Steppin’ Out With the Kooks

prof_kooks_smIt's always about a feeling, isn't it? If you feel something is not right, you don't do it. And if something feels right and someone puts a great idea forward, then you embrace it and you try and make it your own; you develop it. With the music side of things, we all write songs anyways, so we all know how a song works, 'cause we all know how a good song sounds and ways to reach it up a bit.

 

kooks 

There are pockets of cool in this country I've not yet identified. I'm the managing editor of a music magazine, and I have yet to figure out where people get their tips, how they hear their music. For me, it's easy; it arrives in the mail, and I play it.

Oh yeah, sometimes it's not as straightforward. In the case of England's the Kooks, I'd been reading about them for months in NME so I knew they were something special But hear them? Naw, I didn't hear them until their advance arrived in the P.O. box. Before I even slipped the disc into my computer, I knew I was gonna like this one. But I digress.

How do people find the music that's not on the radio? Is it all MySpace, blogs, Internet radio? Whatever the case, the Kooks' debut CD Inside In/Inside Out arrived and was quickly absorbed by the staff. We all loved it, if even just on principle. A hot new band from the U.K.? We indie music aficionados (not all of us, mind you, but a central core) had bought our tickets and were already on board.

I listened enough to review-positive, definitely-and then I listened some more. Holy hell; this was an album-of-the-year contender. These guys could be huge; it wasn't just an empty English promise this time, it was a possibility. But first-conquering the U.S. airwaves and stadiums.

We were in New York for the CMJ Music Marathon and I pulled out my iPod, broadcast Inside In/Inside Out throughout the van. "Oh, the Kooks," a girl exclaimed. "I like ‘Eddie's Gun.'" I was flabbergasted; how had she heard it? This Brit crit-pick had surpassed me.

Surely, everybody who's anybody has it now; borrow a copy if you're not yet in the aforementioned group; give it a spin. This album has legs-am I right? There are elements of indie-pop, sure, but also some old-fashioned Beatles sensibility, some rock 'n' roll, some ska, some (it's a stretch, yes, but it's there) reggae. This band has drawn upon its influences and crafted something familiar yet original, pleasing yet challenging. (Listen to "Naïve," and then listen again. "Eddie's Gun" and "Ooh La" are great, too. But don't forget "Seaside," "See the World," "Sofa Song"…well, you get the picture. Pick up the album while you're out, would you?)

I suppose the magnitude of the Kooks really stuck home with a recent New York Times Style section. On Sundays, they have a feature called "A Night Out With…" It's a celebrity of some sort, sometimes an actor, other times a fashion designer. A couple weeks ago it was a night out with the Kooks. Yes, America, these boys have arrived; open your arms and ears.

The Kooks are Luke Pritchard (vocals, guitar), Hugh Harris (lead guitar), Max Rafferty (bass), Paul Garred (drums). I recently had the chance to speak with Garred. Oh, I know what you're thinking: It's the drummer; how much insight can he have? Paul was charming and well-spoken, intelligent and thought-provoking. It's worth a read. And if it inspires you to go out and buy the boys' debut CD? Well then, I've done my job.

 

How's the U.S. reaction been so far?

It's been really positive, actually. You come over and you don't know quite how to gauge it because crowds are very different all over the world. Just because they're standing still doesn't mean they're not enjoying it, or just because they're going mental doesn't mean they're not listening.

Is it too much hype to be called the next big thing in Brit pop?

All those definitions mean nothing to me; you do what you do and that's what counts. If you get caught up in all that bullshit, you're not gonna focus on what really matters. For us, it's all about songs, and nothing comes near that. We play live; that's what we do.

The bio says no one really rules the band. How democratic is it?

It's always about a feeling, isn't it? If you feel something is not right, you don't do it. And if something feels right and someone puts a great idea forward, then you embrace it and you try and make it your own; you develop it. With the music side of things, we all write songs anyways, so we all know how a song works, 'cause we all know how a good song sounds and ways to reach it up a bit. But we write all our own parts and we all arrange it together. What we do is bring an idea in, one of us and just take it from there really.

In terms of songwriting, is Luke the main lyricist?

It's kind of hard, because Luke is on a bit of a streak at the moment with writing some great tunes, and a lot of the last record was a lot of his work. Having said that, a lot of how the tunes turned out was not how the songs were originally written. As I said, we all write our own music parts so it takes a different direction; I'm not sure how the songs would have turned out f we all hadn't been involved.

Who came up with the band name?

David Bowie did. It's off an album called Hunky Dory. It's not a band name; it's an identity. Look at some band's names, like the Arctic Monkeys from England. That's not a very good name, but then you listen to the music, and you put it all together, and you love the name. Sort of that famous saying in Romeo and Juliet, any rose with a different name is still as sweet.

What's the last great book you read?

I'm not really a fiction person; I'm into biographies. And to me, it's a flip between the Motley Crue, which I thought was good, but what I thought was even better was Anthony Kiedis of the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. I thought that was a captivating read and so honest. So poignant, it was just brilliant. So I'll probably go for that one, actually.

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Steppin’ Out With the Kooks

 

It's always about a feeling, isn't it? If you feel something is not right, you don't do it. And if something feels right and someone puts a great idea forward, then you embrace it and you try and make it your own; you develop it. With the music side of things, we all write songs anyways, so we all know how a song works, 'cause we all know how a good song sounds and ways to reach it up a bit.

kooks

 

 

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