With the release of their latest single, Be Who You Are, THE KOOKS continue to keep their fans on their toes with their ever-transforming musical journey. The upbeat rock ‘n’ roll track harks back to the four-piece’s early days, with its catchy melodies and guitar solos. To mark their 11-year career and satisfy our need for nostalgia, the band’s compilation album, The Best Of… So Far, is set to be released on 19th May. The title is a cheeky hint to many more monumental tunes hidden up their sleeves; are we in fact yet to hear the best of The Kooks? Headlining the festival’s closing night, the band will return to Sound City after completing their ‘Best Of’ tour: the perfect way to welcome in what feels like a new chapter for The Kooks. Talking nostalgia and new musical directions, Jessica Greenall catches up with the band’s frontman, Luke Pritchard.
This will be your third time performing at Liverpool Sound City, what has been your overall experience of the festival and performing in Liverpool?
We have a proper connection with the city as our manager is based there and managed some amazing bands from there, including The La’s, Mansun and Cast. We also did some of our first recordings with Ian Brodie there and have some great memories. The crowds are always music lovers and deliver an amazing vibe every time. The last time we played was in an industrial unit and was pretty nuts! People pouring out onto the streets. Was amazin’.
You are celebrating your own 10th anniversary since the release of Inside In/Inside Out. What can audiences expect from the ‘Best Of’ tour as a celebration of your momentous career so far?
Yeah, crazy; it’s been 10, well 11 years, now. It’s going to be a full retrospective tour so just playing for our audience all the songs that have defined the band! Only a few new ones, so expect the nostalgia to flow!
Has your approach to writing music changed? If so, in what way and why?
I still just try and tap into it the same way; I never try to force a song. But I play a lot more piano now and use Logic so it makes the vision for the production easier early doors. But, essentially, I approach it the same way. I also co-write more than I used to, which has definitely changed me.
Your previous albums were produced by Tony Hoffer, whilst Listen was produced by you, Inflo and Fraser T Smith. What made you decide to work alongside these two producers, as well as contribute to production duties yourself?
Ha, I didn’t realise I was producing ‘til after the fact! I think I just was so heavily involved every minute every day with the album, and getting in touch with Inflo and Fraser was part of that process. They both inspired me in a huge way and gave me confidence, which I think at the time had been pretty knocked. We also just wanted to work out of our comfort zone, which is ‘band in a room’. It was a challenge, as I said earlier.
What difference has this collaborative and more personal approach to producing your album made to your music? Listen feels a lot more spiritual and conceptual compared to your earlier work, and I wondered if this had something to do with it.
Yes, I think that is fair to say. And thank you for that! I personally was really searching for something, didn’t know what it was – I was bored, I think. Bored of myself. Inflo brought a wonderful mysticism to the album and the writing and we went deep on the lyrics, [covering topic’s it’s] sometimes hard to talk and sing about, and that’s why it was cool to have such great relationships with Inflo and Fraser. Working with them, you feel you can just say what you feel and roll [with it], and there’s no judgement.
A blurring of genres is becoming a popular choice for today’s artists, and a choice that is evident in Listen. The album contains tracks that fall under many musical styles, such as funk and soul, gospel, electronic, jazz and R&B. Do you think it is beneficial as an artist to experiment with genres and to not be limited by one?
We have always done that, I think. Inside In/Inside Out is incredibly jumpy, genre-wise. Fusion is where you can meet in the middle with all the people you make music with.
Given the change of producers and band members, has the overall chemistry of your band altered and has this played a role in the development of your music?
Of course it has, and we’ve been helped and guided and changed, but essentially it’s a journey – some jump on, some jump off, we keep rolling!
What are the biggest changes you have witnessed in the music world throughout your career?
The obvious is the way the outside scoops up music: the double-edged sword of the internet and apps. And, from the inside, music production has changed so much! We recorded our first album to tape. The tech is so exciting now. So we are trying to hold on to the roots while enjoying the new tech, I would say.
The Kooks headline the Atlantic Stage on Sunday 28th May.