Let's go inside

All mouth and some res­on­ably tight trousers, Kooks’ lead singer Luke Pritchard tells Kevin Court­ney why a bit of chutz­pah has come in handy

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

YOU have to be a bit of a dick­head to front a rock band th­ese days. It’s al­most a nec­es­sary qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the job. Nice guys tend to hide shyly be­hind acous­tic gui­tars and gen­tle love songs, but guys who sing in rock’n’roll bands are ex­pected to give it some swag­ger, be a bit gobby and gen­er­ally be­have like spoilt pub­lic school brats. And if they try to go against type, they’re li­able to be branded “bed­wet­ters”. Luke Pritchard, the singing, song­writ­ing front­man from Kooks, is young, tal­ented and mouthy, but though he’s not back­wards in com­ing for­ward to the spot­light, he in­sists it’s the mu­sic that re­ally has the swag­ger. “I know peo­ple think I’m an ar­ro­gant fuck – I don’t think that helps,” reck­ons the 20-noth­ing South Lon­doner whose band have be­come one of the big names of 2006, and whose album, Inside In/Inside Out, has sold more than a mil­lion copies so far and spent more than half the year in the UK Top 20. “I think peo­ple want you to be an ar­che­typal twat, d’you know what I mean? It’s kind of the thing at the mo­ment, isn’t it?”

Since Pete and Kate started gen­er­at­ing more col­umn inches than Posh and Becks, singers with indie bands have been fair game for the tabloids, and if you hap­pened to have found your­self thumb­ing through a red-top in the past few months, you’d have in­vari­ably come across a story about Pritchard’s Fame Acade­mystyle ed­u­ca­tion (he stud­ied at the Brit School along­side the likes of Katie Melua).

“To be hon­est I think it’s pretty sad,” says Pritchard. “I think jour­nal­ists are re­ally lazy and just want to talk about the eas­i­est thing to talk about, y’know what I mean? I know the way th­ese things work, but I don’t think it’s par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing. I just find it hi­larous that jour­nal­ists, even jour­nal­ists who seem to like the album, want to talk about the fact that I went to stage school and I went out with some girl who later be­came fa­mous.”

As far as he’s con­cerned, rock’n’roll isn’t all about dat­ing – it’s about tim­ing.

“I think with our mu­sic we came at the right time to be in a rock band. I think the fact that a lot of peo­ple cre­ated a kind of scene – tomy mind it’s bands like The Strokes or The Lib­ertines who re­ally opened up a much big­ger live scene that wasn’t there.”

Call it the New Wave of Brit­pop, but the mid-Noughties are see­ing a boom in Bri­tish bands who are not afraid to show their roots, and are unashamed to bor­row from the past. Kooks may not have taken their name di­rectly from the song on Bowie’s Hunky Dory (“that’s about Bowie hav­ing a kid, isn’t it?“), but their mu­sic cer­tainly nods in that gen­eral di­rec­tion, and to other key co-or­di­nates on the mu­si­cal com­pass.

“We were into that whole kind of pe­riod, but def­i­nitely I think it’s a new wave. I also think that it’s quite sim­ple – bands are very sim­ple now, and it’s all about the songs. The mu­sic I think is kind of be­com­ing more old school, which is re­ally weird, be­cause the in­ter­net, what it did was ac­tu­ally take things back a bit. I think songs hang around much longer now than they used to. Like that sin­gle, Crazy [by Gnarls Barkley], which is like an in­de­pen­dent song com­ing in, it’s not like a fuck­ing bal­lad from Westlife. I think we’ve made a record that, yes, some peo­ple may just like one song, but I think a lot of peo­ple have got­ten into our album, and if you come to one of our shows, you’ll see that ev­ery­one knows all the songs.”

For Kooks, the resur­gence of in­ter­est in songs has di­rectly helped their cause, and smoothed the album’s pas­sage into the up­per reaches of the charts. Their de­but sin­gle, Ed­die’s Gun (about erec­tile dys­func­tion, lads), went in at Num­ber 35, and their next sin­gle, Sofa Song, broke the Top 30. The charm­ing Naive went Top 5, and the breezy She Moves in Her Own Way sub­se­quently be­came the pop an­them of the sum­mer (next to Lily Allen’s Smile). Kooks found their fresh faces splashed across television screens, blogs and mu­sic sup­ple­ments ev­ery­where. It was the ful­fil­ment of a school­boy dream – and they’d barely even left school when it hap­pened.

With barely time to start shav­ing, Kooks found them­selves play­ing at all the big fes­ti­vals, in front of crowds who knew the words to all their songs. They played a blind­ing set at Ox­e­gen in July, but their big rock’n’roll mo­ment came when they were asked to sup­port The Rolling Stones. In Oc­to­ber, how­ever, it all came to a grind­ing halt when Pritchard came down with a dou­ble dose of laryn­gi­tis and ton­sil­li­tis, mar­ring the band’s big home­com­ing show in Brighton and forc­ing the can­cel­la­tion of the rest of their tour. Pritchard’s chew­ing­gum jug­glers are back in full work­ing or­der now, so ex­pect him to sound pris­tine when the band play a re- sched­uled date in Dublin’s Am­bas­sador on Sun­day and Mon­day.

Grow­ing up in Clapham, South Lon­don, Pritchard lis­tened ob­ses­sively to such bands as Blur, Oa­sis, Bowie, The Kinks and The Bea­tles, but found the songs hard to learn on gui­tar, so wisely de­cided it would be bet­ter to per­form his own songs well than to do other peo­ple’s songs badly. He had vaguely known gui­tarist Hugh Har­ris and drum­mer Paul Garred from school, but the trio met prop­erly in Brighton and formed Kooks, re­cruit­ing bassist Max Raf­ferty (who has re­cently been hav­ing stress-re­lated prob­lems of his own, and has been tem­po­rar­ily re­placed by Pete Den­ton).

“It was all very nat­u­ral, there was no kind of story to it,” re­calls Luke. “We just be­came friends re­ally quickly and just got on. We were such di­verse peo­ple, each of us was so dif­fer­ent. It was a re­ally weird mix, but it worked. I think with us, maybe what makes us a dif­fer­ent band is that hope­fully what we’re do­ing is not for­mu­laic. Yeah, of course you have to be mates when you start, and talk about mu­sic you love and you hate, ob­vi­ously. But I think at the end of the day it’s all about cre­at­ing some­thing new, isn’t it? I know that you would say to me that our album is not par­tic­u­larly push­ing bound­aries, but I kinda think that we try to do some­thing that is fresh, and we dab­ble in a lot of things, y’know. Prob­a­bly from be­ing in our gen­er­a­tion, we have so muchmu­sic we can get into, so much lit­er­a­ture, ev­ery­thing is there, so we try not to stick to one thing.

“I think mu­sic’s evolv­ing, and that’s the whole point of it, that you don’t have to just find a for­mula and make shit­loads of money out of it, which is what most bands do. The Clash didn’t just stay do­ing one punk song, they moved on. I hear so many bands, and their song’s on the ra­dio, and then I lis­ten to their album, and ev­ery song sounds the same. That’s shit, man. I mean, talk about The Bea­tles, man – how dy­namic are the Bea­tles? You put on Re­volver, which is prob­a­bly my favourite Bea­tles album, or Abbey Road or Rub­ber Soul, and lis­ten to how many dif­fer­ent things are go­ing on on each record, dif­fer­ent styles of mu­sic. The Bea­tles were so en­grossed in dif­fer­ent mu­sic and loved mu­sic from dif­fer­ent cor­ners of the world, and were fus­ing ev­ery­thing to­gether, and I think that’s what we’re as­pir­ing to do, and I don’t think that af­fects your iden­tity. As long as you’ve got a strong iden­tity in your head, then fuck it, man.” Inside In/Inside Out is out on Vir­gin. Kooks play Dublin’s Am­bas­sador on Sun­day and Mon­day. Both gigs are sold out.

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