We recently caught up with Luke Pritchard, lead singer of UK indie veterans The Kooks, ahead of their headline slot at Beyond The Valley festival in Victoria this New Year Eve. The Kooks have recently released their fifth studio album ‘Lets Go Sunshine’ and are itching to play the new songs to their Australian fans. Paraic Walker chats to Luke about the current state of guitar bands, what it’s like supporting The Rolling Stones, The Kooks early tours to Japan and Luke’s latest venture into the world of acting!
Hello Luke. How are you doing today?
I’m good thanks mate, how are you?
I’m very well thanks. First of all, thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. I’m sure you are very busy at the moment. How is everything going with The Kooks right now?
Everything has been going very well. It’s been really nice to have a new record out. The way things go now you kind of just let the record do its thing. It’s definitely been an interesting time because we did all the promotion for the record in the build-up and now we have all had a bit of time off to chill. So it’s been good and, of course, we are excited to come back to Australia to play all the new songs.
The band started off in Brighton, do any of you still live by the sea in Sussex, or have you moved around since the early days?
I was actually only in Brighton for college and that’s where I met the other members of the band. I am originally from London, so I can’t claim to be a real Brightonian. Hugh and our old drummer are from Brighton, and their families all still live there, but we do all live in London now. We don’t get back down as much as we should, Brighton is a great place and I’ve had a lot of great moments there.
It is crazy to think it’s been twelve years since the release of ‘Inside In Inside Out’. How does it all feel looking back from 2006 to now?
It’s all a bit of a blur really (laughs). I can’t quite believe it. We have done so much; so, I feel like we’ve had a great run and its great that I actually feel like the band are in one of the most exciting periods we’ve been in, even now, fifteen years in. The fact that our first album has just grown and grown is amazing. We have seen so many young people discover records, even now, and that is really exciting. I guess looking back on it all, I am quite proud of the band and all that we have achieved. We really are in a new creative mind space and I hope people really dig the new album. It is tough when you’ve got Spotify and stuff like that because a lot of people will jump straight to the old stuff, but I hope they really dig the new stuff too.
“the music industry is a fucking cash cow, to be honest”
On that topic; what do you think about the scene for young bands coming up these days compared to 2006? Do you feel lucky that you, and other bands coming up at that time, had the last taste of the pre-digital era?
Yeah, I mean it’s completely different these days. I just think the music industry is a fucking cash cow, to be honest. There is a new danger that things will get worse and worse. From our point of view, it’s interesting because there is only a few bands left and when we were coming through there was actually a lot more competition. I think if you are a great band now the world is wide open to you and if you’re good you will get noticed. Even though bands aren’t as popular as they were, there are still great bands coming through, look at Blossoms or Catfish and The Bottlemen. Even 1975, who are more pop, but they are still a band. I think they are a great example of how bands can now get much bigger, much quicker. So it’s probably easier because, like I said, there are only like four bands left in the whole world (laughs). Also, being 31, I’m into it (new bands) but I struggle with living in a non-album era. People don’t really think about albums like they used to. As an industry, we have got to make sure there is that support for artists to be able to come through. The monopoly of the industry has always been like that in some way, but what I’m trying to get at is, new artists or bands that need to break through that monopoly are finding it very tough. In London, I don’t know about Australia, but a lot of the venues we used to play are shut down now or they don’t do live music. I don’t want to be an old hag, but those things do need to be protected and I’d like to see more done to protect them.
The Kooks latest album came out in August, and is called ‘Lets Go Sunshine’. Now that it’s been out a few months and you’ve had some time to reflect, as you mentioned earlier about your time off. What part of the album are you most proud of?
That’s a tough question to answer. I’m happy with the record in its entirety, there are some moments that I do love. Like ‘Honey Bee’ for example, getting my Dad’s song on the record was quite cool. My dad died when I was a kid, and he was a songwriter. I had some old demos of his songs that never really saw the light of day. He played a bit with people like The Rolling Stones, he was sort of in the scene but he never actually got to cut a record. So I got his demos and did a version with the band, so that was a really cool moment to do something like that involving my father. I’m really happy with the way it came out, I feel like we did it justice. I love ‘No Pressure’ because it was just a great moment for us in the studio, the feel and vibe when recording that was special. Now, looking back on it, I think actually love the record more than ever.
Your music has taken you all over the world, I’m sure, but what country have you had the best memories on the road? Is there a particular tour that you guys look back on fondly?
Some of the first tours are definitely the most nostalgic. The first time going to places like Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. I remember we went and got suits in Hong Kong and got them delivered to Sydney. Then we all went out on the town and did the cliché things, like seeing a kangaroo (laughs). The one that sticks out to me the most has to be Japan, which was the most amazing feeling. They love bands and it’s just so different there. Thinking about that first time in Japan always just blows my mind. I felt like we really made it when we got there, you know, I remember thinking, “we are in Japan, we’ve made it boys!”(laughs).
So you will be playing at Beyond The Valley in Victoria this New Year, which means you’ll be entering 2019 in Australia. Will it be weird celebrating the countdown 10 hours before friends and family?
We always love New Years in Australia! It will be great to be celebrating before everyone else back home. We are very excited to be coming back.
How well do you deal with the long haul flights? Or is any member of the band a notoriously bad traveller?
We are all alright in that regard. It’s not the best part of what we do, having to travel so much. I don’t really mind it though; it would be nice if we could get some kind of Concorde situation going again. Especially for gigging because it’s actually more the jet lag. I don’t mind the actual flight, but the fucking jet lag is just so difficult when you have to do actual shows. You are so tired, but you have to get on stage and perform the show. Sometimes in your head you just want to be in bed, watching friends (laughs).
Having to cram 10 plus years worth of songs into an hour set must be quite the task. Is it hard to fit in all your favorite songs from all your albums? Also, is there a song you are particularly enjoying playing on this recent tour?
Yeah it can be quite tough, we have five albums, and so it is tough to choose. Certain songs do work better live than others. We just try and do what we think will make the best show. I haven’t actually had a look a set list yet for this tour, so I’m not quite sure what we are going to do. It’s definitely getting hard and inevitably there’s always going to be people upset that we didn’t play their favourite song. You can’t please everyone, as they say.
You will be joined at Beyond The Valley by the likes of Tash Sultana, Alice Ivy, and even Foals are doing a DJ set. Is there anyone in particular you want to see on the lineup? If that is, you even have the time to catch someone else’s set.
Yeah, I’m excited to see everyone. There are some cool people I wasn’t really aware of that I want to check out. I think we will be doing quite a lot of watching. It’s one of the good things about these kinds of festivals because you are travelling with the same people for a few weeks. Who would you suggest for people we should be watching? I’m not really aware of a lot of people playing yet. Obviously people like Duke Dumont and Pnau, of course, but who else would you recommend?
There’s a great band from Melbourne on the bill called City Calm Down that you should check out. It’s a slightly darker brand of pop.
Oh ok, City Calm Down? Sounds cool, I’ll be sure to check them out then.
Speaking of people you share stages with… how was it opening for The Rolling Stones again?
Yeah, it was great, the catering was amazing (laughs). We love playing with The Stones and felt very honored to be asked back. We played with them in 2008, I think? So it’s always nice to be asked back, but unfortunately, we could only play two shows with them because we had our own tour going on at the same time. They are really cool guys and they still put on the best show. I always really enjoy watching them. They are tough shows; playing two stadiums with The Rolling Stones is something you are certainly aware of when you are playing. It’s really cool though; if you are getting asked back to play with The Rolling Stones you must be doing something right?
You are not wrong there. One last question to finish up. We heard you and Gus from Alt J are diving into the acting world. Could you tell us a bit more about this project?
(Laughs) Yeah, I can’t wait for it to come out! They are taking ages; I think they are waiting for a film festival or something. It’s like a comedy short film and it’s a bit close to the bone like all good comedies should be. My character is a guy who’s in a band that’s meant to be really big and Gus is in the cool new band. We have a falling out in a small town in France. It was really fun and I enjoyed the acting. I’ve not really done any since I was a teenager, so it was quite challenging but really fun. I hope people like it!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Luke, enjoy the rest of the year and I’m looking forward to seeing you at Beyond The Valley.
Thanks mate, have a lovely evening and I’ll see you there!
Interview by Paraic Walker
The Kooks Australian Tour 2018
Friday 28 December – Sunday 31 December – Beyond The Valley, VIC
Friday 28 December – Tuesday 1 January – Lost Paradise, NSW
Friday 28 December – BEACH LIFE, Jimmy Melrose Park, SA
Sunday 30 December – Monday 31 December – Origin Fields, WA
Thursday 3 January – Festival Hall, Melbourne
Saturday 5 January – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Sunday 6 January – Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane