Interview: Luke Pritchard of The Kooks

The Kooks have recently brought out their fifth studio album ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’. But, rather than play the album to larger venues, the band opted for a run of smaller gigs, which frontman Luke Pritchard tells me was for the “hardcore fans” when I was lucky enough to catch up with him before their gig in Corran Halls in Oban.

First of all, what brought you to such an obscure location as Oban?

I’d never heard of the place to be perfectly honest, but I’m so glad I’ve seen it now – we’ve had the best couple of days here. We wanted to do a little tour for the ‘real deal’ fans and we wanted to do some places that people don’t come to as much. We thought it’d be cool before we announce a big tour to do some interesting locations, and it also keeps it exciting for us. You know, we always do Manchester, we always do Glasgow – it keeps our own excitement levels up.

You mentioned doing a ‘big tour’ in support of the new album, do you know when that is going to be announced?

Next week, hopefully. We’re doing something really different this time because we’re nearly fifteen years in as a band, so we’ve done the circuit a lot and it’s nice to have new challenges and new places.

With the release of the new album, it is clear there have been a development in the influences on the band. Who inspired the band in the beginning and who inspires you now?

I try and leave it to do something fresh, so I don’t really like to say that. But, there are people that we like Arcade Fire, there were some great records they put out. We had a bit of flirtation with Foster the People, they’re friends of ours and they inspired us to go a little bit more ‘computer’ on certain tracks, as such. I think on ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’, it was about going back to the ‘roots’ of the band, and it was about looking to Eddie Cochran, and other late 50s kind of stuff. I really felt like reconnecting with 50s pop, and I was listening to a lot of Buddy Holly when making this album and you can probably hear that in likes of ‘Picture Frame’, it has a sort of doo-wop vibe.

Although, there wasn’t really anyone ‘modern’, except for really Arcade Fire. I really like their whole attitude towards music, and how they do something really modern but it’s also timeless and manages to sound retro at the same time.  We were really trying to make something like that with ‘Let’s Go Sunshine’, something that sounds like 2018, but at the same time is old school.

Congratulations on the new album! Having previously released a ‘Greatest Hits’ album, which songs off the new album would you put on the ‘Greatest Hits’?

I think ‘No Pressure’, ‘Four Leaf Clover’ and ‘Weight of the World’; that’s a really special one.

You talked about going back to the roots of the band, do you still enjoy playing older hits?

Oh yeah! It pays the bills. So many of my mates will say: “You can’t enjoy playing ‘Naïve’ still?”, And the thing is, we genuinely do enjoy playing the bigger hits. When you’re playing it, you’ve got a couple of thousand people in front of you who’ve heard it for the first time live – they make it new again. We’re all human, you can’t help when the roar of the crowd comes for those songs, it’s a great feeling. Maybe not so much in the rehearsal room, but on stage, yeah, we still love it.

Talking of older hits, I have to ask what’s the story behind your song ‘Jackie Big Tits’?

Yeah, you can’t know it. Only joking, it’s about a real situation but you could say I used a bit of artistic license. It was kind of about a bit of a fight – as a teenager, there was someone who I was going out with and it was a bit of a mad one. Likes of ‘Oh La’ are about her too and ‘Jackie Big Tits’ was a way of me using music to vent.

You also mentioned being a touring band for 15 years now, you must have played in almost every venue around Scotland. Do you have a favourite?

There’s that really beautiful theatre in Edinburgh, it’s a decrepit theatre and also Barrowlands. I heard it’s changed quite a bit, but it used to be one of the best gigs in the country. It used to be fucking mad, total carnage. We’d do a lot of tours back in the days when we first started in a lot of uni towns and there would always be quite a lot of fighting, but Glasgow would never be fighting – just mad energy. It was quite terrifying but also really cool.

Supporting the Rolling Stones for the second time on their recent ‘No Filter’ tour must have been incredible, how did you find it?

It was really good. It was nice to be asked back – I wonder how many bands have done two tours, so it’s quite an accolade. It was very cool, we really enjoyed it. Those gigs are notoriously difficult, you’re fighting a bit of a battle playing a stadium where it’s not your audience is tough. Fifty percent of the people there are hardcore Rolling Stones fans. I was speaking to people after our set who had been to 200 plus Rolling Stones shows, and they don’t give a fuck about the support. At the end of the show if you can get at least one of them to like one song, then that’s great.

Having been a touring band for fifteen years, you must have some crazy stories, what would you say is your weirdest touring experience?

Everything you could think of has happened to us. There are a few weird ones – we played Ibiza, and we did the first ever Ibiza Rocks and it was in Manumission, it was a really decadent club and it was owned by this couple who would do sex shows with themselves, and there was this one famous night where they came in on white horses. Anyway, we were playing with Faithless, we were only about 18 and pretty shy boys and we had to share our dressing room with strippers. They came in and were chopping up lines of cocaine, and it stands out as one of those moments. We’ve had some wild shows like that since and it’s sort of ‘standard’ now, but at that point, we were like “whaaaattt!?”.

Finally, are you looking forward to the show tonight?

Yeah! I’m a bit tired and hungover. You Scots can f**king drink! Last night we went to the whiskey place and then we went to the pub – Hugh and I had a bit of a night. I’m going to have a shave and a shower, have a nap. I’m also excited to watch a bit of Vista Kicks, they’re our support, so I’m going to hopefully watch their set tonight.

By Emma Malcolmson