The Kooks: In Conversation with Luke Pritchard
A week after their fifth studio album dropped, Luke Pritchard, the frontman of British indie royalty The Kooks, caught up with me about all things Lets Go Sunshine!
Our chat occurred the morning after an intimate and “pretty vibey” show at Hackney’s Moth Club, which kicked off the run of album release mania. After having released 5 albums, The Kooks are familiar with this process, “you know it’s always lots of fun putting a record out, very busy but good!”.
Four years has passed since their fourth album Listen hit the scene – we talked about working on the new album: “in terms of the big picture we did take four years which is a huge amount of time. I mean, in-between that we did have a few recording sessions where things weren’t really working, so it wasn’t like we’ve just been on holiday! We were always kind of cracking on”. Luke continued to explain how it has been in the last two years where Let’s Go Sunshine really came into fruition,. “’Fractured and Dazed’ was the first track I wrote and felt ‘this could be the start of it’”. “The mentality and process on this album was very different from the third and fourth, I did a lot of writing and waiting until I had the tracks I really thought would make a record and then let’s record!”.
He reminisced on the parallels with their debut phenomena Inside In/Inside Out, “the recording as really fun, it was exactly how we did our first album in that respect – I did a lot of the writing by myself and then brought the material to the boys, asking what they think. We would work on it together, get all the arrangements and that kind of thing all together”. Their last two albums had a more studio-based approach, writing the record in the studio itself “which is cool in its own way and can be very creative – but it’s really fun when you know the songs and structure but go in and tweak it, basically just working on our chemistry!”. The whole recording process ended up being swift, “two weeks in London and two weeks in LA then we were done! It was good fun, we didn’t stew over it but just enjoyed it”.
A track which stands out on the new album is ‘Honey Bee’. We chatted about the backstory to the love-struck sound written in the sixties – “The story is, my dad passed away when I was young, and I was left with his stuff – his songs, record, books – he never made it as a songwriter but was in a band called ‘Bob Pritchard and the Echoes’; they did the whole beat scene. My sister had this demo that he had made himself, so I showed it to the boys and they really liked this song. So, we decided to do a version of it, cut the record really quickly in like half a day. Then afterwards I was having a chat with one of the sound engineers and we chatted and I said, “I have this idea, what if we could actually put Dad’s record on the track?”, and they could do it! So basically, it’s me duetting with my Dad, which is a nice moment that I hope people dig”.
We talked more about family and inspiration behind the album “particularly with my dad, I pretty much picked up a guitar because of him, so that connection is always going to be there for me. I am sort of living through and being a part of the lineage that he was into. Things like playing with the Rolling Stones like my dad did or getting that chance to sing a song with him. Even down to the fact that a lot of my inspiration is the music that he left to me, which to be fair is pretty normal with parents record collections, but I think especially so for me because he passed away.”
Although, it is not just ‘Honey Bee’ which embodies the retro sound. The record as a whole was a “modern version of what I love about British rock and roll bands”. Luke described the motivation behind the record as “a bit of Monty Python, a bit heartfelt, bit of rock and roll, and some pop thrown in for good measure”.
We talked about album favourites – well the current ones at least – because “it’s all of them of course! Favourites are always changing”. “I love all of them for different reasons, not to sound vague. ‘Picture Frame’ is definitely one, I really enjoyed doing all the strings on that one – that was really fun to do something different and a bit more musical. ‘Weight of the World’ was a really cool moment as well, I love having a song like that was just literally one take. No dubs and the vocal take, which I am really proud of, was done in just one take, it feels like a proper performance piece and I love that”. ‘No Pressure’, the albums closing track, prompted a slightly bittersweet explanation, “it didn’t become a hit or get good radio play but it is becoming a real hit with people; as a simple as it is that means a lot to me. I fucking love playing it live. It is such a buzz and it gets a massive reaction – sometimes the simple ones are the best”.
The talk of radio play politics led us onto the changing climate of the music scene and an ongoing debate about guitar music competing with computer generated synths – “I think it’s because it doesn’t really work in that kind of program. I mean, it’s quite a low fi record compared to putting it up to tracks like Calvin Harris’, it isn’t going to sound big”. Despite the radio snubbing, ‘No Pressure’ has pulled through as a clear fan favourite being “the one that our audience really loves” – we discussed how new music media and streaming can democratise the access to music for fans. It’s a double-edged sword really, when you’re trying to compete with phenomenon streamers like Drake and Ed Sheeran for example, it’s pretty mental, when you are looking at all the playlists they are featured on. But on the flipside, it is definitely democratising. With us it’s been a massive benefit with things like Spotify because people appear to listen to us out of nowhere. I am trying to be diplomatic about the situation”.
The interview drew to a close with a quick promo for their support band at the moment, Vista Kicks – a Sacramento born quartet which shares the Kooks’ deep roots with a sixties sound, and worth a listen for any fan of the Kooks.