Kooks (The) Biography
The Kooks are back. 2006's Inside In/Inside Out was a huge hit, selling some 2 million copies worldwide, spawning massive singles 'She Moves In Her Own Way', 'You Don't Love Me', 'Sofa Song', 'Eddie's Gun', 'Ooh La' and especially 'Naïve' – after which the album took on a whole new life of its own. The Brighton quartet 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 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?'
Anyone who's ever enjoyed (a) pop music or (b) a good night out, has plenty of reason to cheer when it comes to Konk, The Kooks' second long-player, 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). 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 will find 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.'
While 'Gap' is classic Kooks, a song like 'Shine On' finds Luke exploring hitherto unchartered lyrical territory over the loveliest of melodies. It's destined to become another lynchpin in The Kooks' live set. '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 'Always Where I Need To Be' a tumbling rocker with a 'do-do-do, do-do-do-do' refrain that might just be the catchiest thing they've ever done. 'Sway', meanwhile, provides an early album highlight. ''Sway' is one I always go back to,' says Luke. '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: it promises to be another stellar year for the fourpiece. '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.'
With shows already lined up in places as far afield as Dubai, Brazil and – oh yes – Hawaii, not to say some very special UK venues ('We want to do things differently,' says Luke. 'Some of those arena venues… who wants to see a band in a tin shed?') plus a truly magical slot at The Isle Of Wight Festival, the outlook for the boys' 2008 is sunny.
'We've made a really good album,' concludes Luke. 'I love the idea of people putting it on in their bedrooms, then going mental.'
'I hope that everyone puts it on,' he says. 'And it makes them feel great.'
Let the good times roll.