The Kooks Go Back to Basics with New Album, "Let's Go Sunshine!"
V caught up with The Kooks fresh off the release of their new album, "Let's Go Sunshine!"
V caught up with The Kooks fresh off the release of their new album, "Let's Go Sunshine!"
Text: Brandon Tan
You’d be hard pressed to go through The Kooks’ extensive discography and not recognize at least one of their catchy, heartfelt songs that you’ve driven to on a roadtrip or found yourself humming on the street. That said, you probably haven’t seen much of them in the media. They’re that kind of band--the kind you find in your memory more often than you do on the radio, but they pride themselves in that.
Lead singer, Luke Pritchard, expresses, “I think that’s the beauty of us, we’re not the band that you’re going to see all over the media with all of this shocking stuff, but what we are is a band that’s probably going to have songs you might play at your wedding, y’know what I mean?” And we do know what he means. There’s a reason they’ve been around for 15 years and continue to sell out arenas, whereas a loud and exposed One Direction saw only a third of that lifespan, but who’s counting?
The Kooks have proven that perhaps modesty is the best policy, but honesty is cool too. They’ve practiced said approach in their brand new album, ‘Let’s Go Sunshine,’ which has stripped the band down to its basics: Pritchard’s recognizable vocals and bright accompaniment by Hugh Harris (lead guitar), Alexis Nunez (drums), and Peter Denton (bass guitar) paired with sincere lyrics sourced from what sounds like the intimate diaries of a man in love.
V caught up with Pritchard to discuss the band’s roots, their direction for the new album, and what 15 years in the music industry looks like.
Congrats on the new album! You guys have also been playing a ton of shows, how do you balance it all!?
Yeah, we’re doing a bunch of shows for the festival season--lots of European gigs. It’s been nice, we had a little bit of downtime, but yeah it’s busy, y’know? But it’s great man! We’re just so excited about the new album. It’s been a while. It’s been around 4 years since our last one, so I’m just so excited to have it out. We really feel like this one’s our best record.
Yeah, I really think so. I mean you’ve got to think that after making a record, but I think it’s the most accomplished work that we’ve done.
Right, that makes sense. I also read something you said in a previous interview along the lines of, “An artist should never make the same album twice,” which I think is a great point to the development of artists and their music. That said, how do you experiment with new sound while also trying to sustain The Kooks’ sound and voice?
I don’t really think too hard about it, I think music should change. The way that I look at it as well is the sounds and what you record, you want them to inspire you and excite you, so for the new stuff, I get that from the song writing.
For me it’s all about the songs and the connections the song produces. If you get that bit right, then the rest comes together quite nicely. For the new album, we kept thinking about that and for a while, I didn’t feel like I had the songs quite right, so I went straight back to the guitar and a pen on paper. We had some really great songwriting sessions and really just went back to doing that stuff.
On the fourth album, which was fun, it was exciting for me to work with samples and loops and with a hip hop producer, because at that time it was what I needed to get out and say what I wanted to say. With this record, it’s been the complete opposite. With this one, we really went the complete opposite way, I wanted to come out with a record that was really back to basics.
Yeah, the tracks on the record are pretty reminiscent of a stripped down sound. Where does the name of the album come from, ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’?
Haha, I can’t even remember, man! It came to me in the morning, when I was kind of in a dreamy state. As simple as it is, I felt like the album had this positive outlook. It was also in the time where I met the most incredible fucking human being, fell in love, and there was just a bit of that, you know? I’m ready for good times. She’s my girlfriend now, of course, but you know I kind of turned my life around a bit. The album is just about going through the shit and being ready for good times, y’know?
Right, but like any form of art, it must be hard to share those personal moments so publicly. Do you feel like the music’s sentiment is malleable to the environment and context? Is it less personal when you’re performing it on stage?
Yeah I think you just put it out there. When you’re playing it live, you want to try to convey the same emotion as it had in the studio, but in the end, it kind of takes on a life of its own really. In the moment, you work with it, you tweak it, they’re not big changes but you kind of just figure out what works live. You figure out what works better. Overall, I think the record is a great live record, there’s a great dynamic, it’s got loads of great drops.
Have you performed any songs from the new album so far?
Yeah, we have! We’ve done “No Pressure”, which is proper romantic, and it’s quite fun, it kind of turns the whole gig into a high school prom. That one already feels like it’s taking off and it’s exciting, it’s really cool. It’s been good so far!
Speaking of “No Pressure”, I heard it was the last song you recorded for the album, right?
Yeah, that’s right. We weren’t even meant to record it. I just wrote it really quickly, it was just this five minute, unfinished song. Those are sometimes the best tracks, you’re not thinking about it, it’s not trying to be anything clever, it just is what it is. It’s honest, simple, direct. We were finishing the album, but had a little bit of extra time in the studio and we just figured, ‘Fuck it,’ and just recorded the song. We did two takes and that was it! Yeah, it was really a nice moment man.
It was the last to be recorded, but one of the first to be released; what informed that decision? What comes to mind when you guys are deciding what tracks are released as singles, etc.?
Haha, it just comes down to arguing, really.
So whoever wins?
Usually, but on this one though, nobody won because we released two at the same time. We just said fuck it, man, we can’t pick one to release first. I wanted ‘No Pressure,’ because it’s a fun tune, and I think it made more sense.
And as you mentioned, it’s been 4 years since your last record, but has this record been 4 years in the making?
I mean off and on, man. We had done some work, but it wasn’t really happening, we didn’t really feel that we had a good direction or good music. We had some good vibes and it sounded cool, we were into it, but we didn’t really have a song direction. It was a bit of recalibrating and deciding which way we wanted to turn. We did a lot of touring because we put out our last record, and we had some time off and a time to reflect. I guess we’d rather put out music that we really fucking loved and believed in rather than, “Oh we need to do a record so let’s put out something.”
Yeah, I mean one of the tracks is literally called, “No Pressure”. After 15 years of being in the industry, as a band that has a spotlight, but is not necessarily in the limelight, how have you perceived the music landscape to have changed?
That’s a really good question, and a really hard one to answer. It has changed so much since we started. That said, we haven’t really changed our attitudes. We’re selling arenas and venues without having mad radio support. We haven’t really ever had a radio hit. We’ve only been in a couple of magazines. The music press doesn’t love us. There are all of these things, but our numbers of streams are extremely high. We haven’t systematically put loads of effort into social media or Spotify or whatever, but I just try to think of it as people gravitating towards the songs or watching us live because it’s a democracy, really--people listen to whatever they want to listen to. I think that’s the beauty of us, we’re not the band that you’re going to see all over the media with all of this shocking stuff, but what we are is a band that’s probably going to have songs you might play at your wedding, y’know what I mean? They stick around, and I see that a lot.
In a weird way, even though we’re sort of old school, we’re working the way people consume music now. I want to make songs that you want to listen to 20 times, not just on a random playlist. It’s been interesting. I think it’s very exciting, and with journalism and the democratization of it with online blogs, we’re getting a bit more love than we were because it’s not the publications that decide that they don’t like you. In a way, I feel like when we just came out we were doing something. When we just came out, our whole thing was we were a pop band, but we were making quite honest, emotional music and people kind of saw us as an indie band. The way that music has changed is that there’s a lot of bands trying to be cool, whereas our music is honest and we’re just playing tunes.
Right, that’s the way. So what else are you guys looking forward to with the new album!?
I’m not sure, man, I just hope it grows and get through to people really! I want to collaborate with more people. We’re in a space where we kind of have a platform as a band. It’s exciting to see where this will take us. I’m just stoked to see where it takes us and where we go from there. I’m already thinking about what the next thing is I’m going to write.