The Kooks talk Konk
Feature by Jack Foley
“THE greatest records in the world can be put on in any situation: you can put them on at a party and they’re going to sound great, you could put them on in a club and they’re going to sound great, you could put them on on your headphones and listen in bed. That’s when you get a great album,” says Luke Pritchard of The Kooks. “And that’s how I like to think of this album [Konk].”
It’s a confident statement indeed – but don’t bet against it being, erm, naive.
The Kooks’s 2006 debut Inside In/Inside Out was a huge hit, selling some 2 million copies worldwide, and spawning massive singles She Moves In Her Own Way, You Don’t Love Me, Sofa Song, Eddie’s Gun, Ooh La and Naïve. For my money, it was a better debut LP than Arctic Monkeys!
But while the Brighton quartet might not have gained as instant a following as those Sheffield lads, they quickly rang up sell-out shows not just in the UK but in America and all over the world, earning a support slot with The Rolling Stones along the way and categorically establishing themselves as “A Great British Band”.
Singer/guitarist Luke, lead guitarist Hugh Harris, bassist Max Rafferty (now departed) and drummer Paul Garred quickly came to be regarded as a classic British song-writing outfit, able to stand alongside The Kinks, Oasis, Coldplay or any number of others you care to mention, simply because they understand what makes pop music great.
“If it doesn’t make you feel good, then what’s the point?’ says Luke. “There’s too much drab shoe-gazing shit around. I hate all that cack. You’ve to push through it. That’s where you get great songs.”
“Music should make you happy,” concurs Hugh. “It should change you in some way. That’s why our fans are so crazy and committed. There’s that connection.”
“We give people a great night out,” continues Luke, who’s still only 22. “That’s the whole point. And I probably buzz off the crowd more than they buzz off us. Music’s all about getting everyone together.
“How can you be cynical when you’re at a festival and there’s 20,000 people – all different kinds of people; young, old, black, white – and everyone’s singing the same songs?”
Konk, The Kooks’ second long-player, was recorded over six weeks at the tail-end of 2007 in Ray Davies’ Konk Studios in north London, plus a week at Los Angeles’ Sound Factory.
The sessions once again united the group with esteemed producer Tony Hoffer (Beck/Air/The Fratellis) and, according to Luke: “It was brilliant. It was like a school reunion. Tony’s a genius; he’s a really talented guy and he’s fun to be around. We had the best time.”
While James Brown’s Live At The Apollo classic I’ll Go Crazy provided daily in-studio listening, end-of-session downtime was spent in the local Irish pub, The Kooks’ soon making friends with the locals.
“The owner would give us a lock-in,” says Luke. “We’d end up having a drink with all the Irishmen.”
“I just started thinking how cool the studio is,” says Hugh, by way of explaining how he came to suggest the album title. “And how much of a part of our sound it is.”
Indeed, in Konk The Kooks’ fanbase are promised plenty to recall the freewheeling spirit that made Inside In/Inside Out a true word-of-mouth success – one of those rare cultural phenomena that grew and grew the more people heard it – while others will be aware just how much they’ve subtly upped their game.
“It sounds big,” says Luke, someone not given to over-analysing the process, preferring to let the songs speak for themselves. “We thought a lot more about production. It’s a second album and we’d done a lot more touring and recording [by that stage]. We tried to make a dynamic album where every song has its own little world. That was the philosophy.”
“We always have so much material,” says Hugh, of the set that includes songs dating back to Inside In/Inside Out to others written a fortnight before the sessions ended.
“As a songwriter you need to get things down. Making an album has become such a big thing now. The Kinks used to do two albums a year. The Rolling Stones would go and cut a single – plus a b-side – between tours. Some of that immediacy gets lost today. But we’ve made a really great record that I’m really proud of it. I’m not ashamed to say that.”
Of the new songs, look out for Shine On, which finds Luke exploring hitherto unchartered lyrical territory over “the loveliest of melodies”.
“We’ve never done a song like that before,” he says. “A lot of people might think its quite standard, but when you listen to it, it’s not. It’s a really weird little tune. I’m really pleased with it.”
Then there’s Sway, which according to Luke: “Is one I always go back to… Hugh’s guitar solo is genius – I don’t even know how he did it, even though I was there. And obviously the words hold a certain thing for me.”
2008, then, promises to be another stellar year for the fourpiece – but they’re not phased by expectation or that difficult second album syndrome.
“We came through [in 2006] with some great acts – Arctic Monkeys, Amy Winehouse, Beirut – but, for me, last year was a really wishy-washy time for bands,” says Luke. “It feels like the time’s right for us to come back.”
“I hope that everyone puts it on,’ he says. ‘And it makes them feel great.”
Konk is released in UK record stores on April 14, 2008.