Formed about 8 years ago in Brighton, England, and signed quickly after their formation, The Kooks have gained worldwide popularity throughout the years with the tours and their multiple singles. Last September, they released their third full-length album “Junk of the Heart” with their current lineup consisting of Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris, Peter Denton and Paul Garred. They also finally came back to Montreal for the first time in a few years and I had the chance to talk to Luke about the band’s sound and their latest album, among other things.
CONFRONT: Since this is your first time with CONFRONT, can I have a little history about the band please?
LUKE: Fundamentally, we’re a Brighton band. Brighton is a seaside city in England; quite a small city.
CONFRONT: I’m jealous already. Always wanted to live by the sea.
LUKE: It’s really cool! I’m originally from London and we’re all from different places but we moved to Brighton to go to college. And it’s a really cool place. It’s famous for music because of the mod scene and everything like that. Anyway, we met there and really quickly, we just gelled and we actually got a record deal within 3 months of hanging out. So it was all pretty chill and we were in a good scene in Brighton and it ended up pretty good.
CONFRONT: That’s cool! And how do you think getting a record deal so fast affected your band?
LUKE: I think it was a good thing! We have really good managers that really gave us great advice even though we were really young. We didn’t know who we were then but it was the right thing for us; we were making some really cool music and it was the right time for it to get out. All I can say is I’m glad we got signed and we can still make records.
CONFRONT: And was your surroundings really supportive?
LUKE: Yes and no. You have some bands that you play with, especially older bands because we were 17-18 at the time, obviously, they were a bit pissy that we got a record deal. But there were also some really cool people that really helped us out and who just wanted to support the band and had some pride that we were from Brighton so that was cool. It was a mix, really. I have to admit, I moved from Brighton because it started to get a lot of hassle from people.
LUKE: Yeah just really nasty shit and it happened a lot to all of us. I think anyone will get that backlash.
CONFRONT: Well everyone has their supporters and their haters right?
CONFRONT: Let’s talk about your latest album a little bit. How was the recording process for that?
LUKE: It was quite different. This album, we just wanted to do something different and to use modern influences. I write most of the tunes on acoustic guitar but then we took it and as Tony Hoffer, our producer, said: “put it through a machine”. We used bass loops, drum loops so it was kind of weird for us because we’d always play together in a room and then just recorded; it was all about that magic take. This album was much more produced and we took influences from Beck and Lykke Li and we wanted to layer up our music much more.
CONFRONT: It makes it a little more diverse right?
LUKE: Yeah, definitely! Especially from our second album, which is a great rock record but compared to this one, it may be one-dimensional in comparison.
CONFRONT: Speaking about your sound, I read that you guys experimented a lot this time around, like you said with the loops and stuff. How was that?
LUKE: Yeah we took quite a few different paths with the music and we actually ended up scrapping half of the record, which is kind of weird. You make your record and you put it out right? But we were kind of struggling with it because of all these new things. We had no idea how to really construct a song with synthesizers or drum loops and I learned a lot about production as well. I felt like I was becoming quite intertwined with the production side of things, which was cool.
CONFRONT: And are you guys going to use that new knowledge with your future albums?
LUKE: I think so! We were already talking about taking it further probably without destroying the roots of The Kooks.
CONFRONT: Well either way, no matter where your sound goes, you’re still you.
LUKE: Yeah I think with the vocals, you can tell who it is and with the guitar styles. I think we’re very open and we’ve brought a lot of options to us. I don’t think we’re being held back by being pigeon-holed. Particularly, with the third album, we wanted to become less known as an indie band; we really wanted to break free of that stigma of being a young guitar band. We wanted to show that we have other influences and we can do more complex and interesting things.
CONFRONT: So how would describe your sound’s evolution throughout the years?
LUKE: It’s hard to say. In terms of songwriting, I think that there’s a similar style that has stayed since the beginning. There are a few in this album but generally, it’s very classically influenced by soul music and lots of country, folk music and early 50s and 60s music. And that is kind of the heart of the band. People say it’s retro but we’re really just into writing in a really traditional way; that’s our thing. So I think the development was trying to emulate that and with the second album, to sort of emulate some sounds but kind of more organized and with the third, we tried to do something and make something that hopefully is innovative and inspires people to try something different.
CONFRONT: Nice! And I know you guys tour a lot, do you notice any difference between your North American fans and your European fans?
LUKE: There are differences! I think even in Europe, there are differences between the countries. And then in the United States, there are differences in each state! It’s quite hard to say. Places like Spain, it’s a really good crowd. In South America, it’s an incredible place to play; it’s a Spanish thing I guess? Germany is amazing to us. And in the States, everyone talks about New York because it can be quite a tough crowd but we just played there and it was insane!
CONFRONT: And what about Montreal? You haven’t been here in a while.
LUKE: It’s been a long time! I was remembering it but I don’t really remember the show. I remember the bar with the really weird sculptures and graffiti though!
CONFRONT: You’re probably talking about Foufs
LUKE: Is that what it’s called? It’s quite famous right? Well I remember that.
CONFRONT: So nowadays, the music industry is really internet-generated. How do you think that changed the way musicians have to work?
LUKE: I think it’s really affected it massively. It’s probably going to become a good thing but right now, I’m not sure yet. For bands that want to go into the studio like we do and spend 6 weeks making an album in that sort of environment, that becomes a little hard. There isn’t the resources put into that for those bands. What’s cool though is that on laptops and stuff like that, the technology is so good now, a lot of our songs were recorded on a laptop.
LUKE: Yeah, and that’s pretty cool.
CONFRONT: That is pretty amazing.
LUKE: Yeah like “Runaway” was pretty much just from a laptop with some strings put on and the vocals done on the laptop. And we can record on the road; that’s definitely a big change. You hear about the hip hop guys; they just do everything on a laptop, they don’t even have a studio. I think that’s amazing because it means that you can really do it anywhere. But I think for bands, you do want to have that space where you can get those sounds and those great acoustics; I don’t think that will completely go away. It’s just interesting because the music industry is figuring itself out and there’s so much media out there, like movies and just the internet in general, that music is just kind of at the back of that. Music just needs to figure itself out in a few years and it will be even bigger than that.
CONFRONT: It needs to find its place among all that I guess.
LUKE: Yeah I also feel like there isn’t enough room for fresh people to come through. I think it’s happening but not as much. The big difference is that a lot of the things coming through, it’s not really a start [of a career]. There’s not really anything big breaking out there so there’s not really a big change or a shift.
CONFRONT: I think nowadays, anyone can get pretty big but then after a year or so, they just kind of disappear.
LUKE: Exactly. And that’s why we feel pretty lucky that we’re still around and that we can play bigger venues than before.
CONFRONT: It’s true! You guys have upgraded, last time you played at Club Soda.
LUKE: Yeah I think we have a lot of fans in Canada.
CONFRONT: Which means you need to come back more often!
LUKE: We have to! I want to do the Osheaga festival. We’re going to try and do that.
CONFRONT: That’s a pretty big one here in Montreal.
LUKE: Yeah we want to try and do some North American festivals.
CONFRONT: That’s cool, festivals are always kind of different from touring I imagine?
LUKE: Yeah exactly.
CONFRONT: So I’m going to ask you my last question now, which is to draw something that represents you.
LUKE: Drawing? I’m terrible! It’s abstract.
CONFRONT: So it represents you because you’re abstract?
LUKE: That’s it! I’ll say that. It represents me because I’m abstract.
CONFRONT: Awesome! Well thank you very much!
LUKE: Thank you, it was nice meeting you.
CONFRONT: You too!
To check out The Kooks, to be up to date with what’s happening with them or to sample some of their music, check out these sites:
Official website: http://www.thekooks.com