A post-#indieamnesty chat with frontman Luke Pritchard.
15 years ago one of arguably the most important indie bands of the mid-00s was conceived in the hallowed halls of Croydon’s BRIT School, ushering in a glorious new age of indie rock revivalism. A decade and a half later – and with four studio albums, countless tours, multiple tales of debauchery and a healthy share of #indieamnesty confessionals under their belts – The Kooks have compiled The Best Of… So Far. We sat down with frontman Luke Pritchard to talk B-sides, familial garlic farming, and weird nights out with Massive Attack in Japan (really).
So what inspired The Best Of…So Far?
There’s a few things that happened. We are moving away from our label (and are going to do another deal), so I think we thought this would be a good time to tie things up; I was getting all this nostalgia myself to be honest. I was looking through all the old footage and the old B-sides – it just felt like a cool moment to do it really. To have a little look back.
In terms of bands putting out Best Of’s as a nod to calling it a day, this isn’t that is it?
It wasn’t really a thought in my head. The Eagles’ Greatest Hits was in the middle of their career and even The Killers did it quite recently. It didn’t feel to me like it says it’s the end because in a way, these things change over time. It used to be a money thing because people used to buy records, but now it’s different. We are very close to finishing this new album so I guess it wasn’t really a thought – or maybe we didn’t think it through as much! To me, it’s like a Volume 1 and we are going to keep making records. To be honest you always get judged by your new work anyway, so we are going to put it out and if it’s a wrap up then great and if not, then it won’t be; we are just in that place that we are very relaxed and we just don’t really feel too much pressure about shit. We live in our own ecosystem, do our own thing and that’s it.
You inhabit your own realm of music making?
Yes. One of the good sides of modern music is we, like everyone, have such a direct link to the people that like our music whereas, before you kind of had to go through a lot of mediums. I don’t know, the truth is we have been in bad ways but right now, as a band, we are very tight and I’m not just saying that to make it look like that. We are all getting on and writing really well together; for us this album almost feels like a new lease of life.
So, The Best Of… So Far is a natural conclusion to the initial period and the start of something else?
I think that’s fair to say. In our last album, we really learnt a lot and stepped out. I’ve always thought of us as more of a progressive pop band than an indie band; I don’t know if we have ever wanted to be in that realm. I think we definitely took a step out musically and matured quite a lot on the last album, those four albums we were kind of kids, we were literally 18 to 22 or something.
It’s interesting you mention that indie tag. Do you think there is still a place for guitar music now?
I definitely think that things have changed. When I was a kid I learnt to use Cubase and do music production and stuff like that, but I was slightly rare – usually kids would pick up a guitar, now they pick up a computer and use Logic. What you can do with the technology has almost shaped the music as much as the tastes of modern people, do you know what I mean? Some of the real hero’s in it, like the Daft Punk’s and the Radiohead’s of the world, really challenged that guitar music thing and created stuff that was respected as high art but still was electronic music. Is it dead? I don’t know, I went to a Catfish and The Bottlemen show at the O2 and they were nuts. I see some of the biggest bands and they hold guitars but don’t play them but I see what you mean, it’s an attitude thing, it’s a rock band thing. It will probably swing back; I remember when garage came along the first time and no one was playing guitars for like five years, then The Strokes and The Libertines came along and they kind of broke that mould, for me personally. I hope it’s not dead.
Do you think the energy and the romance and the anger that guitar bands (of your era) imbued in their music can be found in other genres? Is there a natural successor to the sound?
There’s people like Slaves for example, who have a pretty strong message and their music is certainty challenging, I don’t know, I think it’s an interesting time. I do wonder if you go into the anthropological ideas of it as well and you think of the world, it feels like the world is on more of a knife edge than it was when we were younger, maybe the music was more positive. Sometimes I think, you know with EDM which is basically beats and “let’s go out, have a good time” (that sort of music) becoming so prominent, it has changed things, it’s like the Paul Weller quote, “The public get what the public want” and do the people want to sit around on the weekend and listen to a heavy record? Some people do, but the majority of people want to go out and have a good time and forget about all the shit they are talking about in the press.
For sure. On a happier note, you’ve just wrapped the first leg of your UK tour, how’s it been so far?
It’s been great, I think we have finally cracked it. You have to be fairly tough to do it for the amount we have, but we are in good shape and we know how to do it, we are playing shows that we feel very comfortable with. We are on tour with Blossoms who are the coolest fucking lads, one of the best new bands for me; they are keeping us fresh and young. With the Best Of it’s almost cooler because you are doing it more for the fans, we aren’t saying “here’s seven new songs you don’t know”. The vibe is quite celebratory.
You’re in quite fortunate position, with a back catalogue that fans presumably know inside out?
Yeah, the people who come to shows, they know every song. That has become very evident to me, that we aren’t a one song band; we do have a wealth of material and we have a ton of B-sides. We actually did a whole album of B-sides with Mike Crossey called Rak that not a lot of people know about.
Festival season has arrived and you’ve bagged a prestigious slot at Isle of Wight. Excited?
I’m very much looking forward to it. My family actually have a garlic farm on the Isle of Wight funnily enough – all my childhood summers I would spend on the Isle of Wight so I’ve got a lot of love for the place. My uncle, he went to Afghanistan and Kazakhstan last year to find where exactly they had the first seed of garlic. He’s an amazing character, he is kind of like the Indiana Jones of farming.
Amazing. So tours – what’s the most ridiculous rider request you can remember?
We’ve never really been that kind of band; I feel guilty asking for a pair of socks, it’s like that Lock, Stock quote “you can have a gold platted Rolls Royce as long as you pay for it”. We are a pretty low maintenance band, we like to have a bit of space and hot water and a shower.
Any memorably nights out with another band on tour?
One of the weirdest nights that just sticks in my memory – and there have been a lot by the way – but one of the weirdest ones is with Massive Attack in Japan; we played this game in the hotel where basically we made a dart board for fruit and we just stayed in a room and we got really guilty because the Japanese take that shit really seriously. So, we were like hammered at 6am cleaning it all up. That was a really mad night.