Time Out Rio de Janeiro

5 Minutes with... The Kooks

The kiss-of-death that is being labelled indie's Next Big Thing brought them huge success then to the brink of splitting up, now The Kooks are back and en route to Rio.

Back in 2006, lead singer Luke Pritchard (pictured, second right) was catapulted into the spotlight as the latest indie heart-throb with the hype-fuelled release of his band The Kook's debut album Inside In/Inside Out. The success of that record brought the usual backlash from the music press and 'rivals' like Arctic Monkeys, however, and the group almost crumbled under the pressure of producing a worthy follow up, scrapping entire recording sessions, losing members and yet still eventually scoring a UK number one with sophomore album Konk.

That album, and last year's Junk of the Heart, may have fallen some way short of their quadruple-platinum debut, but with the likes of singles Always Where I Need to Be and Naive, The Kook's will have plenty of material from which to conjure up football terrace-esque chantalongs during their show at Circo Voador on 10 May. Time Out caught up with guitarist Hugh Harris (pictured, far right) to find out where the band's collective mindset is at now, and how they got here.

What are you up to today?
It’s a sunny day in London and I’m sitting drinking some hops.

Looking forward to playing tracks from the new album?
We’ve been trying out the new album live and it still feels exciting. We haven’t sounded this good for a long time.

A lot of people have been wondering where you’ve been. What went wrong in the intervening years?

Like every band, we went through a bit of turmoil. We went to make a record and ended up scrapping it all. We went back to the drawing board. It was tough.

Were you ever close to splitting?

Absolutely. It was belief that pulled us from the brink. You think, actually I do love playing in this band. You need belief in what you’re doing. Then you can move forward and get on with it.

Is it a struggle to balance your pop roots with more grand ideas?
I don’t think that far ahead. We’ve always been a pop band: that’s who we are and the music we want to play. We can’t shake it. But we like to mix in classical influences. We love to move forward.

Your first album, Inside In/ Inside Out, was such a huge hit. Do you feel pressure to live up to it?
Much as we liked to deny it, there was a lot of pressure. We said the only pressure was to do well as creative artists, without realising we were putting pressure on ourselves. We’ve learned a bit, we’ve grown up, and it’s more about personal satisfaction in writing pop songs and playing them.

A lot of people have criticised you for that – deliberately writing songs for the radio.
I don’t see that as criticism. I struggle to get offended. The worst thing is that people take that seriously – radio is for playing music, that’s what it’s for. If you worry about that too much, it’s silly. A lot of underground music is fantastic, and a lot of it is drivel. Equally, a lot of commercial music is fantastic; a lot is drivel.

Words by Rob Garratt & Time Out Rio editors

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