Straight from a music school in Brighton to the top of the charts in England, The Kooks are the United Kingdom’s answer to The Strokes. With their debut album Inside In Inside Out having already sold over a million copies (making it second only to the Arctic Monkeys in terms of sales for a debut release), the band of young troops (the oldest is 21) have set their sights on the States. The curly haired frontman, Luke Pritchard, phoned me while out on the town:
Hey, man. Where are you and what are you up to today?
I’m in Brighton, ya see, just hanging out. We were just rehearsing, so nothing too exciting (laughs).
Have you been able to take any time off to enjoy your success, or has it been all work?
Umm… I don’t know about enjoying the success, but yeah we’ve had some time off which was really nice. Just to hang out and to be friends again, I suppose. We were kind of at each other’s throats by the end of the tour.
Is it hard to be with the same guys day in, day out?
Yeah, of course, but it’s like siblings- we’re like brothers. Your brother can annoy you, probably more than anyone in the whole world, but you still love him, don’t you?
Do you feel like you’ve been successful? From the looks of it it looks as though things are really starting to pick up for you.
Yeah, in England it’s going really well. How do you measure it though, that’s the problem. You always want to be bigger and better, ya know.
Is it a terrifying position to be in, that you’re getting so much attention off of your first album?
(Laughs) Yeah, I kind of wish that we had a more slow… no, fuck that. Ya know what, you’ve gotta take what ya get, yeah? It’s very cool, yeah, and things are starting to pick up in the U.S… we got a deal with Virgin… a lot of people working there are really passionate about it so it’s kind of an exciting time for us- to come and do a U.S. tour, ya know.
I’ve heard that American bands don’t feel like they’ve really “made it” until they’ve made it overseas. Is it that way for you? Is it very important that you succeed over here?
Definitely. I think the UK and America have the two best music scenes in the world. Obviously the US, it’s like making it in America is like the ultimate (laughs)… But at the same time, I think, what’s cool is to be able to have fun, and to go and play shows all over the world, and America’s just such a cool place. So much fun, and we always have fun with it. If we can keep coming back, and people don’t get fed up with us than that’s a good thing, right?
You’ve got a small tour coming up soon in the States.
Yeah, it’s about three weeks which is pretty small for the US, but we didn’t want to come over and do, like, three months solid. We want to be successful in America, but we’re not obsessed by it like a lot of English bands. In England it’s just about every band that makes it at all in England are like “right, we’re gonna go over and conquer America!” We just want to take it easy and try to immerse our band into US culture, instead of simply coming in there and being really bullshit like, “All right, here we are!”
You had said that you first knew you were famous when Noel Gallagher said some shit about you.
Who would have to speak kindly of your band for you to feel accepted by your fellow musicians? Whose opinion do you really respect?
A lot of people have been good about saying good things about our band, which means a lot. People like Paul Weller, and that’s amazing, but I don’t know. It’s very cool, but you just never know if it’s real, ya know what I mean?
People like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. Also I’m a really big fan of Kings Of Leon, and The Strokes and so their opinions mean a lot, so lots of modern people as well. Imagine Bob Dylan saying he liked our band. (laughs) I tell you what would be really interesting would be David Bowie ’cause, obviously we named our band after one of his songs. So that’d be interesting to see if he liked us or not. (laughs)
Have you ever met him?
Oh, god no! Fuck no.
Would you even want to?
Yeah, of course, but I’d like to meet him under the right circumstances. Him and Morrissey, if I could meet them properly, but not in a crowded room and be like, “HEY MAN!!!” (screams)
Over the past decade it’s become less common to see a band celebrating in the excesses of rock ‘n’ roll, whereas in the ’70s and ’80s it was all about the drugs and the sex. Are The Kooks a party band?
Yeah we are, but not like Motley Crue or something. (laughs) We do have a good time and all that, and we do go out and we do sorts of things, but I think anyone our age goes out and gets mashed, right? I don’t feel like that I want that to be associated with our music. It’s a funny thing, like the Stones. To me, the reason why they’re great they’re all about the sexual revolution of the sixties, but then all the drugs and the alcohol- I always think they’re great in spite of those things, not because of them. I just think, let’s make great music and not make it about going out and getting mashed.
Definitely. It doesn’t have to be about that, but I always like to see, or hear of, a band letting loose ’cause that’s part of rock ‘n’ roll.
A lot of the media now is all about that, and it kind of turns it off for me- when you see people in the media celebrating these kinds of (drugged up) people. It’s like The Doors made great music, it wasn’t just about how fucked up Jim Morrison was.
I saw a video of you doing a cover of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which is by far the most covered song of last year.
(Laughs) Yeah, but we did it first!… A friend of ours had a copy of the song before it was even out and noone had heard it and he was like, “You’ve gotta listen to this!” So we did it and then a week later Nelly Furtado did it.
I hear that you hate giving interviews.
(Laughs) I’ve gotten used to it. I used to really hate it, in the beginning, ’cause I was dating a pretty famous girl (Katie Melua) and that was all reporters wanted to talk with me about.
The Brit Awards just happened and you were nominated for “Breakthrough Artist,” but didn’t win. Do you pay attention to this sort of popularity contest?
Those awards are good to just let go and have a good time… We’ll win one next year though!