WE’RE A BIT OF AN ANOMALY

The Kooks front­man Luke Pritchard tells AN­DREW ARTHUR about his duet with his late fa­ther, and why he thinks the mu­sic press has got it in for his band

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DON’T ever go in there man, it’s re­ally messed up,” warns Luke Pritchard, his voice adopt­ing a fore­bod­ing tone. The singer-song­writer is talk­ing about the Mu­seum of Death in LA, next door to the stu­dio where his band, The Kooks, recorded their new al­bum.

“It used to be a record­ing stu­dio owned by Ray Charles, where he did a lot of his records,” the 33-year-old ex­plains.

Luke has a bit of a time-trav­eller air about him. In 1980s-style high-waisted trousers and a but­ton-down shirt, still sport­ing that mane of curly locks, he re­clines on a sofa in the space­ship­like sur­round­ings of his record com­pany’s Lon­don head­quar­ters.

“The mu­seum has a Charles Man­son room, it’s so weird, dude! Re­ally dis­turbed me. You go in there and you’ve got pic­tures of de­cap­i­tated peo­ple. Def­i­nitely not a nice respite af­ter record­ing,” he goes on.

The mor­bid sur­round­ings cer­tainly did not rub off on the indie band’s up­lift­ing fifth al­bum, how­ever. It marks a re­turn to the band’s brand of gui­tar-driven pop sin­ga­longs, af­ter they ex­per­i­mented with com­put­er­gen­er­ated sam­ples and loops on their pre­vi­ous ef­fort, 2014’s Lis­ten.

While mak­ing the fol­low-up with hip-hop pro­ducer In­flo, Luke and his band­mates had an epiphany. They re­alised they needed to make “a real band record”, car­ry­ing on the lin­eage of great British groups such as The Bea­tles and The Kinks.

They shelved the ma­te­rial they had been work­ing on and re­turned to record­ing to­gether in one room.

The ses­sions yielded Let’s Go Sun­shine’s 15 tracks, among them Honey Bee. The song was writ­ten by Luke’s mu­si­cian fa­ther, who died of a heart at­tack when Luke was a child.

“A big rea­son why I do mu­sic is my dad. I have all his records and his gui­tar,” he says.

“My sis­ter sent me a song he recorded in the 1970s. My step­brother liked the song and asked me while I was in the stu­dio if I could record an acous­tic ver­sion for him. I just started play­ing the song and all the boys came in and thought I’d writ­ten it. I didn’t want to push it, but ev­ery­one liked it. So it hap­pened or­gan­i­cally. We did it in half a day. “Then I thought, ‘We could get my dad’s voice on’. Luck­ily, we had some ex­pert tech­ni­cians who got his vo­cal and lifted it. I sing the first verse and then he sings the sec­ond and we both do the cho­rus, so it’s a duet with my dad.

“It’s good for my fam­ily to put out a tune of his. It kind of keeps him alive, in a very non-creepy way!”

Luke fol­lowed in his fa­ther’s foot­steps when The Kooks re­cently opened for The Rolling Stones.

He re­mem­bers ask­ing Sir Mick Jag­ger and drum­mer Char­lie Watts if they could re­call meet­ing his fa­ther back when his band, The Echoes, sup­ported them in the Six­ties.

“Char­lie was re­ally nice about it: ‘Oh, I sort of re­mem­ber the name’. They play with so many bands.

“He re­mem­bered the venue in Bris­tol be­cause they played there a few times. That was nice,” says Luke.

“Of course, it would be cool to know what my dad would think of our mu­sic. It’s nice to have a fam­ily con­nec­tion, that I’m con­tin­u­ing some­thing of his.”

It’s fair to as­sume Luke’s fa­ther would be proud of his son’s band’s suc­cess. Their de­but al­bum, In­side In/In­side Out, went plat­inum four times in the UK and yielded six top 40 sin­gles, in­clud­ing Naive and She Moves In Her Own Way.

The Kooks were one of a raft of British gui­tar bands that be­came com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful in the mid-Noughties, along with the likes of Arc­tic Mon­keys and Ra­zorlight.

But af­ter the over­whelm­ing suc­cess of their de­but, they ex­pe­ri­enced a rough ride with the crit­ics.

De­spite top­ping the al­bum charts, their sopho­more ef­fort, Konk, re­ceived some neg­a­tive re­views. With the band’s mu­sic now be­ing en­joyed on­line by a new gen­er­a­tion of fans, does Luke feel vin­di­cated that the crit­ics failed to kill The Kooks off?

“You’re not re­ally al­lowed that in mu­sic. You’re not owed some­thing be­cause you think that you’re good.

“One thing that has been nice for us, is prob­a­bly hav­ing a plat­form that is more democra­tised,” he rea­sons. “Peo­ple just go and lis­ten to your mu­sic, you don’t have to be told it’s cool by a ra­dio sta­tion.

“We’re a bit of an anomaly. We’re def­i­nitely not loved by the press. We’ve never been an awards band.

“I hope it flips peo­ple out. It’s good to be an out­sider.”

When asked what he thinks caused the back­lash, Luke jokes: “We’re just so good-look­ing, man.

“There’s all kinds of things. The fact we went to the BRIT School. Bands weren’t sup­posed to have gone to ‘stage school’. It’s fine for Adele, but not The Kooks.

“I think there was an el­e­ment of our first al­bum go­ing re­ally big and quickly. Ev­ery­thing was about Arc­tic Mon­keys that year, and we sold more records than them. Peo­ple were like, ‘What the f*** hap­pened there?’

“Hon­estly, maybe I’m just not very like­able?! There were some jabs. It was crazy. I re­mem­ber the sec­ond al­bum, my mum was like, ‘Why is this hap­pen­ing?’ Haters gonna hate.”

It’s clear from his deeply per­sonal song­writ­ing that Luke is not afraid to share his feel­ings.

As our con­ver­sa­tion ends, I ask if he wor­ries whether he risks re­veal­ing too much about his pri­vate life in his songs.

“I’m too hon­est!” he ad­mits. “I think I am good at the open stuff, that’s what peo­ple like about my writ­ing. It’s about shar­ing a life ex­pe­ri­ence, isn’t it? As song­writ­ers, it’s our job. To say things peo­ple feel they can’t them­selves,” says Luke.

“Naive was about be­ing cheated on. Peo­ple asked, ‘Do you re­ally want to talk about that?’ I find be­ing hon­est is po­tent for writ­ing.”

The Kooks’ new al­bum Let’s Go Sun­shine is out now.

The Kooks, with front­man Luke Pritchard, sec­ond left, and their new al­bum, be­low

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