I had the pleasure of meeting Luke Pritchard from The Kooks for an exclusive interview at their show at the Electric Ballroom in London. Their new album called ‘Listen’ will be out on September 1st and includes the new single ‘Around Town’.
So you guys are finally back on tour, how’s it going?
Finally yeah, it’s going really well. The shows have been pretty crazy. We took quite a long time to do the new album, so yeah, the first few gigs in America felt a bit weird for us, but it’s been great.
The new tunes are quite different to the stuff you did before, so what influenced the new sound?
Well for an artist it’s quite hard to define that as well, ’cause there’s certain things like music you might have heard or people you have met, they’ve influenced it but it’s such an amount of things and for me personally, with the new one I had just made the decision that I’d wanted to do something really different. I was into different kind of music but also ’cause I was a bit tired, I was a bit like.. I’ve done, you know, I have like the same sort of guitar rhythm in a lot of my songs, I was bringing songs to the band and everyone was a bit like ‘yeah that’s good but..’ you know there wasn’t an excitement.. so I needed something really new.
I kinda just basically dropped my guitar, so I was gonna write without a guitar, which was a cool turning point for me personally.
I got really into production and ended up getting the co-production credit on the album. Inflo produced the album but I was doing a lot of stuff at home and I really got into using a computer and logic. The first song I did was Around Town which is now the new single, I had the choir, and then I wrote the song like that and afterwards we put the guitars on it and stuff. I got really into stuff like Ethiopian jazz and that sort of thing, and you can hear it on the record. I wanted to use lots of percussion.. actually I really wanted to call the album Percussion, but there was already an album called that, so you can’t really do that.
And then of course Inflo, the producer. He’s a hip hop producer – not that the album is a hip hop album, but he just brought a very different mentality to writing and producing, so he is a massive influence on the record. He really came in and he was like ‘deconstruct how you work and build it up again’.
As we’re already talking about the album, why is it called ‘Listen’ and why did you decide to put the heart on the cover?
It’s called ‘Listen’ because I couldn’t call it Percussion haha! No it came to me one morning when we were finishing the album. It’s like an invitation to listen but it’s also that we felt like we were letting the song come to us and listening to the world, rather than like approaching it. The writing was really different, actually the whole vocals was improvisation. This whole album is like an experiment, it was all improvisation. I just scribbled a few things down and then I changed some stuff and was like ‘oh, I wanna keep that, I don’t like that’ you know. It made sense in the way that it was more subconscious, like more than listening to the universe and trying to make it come straight from your brain.
And the heart.. well the music I love is music where you’re dropping your defences and showing your thoughts as a person, I think that’s the human side of writing songs. Someone like John Lennon, Bob Marley, people like that. I really look up to their writing, I feel like even though they’re megastars their lyrics are always like really human. And so the heart is kinda just like an open book, no defences, it’s pure and.. listen to your own heart and that kinda makes sense.
Hayden Kays did the artwork, he’s a friend of ours, he brought up a few ideas and this one just made sense, so yeah.
Alexis, your new drummer, had a big influence on the album as well, so how did you meet him?
Well you know our mutual friend Nat Jenkins, and yeah everyone knows everyone in that scene in London. I had not met Alexis before but basically Nat and me met up, and he asked me ‘Do you remember that band Golden Silvers?’ and I said ‘Yes of course, I love that band’, and then he told me they split up. I was like ‘brilliant’ haha! For me it’s great, ’cause we really needed a new drummer, but not great for the world, obviously. So Nat just gave me his number and we went for a drink, got on great, and he is pretty much the best drummer in England who wasn’t in a band. We’re just really lucky that it worked out and like you said, he had a massive influence on the album, and yeah, it’s so cool.
Are you planning any collaborations in the near future? Or are there artists you’d like to work with?
Oh, I don’t know yet. There are artists I’d like to work with, we’d all like to work with, but I think for now we’re just focusing on this album.
There are a lot of people, but it has to be natural, you have to meet naturally and have a musical affiliation.
I think after this record we will get to a point where we can open up. I think this album, musically, will allow us to do this, ’cause we’ve gone a lot wider with our sound and the songwriting. This will make it easier for us to work with other people.
Are there any current artists you’d like to recommend?
I’m really into Johnny Lloyds new stuff, he’s from Tribes and he’s gone solo, and his stuff is fantastic. I’m really excited for that record.
Also The War on Drugs, they are really cool. As well as The Strypes, I’m definitely looking forward to the new Strypes album!
Is there a song among all records, EPs or even demos that means the most to you personally?
What I like on this album is that the songs all have a really personal meaning. There’s not a single song on it that we wrote just for the sake of writing. On a personal emotional level, Melody Maker is quite important to me. It’s a break-up song, and I referenced all the songs that we’ve listened to throughout the song lyrically, so it’s quite a special song to me.
And then the other ballad See Me Now, it’s a letter to my dad. That’s an important moment for me. And I also really love Around Town. For me, it’s one of the most uplifting pieces of music I’ve ever heard, because I remember doing it and it was just like this freedom burst. I get rushes playing it live.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done for you?
One of the weirdest things, it’s not that she did it for me, but it’s quite a weird story. We were playing a gig in America and afterwards this girl, she was like 14, came up to me. She was almost in tears, telling me my dad and her mum had a thing and she thought she was my sister. My dad died three years before she was even born, so that was pretty weird…
We saw pictures and videos with another member on stage. Is he likely to become a permanent member or is he just on the road with you?
I don’t know yet. The new album has just so much more going on and I like music to be raw and real, so the only option for us was to get someone else and he’s a great guy and actually a really good songwriter. He’s called Jack Berkeley. He used to live with Alexis, so they are really good mates. I don’t know about joining the band, maybe, maybe not.
So you’re playing Germany in June. Have you already planned on touring any other countries or is that still kind of a secret?
We haven’t completely decided yet. We’re definitely gonna do Europe, and hopefully we’ll do another UK tour before the end of the year. Australia and Japan are on the cards for the end of the year.
That’s about all I know – our agents are taking it pretty slow, because we don’t know how the album’s gonna be perceived in certain countries. I can’t confirm any festivals yet, sorry. But we’re doing an US tour in August, which is quite exciting!
What advice would you give to young people who are only just starting with music?
Stay off the drugs. The main thing is, write songs as much as you can. Obsess over your writing and don’t look back at stuff too much. Don’t overthink. And get a good jacket, haha!
Massive thanks to Luke for the great interview!
For every Kooks fan who has been wondering how their ex-bandmembers are doing…
I met up with Paul Garred, ex-drummer and Kooks founding member a few days ago.
He wants you all to know that he’s doing pretty good, he is still doing music, and he will never stop writing songs.
Our interview with The Kooks’ ex-bass player Max Rafferty had to be postponed as he has been really busy at the studio! But he’s doing good as well, we will keep you updated as to when we’re gonna catch up with him to do the interview soon.