The Kooks take us inside the studio – exclusive pics and interview

Looking back on their career so far, the Brighton bunch are combining greatest hits, b-sides and new material

To many, The Kooks are best known for their debut album, 2006’s ‘Inside In/Inside Out’. Tracks like ‘Naïve,’ ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ and ‘Ooh La’ soundtracked noughties indie discos, at a time when Camden squatter hairdos, denim jackets and ripped jeans were all the rage.

Over a decade on from ‘Inside In/Inside Out’’s release, The Kooks are back with their new compilation album. Casting a nostalgic eye while delivering a dose of the new, it’s a little different from what you might expect. Just in time for the band’s upcoming UK tour, the Brighton born four piece are set to release a best of album. ‘The Best Of… So Far’ boasts 19 songs in total, including hits like ‘Shine On’ and ‘Seaside,’ plus a few added extras along the way. In addition to the classics, it includes two new tracks, ‘Be Who You Are’ and ‘Broken Vow.’ Grab yourself the deluxe and you’ll find 20 demos and alternative recordings.

Kooks frontman Luke Pritchard tells all below, coupled with behind-the-scenes photos taken by the album’s producer, Brandon Friesen.

Text: Cecilia Dinwoodie

The Kooks play Isle Of Wight Festival, 8-11 June

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Luke: “All the guys in the band apart from me now have children, so they took some time out [before the upcoming album]. Hugh [Harris] had a baby quite recently, so he wanted to take some time out – but I’ve been working quite a lot. I’ve got another project that I’ve been working on and I’ve been writing a tonne for The Kooks live. I’ve pretty much just been solidly writing music, and I did a little bit of travelling up in the Philippines. I was in this tiny little village. There were very sweet people in that part of the world. They’d never met anyone from England before, so they were really excited to hear music from England. It was cool!”

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“I think it’s really important to keep a balance when you’re a writer. If music becomes your job, it can kind of destroy song writing. It’s quite easy to get numb when you’ve got people on the phone going, ‘We need another song!’ Success is one thing. Making music that makes people pick up the guitar and write for themselves is another. But I feel like I’ve got a lot to say right now.”

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“The last album we did, we did a lot of the work individually – really kind of guerrilla. The great thing about the new one is it’s a real band album. This one’s very much ‘us’ – all rehearsing songs, all arranging songs, all playing together. It’s got the same sort of energy that we had on our first couple of albums, which we were probably running away from a little bit for a while, but now we’ve gone back to it.”

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“I wasn’t particularly sure about the idea of doing a ‘best of’ album to begin with, because we’re not even old – we haven’t even been around for twenty years, but it’s been cool to see the nostalgia out there from people who grew up with our music. The fact that ‘Naïve’ has been going back into the charts and stuff now has been great. It’s nice to have a bit of a nostalgia trip.”

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“[Rather than being remastered], the classic tracks on the album have been left as they are. We chose the songs that we thought defined us the most over the years and put them on there. When we play them live, we’re probably gonna do some reworking just for a laugh, but not on the record.”

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“There are two unheard tracks on there. ‘Be Who You Are’ sounds very much like old school Kooks. It’s written in that vein – it’s an upbeat down rock ‘n’ roll tune, and it’s got a guitar solo [laughs]! It’s a fun tune. Lyrically, it’s all me looking in the mirror. The song writing put me back in that time, so I was trying to write a song that I would have written then. It was quite a creative process for me. I was like, ‘What would I have written then, and what kind of style should it be?’ The lyrics are all self-reflective and about me at that time. I thought it would be good to go with all the other songs, so it’s a nice reflective moment.”

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“‘Broken Vow’ started out like a blues song, really. We put a really big beat on it, so it’s quite powerful. I was playing around with the idea of a catholic school girl who’s gone bad. I went to an all boys Catholic school when I was quite young. For me, the inspiration [for the lyrics] is the hypocrisy of the whole system – when people believe so much in God, and yet they do things that are so very ungodly. I remember they put me in detention, because every Thursday you’d have to go to church and give money. I remember saying, ‘Well, you taught us that Jesus said you don’t have to go to a priest to reach God, but now you’re telling us to do that. I don’t get it.’ They were like, ‘You’re going to detention!’”

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“On the deluxe album, there are some demoes of our first, first songs, ‘Naïve’ and ‘Sofa Song’ – and a song that I wrote at the same time, called ‘Constantine’s Love.’ I never released it actually, so that’s on there. I think people will quite enjoy hearing them.”

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“I would see myself as definitely helping with the producing, but Brandon Friesen, our producer, has taken more of a production role than me, so I won’t be taking the credit. On [fourth studio album] ‘Listen,’ me and [producer] Inflo worked together everyday. But this one’s been much more of a band record. It’s been far more collaborative.”

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“Travelling around [New Orleans, New York, L.A. and Nashville] was great. New Orleans was very much just, every night, going out seeing these totally authentic Cajun dudes playing Cajun jazz. If you listen to the last album, it’s very gospel influenced. It’s very much got that flavour I picked up. I was on a journey to get inspired by it. I worked on my guitar playing, I taught myself piano – I couldn’t play before, so I learnt. In terms of writing, it was definitely about trying to get away from the same chords. Sometimes, three chords is great, but sometimes you wanna go away and learn a new chord. There’s definitely a difference between formal music education and being an apprentice! I mean, as an apprentice, you’re gonna learn more in a day than a month of formal education, probably.”

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“The recording process [of making an album] is quite energising, but then I work long, weird hours. I’ll get up at 3am and go into the studio and work. I’m pretty hardcode actually. Sometimes, I spend ten hours and then go back to the original… And then you read interviews with people like Pharrell Williams, and find out he only worked for two hours on a tune. He’s a genius. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but it’s energising.”

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“I think there’ve been times when I couldn’t be in the same room as Hugh. We had a year when we really fell out – we’d spent too much time together. But now, we’re proper bezzies. We do hang out after touring now. We’ll be sick of each other – then two days later, it’ll be like, ‘Oi, do you wanna go for a pint?’ We’re like siblings, really. We’re all pretty good mates.”

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“During our studio breaks, I go walking in the park. The park’s nice. I think when you get over thirty, you appreciate stuff like that. I’m quite into photography, I like taking pictures as much as I can. I’m learning how to do that. And I guess I read quite a lot. I think that’s a thing that’s quite good for your brain: fiction. It really lets you escape your body. People don’t read enough. Hugh paints in his spare time too.”

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“I’m most excited about the UK tour. We’re really lit by the reaction we’ve had. It’s a long UK tour, so we’re gonna get to go to a lot of places. I’m excited about L’Olympia in Paris too – it’s one of the most beautiful venues, it’s so vibey! There are a few reasons why Brighton isn’t on our list of tour dates, but we are gonna play there during our tour. It’s gonna happen – we’ve got a plan! We’ve decided to do something a bit different, basically.”

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