If anyone knows how much can happen in such a short span of time, it’s the Kooks. From their humble beginnings in Brighton, England, to playing sold-out shows worldwide, this British indie band’s success took off seemingly overnight.
In their time spent together, The Kooks have released a multi-platinum album, won an MTV Europe Music Award, and thrived on the mainstream music scene. Drawing inspiration from 1960s British Pop and Rock ‘n’ Roll, their ability to produce catchy songs is one of the reasons they have been able to achieve such a huge fan base.
Speaking with lead guitarist, Hugh Harris, The GROUND learned of the Kooks’ sudden stardom, their thoughts on their own rise to fame, and what the group’s future holds. Forming a band was just a thought Luke Pritchard had one day while out with founding drummer, Paul Garred. After getting Hugh Harris and founding bass player, Max Rafferty, on board, they took their name from a David Bowie song and the Kooks successfully assembled.
Sharing their love for Bob Dylan, David Bowie, the Police, and the Rolling Stones, it only took a few months to write songs and three months for the group to become noticed and signed by Virgin Re- cords. “I think we were one of the last bands to do an Indiana Jones roll under the stone door before everything changed with the economy,” Harris said, speaking about his band’s quick luck. Although they were signed quickly, their label didn’t push them to make an album right away. Instead, the Kooks went on tour, where they were able to fine- tune their sound. “We were sent away on tour for a year before we released or recorded a whole album; that was quite empowering,” Harris explained.
When the Kooks released their debut album, In- side In/Inside Out, it proved to be a huge success, going quadruple platinum in the UK and winning them the award for Best UK & Ireland Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2006. The group’s second album, Konk, still kept them on the charts, going gold in the UK and Ireland. Their latest album, Junk of the Heart, delivers a more mature pop-centric sound, signaling their growth and straying from the inspiration of early Britpop to the likeness of contemporary sounds of today.
“There’s a lot of exciting electronic music at the minute, that’s sort of what’s inspiring us for our next album.” Harris listed Lykke Li and Foster the People as examples of other contemporary musicians he and the band enjoy. “I have a lot of time for Pop if it’s well written.” In the future, their mu- sic will be taking a turn into a new genre: dance. “I thinkoneofthefirstthingswesaidasabandwas that we wanted to make people dance. Now our thoughts about that are coming into fruition, so we’re definitely evolving more towards that genre,” Harris revealed.
The music industry was vastly different when the Kooks got their big break back in 2004, and Harris isn’t so sure the Kooks would have achieved the same success, had they formed today. “It’s incredibly difficult for bands right now to develop and be spotted by a label. Most of the time they wont be given a chance like we had, so we’re incredibly lucky to be here.”
Of the changes that have happened in the music industry, he notes that rock music has been on the decline in favor of other genres: “There’s a cycle to everything, and at the moment rock music is taking a time out. Personally, I’m alright with that because it’s giving other genres of music a chance to breathe.” Still, Harris has high hopes for the fu- ture of music. “I see the music industry being in a good place in 10 years, we’re just in a transitional period at the minute. It will find its place again soon enough; things always do.”
Along with their catchy songs, the Kooks are known for their highly energetic live shows. Because they started out touring, playing live shows has become very important to the group. “When playing a good live show, everything kind of clicks in place, because being able to put on a good show is what we’ve always wanted for our music,” Harris said. Their musical appeal has given them large audiences with a huge fan base in America, Eu- rope, and Asia. Their music has a universality that brings the Kooks together with their fans. “Everywhere we go, we’re touching people in the same way. The cool thing about our music is that it brings everyone together.”
With such a vast fan base, the Kooks have decided to pay their gratitude forward by giving back. The band has worked to donate a portion of ticket sales to charities like the Kato Fund, which advo- cates for human rights and equality regardless of sexual orientation. “We have guest lists at gigs for about 40 people; all of these people get to come in for free and have a good time, we just put a compulsory 5- or 10-pound donation at the door so everyone has to donate some. It’s a small price to pay, compared to the actual ticket price, and that money goes to various charities.”
After moving so fast onto the scene, the Kooks plan to slow things down and concentrate on their next step as a group. Although this next step is not absolute yet, the Kooks have plans to stick together. “The future of our band I don’t know, I definitely see us playing together and writing new songs,” Harris said. “Because even after eight or nine years, it’s still very enjoyable.”
Photos: Matt Richardson, www.mattrichardsonphoto.co.uk
THE GROUND ISSUE #2