Written by Laura Hamlett Monday, 14 April 2008 12:43
We love to play. We love to write. We love to hang out with each other.
With their debut Inside In Inside Out, Brighton's The Kooks set the bar high with an album that was simultaneously fresh and of the moment and comfortable and classic. But the bigger question loomed: could they pull off a successful and equally enjoyable follow up? Thankfully, with the release of Konk, The Kooks have succeeded in crafting a brilliantly catchy sophomore album.
I recently had the chance to chat with Kooks drummer Paul Garred, a charming chap who was both insightful and gracious.
I think you guys pulled off the unthinkable in coming back with a very strong second album, which is kind of everyone's curse.
That's very nice. Thank you.
Were you at all worried about trying to duplicate Inside In Inside Out's success?
We've always been quite forward looking; we've always been quite prolific. We knew the second album was going to represent what we did two to three years ago. We knew it wasn't going to be too much of a progression, but at the same time it was going to be more mature.
We've been through a lot, and you do get inspired and stuff. We wrote like a hundred tunes between us, and we demoed about 60 or 70 of them.
Wow, that's a lot.
Basically we were lost. We had too much material. So we turned around to our managers and A&R guy and went, "What do you recommend?" That's the record you've got in front of you.
I always find with bands—usually all our favorite bands have just continued what they do. They haven't tried to make a big statement like change their haircuts or doing that; they just find new things accidentally. They don't deliberately go out to look for it. I'd like to think that's kind of what I feel, but from an outsider's point of view. I hope that's what we've done.
And I think your music is somewhat timeless; it's not a sound that points to a particular year or decade. What you guys go for is more universal so you'll probably have more success.
We're just into songs. We're not into any particular styles, and essentially as I say with all our favorite bands they've always been the same as that as well.
Speaking of bands who've been doing it a long time and have done it well, what did you guys take from opening for the Rolling Stones?
It's was a funny experience. Actually, we've done it twice. You're playing in front of an empty theater, really. I mean like the first song round it was empty, but there was 35,000 people there, if that. And they're not interested in what you're doing. It's a bit of an anticlimax, in all fairness.
Did you take any lessons from the band?
These days they're more of a—I know they do [new] records but no one ever goes to listen to their new records anymore. Essentially, they finished in the '80s really, didn't they? It was cool. You do get a few ideas, but I have to admit, I don't envision playing in this band when I'm 65. I don't know how they do it. But fair play to them. Keeping the dream alive.
Yeah, exactly. I think you guys have achieved success smartly, and you've not come over and done the big huge tours. You've been very limited.
We, even over back home and in Europe, we've always, always played under what we think we can do, but also never shoved it down people's throats cause that's the most disgusting way to do things. And usually, nine time out of ten, you fall flat on your ass. Then there's that whole thing—I really hate that whole British invasion thing: bands do well in Britain and then they're like "Yeah, we're gonna take on America." And they've got this whole preconceived idea they're just gonna walk in. When we were going there, we had a completely different take on it. We were like, "This is a big country. We're never gonna cover it all." We're just being honest about it. There will be people who've heard us, most of them won't, but we were just sort of like, "Let's just play some gigs; let's see how it goes; let's see if it sticks." And I think with the first record it's a start, but essentially we want to build it; and we want to build it nicely and slowly and properly. Build foundations instead of building a house on sand.
I think that's brilliant. Nobody does that anymore.
No, they really don't. They really don't. Another brick; we just put in another brick on the house. And then the third one will be the same. And slowly we'll start making this house. Whereas some people just try and have a flat.
Tell me about the experience of recording at Ray Davies' studio again.
Well, we've done it before. We did Inside In Inside Out there as well. That's why we called the album Konk, 'cause we had a real strong tie with it, and we love the name anyway. The Kinks: The Konk. Written by The Kinks. You know? It's quite funny. It's a lovely studio. It's in north London. It's quite a departure from what people expect, but it's got a real character. There's lots of sort of north London cafes there and stuff like that. Real sort of pie and mash, if you understand where I'm coming from. Just really gritty. I think that kind of comes through in the music a tiny bit. Just because that's how you feel when you're around there.
You stuck with the same producer for this album; what was the reasoning behind that?
We basically had that decision before we did the first record. We were like, "Look, if we're gonna do this, let's do this properly, and let's find someone we really like and stick with it. We met Tony [Hoffer] and got on like a house on fire. We've got a way of doing things, and I'm hoping that in the years to come that progresses and that becomes more experimental. And we find new technology. We might find a new instrument that no one's ever heard of before. I don't know; that's quite hard, considering how small the world is these days, but you never know. We can just branch out...
Is there such a thing as a typical Kooks' songwriting process?
Luke's the chief songwriter, but then the other three of us, we're all writers as well so it's always been a case of—the averages are that Luke will always come up with a chunk of real good songs. Then we kind of mold in around it, see what else is there, what else makes us tick. That's been really healthy. It's been really healthy not to rely on one person and one person alone. We put it in a melting pot and the songs are never finished. We'll try in every style. We'll try shortening a verse, the whole entire shebang, different chords. That's what we do. I guess it's not so different from many other bands. I think having four songwriters, there's something a bit more going on there.
What's on the calendar for 2008 for you guys besides the release of the album and a lot of U.K. and festival dates?
So we might actually see you in the States?
We're gonna go all over this time around, and we're gonna take it to as many places who want us and who want to check us out. That's what we're gonna do. I just hope that you guys will come to the show to check us out and then see what you think.
Last question: Who has a better time at your concerts, the audience or the band on stage?
Oh, that's a tough one. I'd probably say both. I'm actually gonna cop out here. We really do enjoy playing. I realized when I was on holiday without the boys, just on holiday with my girlfriend and there was like no music around. I couldn't play anything for two weeks. And then there was this guy who played the piano and I started singing with him, and I realized how much I enjoy playing music. That's how we all feel. We love to play. We love to write. We love to hang out with each other. So that's awesome. For everyone who comes to our gigs, we try to put on a performance and I do hope they go home happy. | Laura Hamlett
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