock stars do haha!
Given how The Kooks continue to go from strength to strength, what is the most liberating part, of who you are, that makes you feel like you are at a happy place?
Just that I do music as my job and that we get the freedom to be our own bosses, which is a pretty liberating to be able to let music to allow you to live your life the way you want to live it.
It has been a pleasure to speak to you! May the good vibes continue!
Thanks brother, I appreciate it!
Article By Thushara
Answers By Luke Pritchard (Vocals & Guitar)
Photos By Andrew Whitton