– by Leah Vlatko
“Hello?” comes the fuzzy, phone-clouded sound of Luke Pritchard’s voice. Frontman for Brighton band, The Kooks, Luke Pritchard and co are known for big hits such as ‘Naïve’ and ‘Junk of the Heart’. Famous for their secure place in indie-rock fan playlists worldwide, the band has explored a huge repertoire of sound experimentation since their first album in 2006. Funk, synths, drum machines, and vocal gymnastics are all new additions to this ‘guitar band’, which has continued to grow in popularity.
With him in his London flat, eating breakfast, and me in Maylands, Western Austalia, we start talking about his early days as a musician. “There was never really a time where it (being a musician) wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he says. For Pritchard, it always felt right.
The success of The Kooks has brought about four impressive and diverse albums, world tours, artistic inspiration, and ever-growing audiences. This widespread success, unfortunately, was not able to be seen by Pritchard’s father, who passed away when Luke was just three years old. ‘See Me Now’, a track from the new album, navigates Pritchard’s happiness at living out his dream, and sadness that his father isn’t there to see it. This soulful, deeply personal track explores Pritchard’s story, a story that has developed significantly over the past decade.
The Kooks are not the same band that skyrocketed into the alternative indie-rock scene nearly a decade ago. Changing band members and growing in fan-base, it is hard to believe the gritty guitar sound of Inside In / Inside Out and the smooth self-described ‘electric church music’ of Listen flow from the same source. Collaborating with Hip Hop producer Inflo for their latest album, they credit their hugely different sound to experimentation, improvisation, and pushes into new areas.
“Definitely I was making what I was getting into, what I was listening to, what I wanted to get into production wise,” he says, describing the transition into Listen’s soul sound, “it was quite a different way to work.” Listen can be described as ‘controlled improvisation’. It has a very purposeful texture, yet many tracks were rehearsed only once or twice before recording. Taking this kind of album on tour is a risk, and I ask Pritchard what the response from fans has been. “Yeah it’s been good,” he says, “I’m clearly bias though.” Although he was predicting a much bigger reaction in response to such a vastly different sound, perhaps the acceptance of this new direction is indicative of the broader rules for genre.
Hitting Perth on the 17th January, and moving onto Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, before embarking on the rest of their world tour, The Kooks will be visiting most major cities down-under, “I love Australia,” says Pritchard, “I’m excited to go bush, is that what you guys call it?” I assure him that Aussie vernacular does include ‘bush’ or ‘out bush’, and wonder if, similar to many other bands that have risked our often-dangerous wildlife (did you know Australia is home to the ten most venomous species of snakes?), The Kooks would ever consider doing a tour in regional areas. I pitch the idea to Pritchard.
“I don’t know what gigs go on there?” Pritchard says doubtfully. I assure him that there are some pretty cool places, I mean, I’m from Kalgoorlie and I’m fairly certain they would appreciate a few more gigs there. “You set up the tour and we’ll come and play!” he (presumably) jokes.
Touring across continents, languages, and cultures they have played gigs all over the world. I ask him where his favourite shows have been. “I love South America,” he says, “every day is like a carnival – I’m on board with that.” But, the impacts of globalisation is something he has been able to witness first-hand. “Very few places in the world that are actually different,” he explains. He describes a sense of sameness about many of the world’s major cities.
What’s next for the band? Will it be a continuation of Listen’s grooves? A revival of Junk of the Heart? Something new entirely? Pritchard has other plans.
“Super band with Catfish and the Bottlemen,” Pritchard says, “playing a live album.” I’m not sure if he’s serious but I do hope he is. I am sure I’m not alone in thinking a live album super band could be pretty brilliant.
“I think about it (new album) a lot,” continues Pritchard, “I have a lot of ideas.” Pritchard epitomises the mantra of The Kooks when he goes on to say, “I just want to make f***ing amazing music. Incredible magic music, you know?” This is what they’ve been striving towards all along; the goal to push boundaries and take breaks and explore new parameters. This is why they haven’t given up in tough times or with the loss of band members. This is the drive that explains the many different sounds of The Kooks.
If their music was defined by what the public wanted, it would have been four slightly different variations of the hugely successful Inside In / Inside Out. Instead, rather than repeat the formula that worked the first time, they have embarked on a musical adventure into experimentation and variation: a four album story about a group of musicians and their quest to make incredible music. I hear that in Pritchard’s voice and see it in their live shows. “I’m excited,” says Pritchard, and I know his fans are as well.
Colosoul’s music department love two things: food and sound. For this reason it has become somewhat of a tradition to seek out the food that defines a band. I explain this to Pritchard and anticipate his reply. What food best describes his sound? Perhaps Icypoles by the seaside perhaps, toast with an endless array of toppings possibilities, perhaps casserole dishes or perhaps-
“Kind of like a chicken?” he says, making a chicken sounding noise, “a wildebeest!” This is perhaps not the answer I was expecting. “I don’t know, I mean, The Kooks have changed a lot, you know what I mean?” he adds, explaining that where they are now can be best described as ‘gospel fusion’. “A lot of music I’m getting into now is soul music- that’s where I want to be,” he adds.
Supporters of Colosoul sent me in some ideas for questions they would like answered. I ask Pritchard if it would be okay to get to these now and he gives me the green light (not literally, it is a phone call). Without skipping a beat, Pritchard answers what his go-to karaoke song is with, “My Way – Frank Sinatra.” “That gets them. That’s like if you do that quite late like two or three in the morning, one of the last songs at karaoke you will absolutely nail it, have people in tears and s***.”
His favourite sandwich filling? Coronation chicken, of course. “I’m on paleo though so no bread,” he divulges. Paleo diet? No bread? Luke Pritchard from The Kooks is doing the Paleo diet? I am in shock that anyone could willingly subject themselves to life without bread. It must be awful. “It’s f***ing horrible,” he adds, verbalising my prediction of what life without bread must be like. I shed a small tear for all the coronation chicken sandwiches he can’t eat and move on.
‘Favourite movie?’ I ask. “Godfather Part I and II,” he answers, “can I have two?” I assure him that that is probably okay. “And 2001 Space Odyssey!” he says. I was expecting more of a Tarantino theme, considering the vibes of their latest music video for ‘Around Town’. This clip channels cinematic drama with its portrayal of violence, lust, and crime, all to the backdrop of the song’s sultry, smooth tones.
I ask for some advice he would give young people who dream of tapping into the music industry. “F***ing do it,” Pritchard says, “we need you, we need you so badly. In fact, in Australia it’s so good, like there’s so much amazing music coming out of Australia.”
“I don’t know about advice, you just got to keep doing what you want, keep going, and just got to look for the magic, basically,” he says, “don’t let anyone get in the way.” I make affirmative noises and thank him deeply. “There you go, words of wisdom see?” he says.
I finish with a hard-hitting, journalistic question; what is his favourite emoji? Life’s too short to not know. “I quite like the little dancer chick with yellow hair, that’s quite cool,” he says. Worth it.
Don’t miss The Kooks when they play this Saturday night (17 January) at the Belvoir Amphitheatre. Get your tickets here.