The National Student gave me the chance to have a chat with The Kooks’ outspoken frontman, Luke Pritchard, about their brand new album, Let’s Go Sunshine.
The Kooks’ 2014 album Listen was a drastic change in style for the UK indie favourites, met with mixed reaction from fans and critics alike. Fast forward four years to find that the Brighton band, headed up by outspoken frontman Luke Pritchard, are releasing their fifth studio album Let’s Go Sunshine and it is clear they’ve ditched the jazz and gospel for a more mature vibe that harks back to their more popular early releases.
“There’s a full circle nature on the record, you know, the mentality of making a band record is a lot about chemistry […] we wanted to make a record that we could play in a room together,” Pritchard laughs.
“[Let’s Go Sunshine] is a much more layered record. The orchestration of the record has matured a lot, string and generally the musical arrangements are more thought out. For me, yes, the DNA is there and it was intentional to keep the DNA of The Kooks. What are we as a band? We kind of went off on such a tangent […] hopefully people will hear the growth and that we’re getting better.”
The new album comes off the back of a tour celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the band’s debut album, Inside In / Inside Out, which for many fans remains a firm favourite.
“That was a very cool resurgence for us, new fans and old fans together, with people who discovered the band last year and people who came to our first ever shows […] it was nice to do the biggest shows we’ve ever done, it felt very cool.”
But just how has the music industry changed for the band in particular since their first release in 2006?
“We were never loved by the press, we struggled at radio. The demographic of streaming is something that… you feel quite empowered. It feels like the online side of things, everything kinda changed, there were a lot of old hats when we started and all that bollocks has gone. We feel kind of free and excited to be doing what we do, which is amazing.”
Cue Let’s Go Sunshine. Just from the title alone, you can garner the sense that the band are much happier and comfortable in their own skin this time around. Despite shelving a lot of material in the creative process of the new record, Pritchard is adamant this was a help and not a hindrance in making the album the best it could be.
“It was good creatively to be able to do that and be brave enough to do that. We realised, ‘Are we just making a record to sell more tickets to keep the bus moving? Or to push ourselves and do something incredible?’. It was daunting but a blessing in disguise. Making mistakes in life, it can be the best thing for you. People remain stagnant.”
The album is just that. Despite its familiarity – you can tell it’s a Kooks album from the get-go – there’s also something mature and unique about it. Pritchard tells us he “wanted to go in making a Britpop record, something [he] felt was against the grain” and boldly claims: “There’s not gonna be another record like it to come out this year or the year after”.
The album’s influences are hard to ignore, listening a bit like a who’s who of British band music. An Oasis-like swagger is deftly present on ‘Chicken Bone’ and conversational and honest lyrics a là The Smiths on self-confessed ‘fuck-you song’ ‘Four Leaf Clover’ make you guess again when hearing the sunshine summery vibes of the instrumentation.
“It’s a very modern take on British band music – that’s kinda the expression we wanted to give, pointing to our influences. It was the intention because we love that music, it’s that kind of line between amazing rock ‘n’ roll and comedy and self-awareness, that’s what I love about bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, Blur…”
Despite the headlines and the constant panic over Brexit in the media, the band want to cut through the drama and make an impact with this record.
“It’s pretty straightforward but generally, we wanted to make something really positive. Times are tricky with the generation war and the state society’s in so rather than overtly being blatant and saying it in every song, our comment is to make something beautiful and positive, something you put on and it makes you feel good.”
Pritchard also shows no sign of hiding his true feelings about the pop world, and the decline in band music reaching the charts.
“[The music industry] is not bad at all, but there’s a lot of dark music in our side of things. The pop world is hugely homogenised; the same ten songwriters in the charts is a real big fucking issue. We wanted to make something that’s uplifting and empowered, and there are moral codes to it as well.”
This morality is clear with ‘Four Leaf Clover’, which appears to be one of Pritchard’s more favoured songs on the album. At the time of the interview, the band were about to make a video for the track.
“[The song] is having a dig at the bullies. We’re making a video this week for it about bullying, cyber-bullying… everything has a moral code.”
The Kooks have found the modern age of streaming to be a blessing in disguise for them, with tracks such as ‘Naive’ and ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ racking up hundreds of millions of plays on Spotify and keeping them relevant in the mainstream. However, when it comes to social media, Pritchard has a very different view.
“I don’t think I’m very good at social media at all, it’s a platform I struggle to understand at times and it makes me feel a bit shit… I can’t stand people showing off. The culpability is the biggest issue for me. When people aren’t being made responsible for what they say, we’ve gotta figure that out.”
It is obvious that The Kooks have grown musically since their last release, and with Let’s Go Sunshine out today, at least we have a new album from one of our favourite indie pop bands to forget about modern life and enjoy the last few weeks of summer.
[Originally written for The National Student]