Tours don't always go to plan - which is something that we found out when we spoke to Kooks bassist Pete Denton last week. The band were en route to a gig in France when their "rickety old dodgy piece of sh*t" tour bus broke down.
We trust that they got there eventually - but while he was hanging around, we chatted about the band's new direction on their fourth album 'Listen', working with a hip-hop producer, their tenth anniversary as a band, not turning into a 'fat band' and what to expect from their Dublin gigs.
They play two dates at the Olympia Theatre next week; Saturday, February 28th is sold out, but a limited number of tickets remain on sale for Friday, February 27th.
Hi Pete! The new album's quite a different proposition to your debut 'Inside In/Inside Out' – was there a concerted effort to do something quite different?
Yeah, I think it was deliberate - it was just the route that we wanted to go down. If you look at all of our records, the sound has changed anyway – whether it's through maturity, or whatever; when you get older, you're not writing about the same things. On this one, we had a different guy in the studio producing [Inflo], and he was from a kind of hip-hop background – but also, very much into soul and funk.
That was something you were all on board with?
Yeah, absolutely. That's really the genre that we all listen to, anyway, so it was almost only a matter of time before this happened. It felt very comfortable, very natural to fit into that genre. It's not like 'Oh my god, it sounds like a totally different band', but the approach was different. Melodies have always been very important to the Kooks sound, but it was just a very different way to recording. It was a very free process. It was a breath of fresh air, really – having everybody enjoying playing music together was quite nice (laughs).
People were a bit surprised when they heard you were working with a hip-hop producer - did you find any resistance to the new direction?
Not from the powers-that-be, no. I think we had to put ourselves out of our comfort zone a little bit, especially Luke [Pritchard, frontman and songwriter] – and that meant not going with the obvious option. We've done the past three records with [producer] Tony Hoffer, so I think it was just nice to be inspired by somebody fresh. Inflo was 24 at the time, it's his first record, so it was a bit of a gamble – but it started working out really early, so it just seemed like the obvious way to go. It was just a really enjoyable experience. To have that ten years down the line – and personally, I've been doing it a lot longer – it's nice to find that again. You can get to a point where you feel like you're on a conveyor belt, so to feel like something's a really fun experience is nice.
Did you get tired of being portrayed as a cheeky-chappy pop band?
I don't think we're a pop band. I dunno, really – I think that's maybe an easy assumption, people put you in that category at the time, and it sticks. I think the band's evolved massively through time, and I think it's been a visible progression. There's never been an overnight, drastic change in sound. Hugh [Harris, guitar]'s still 27, so I guess he's still an indiepop kid, but we're all getting older. I'm more like a war veteran at this stage (laughs). I don't know how anybody could say we're indiepop/rock at this stage.
You're four albums in - so where does that leave you with the older material?
The older songs fit loosely around what we're doing now. Even the older songs have developed; we've taken a lot of songs out of the set because there are certain songs that Luke doesn't want to sing anymore – which is totally fair enough. When you're 29, hitting 30, you probably don't wanna be singing about the stuff that you were doing when you were 15 years old. The live part of the whole thing is like a whole different beast altogether these days; on record, it's quite gritty and there's a lot going on, whereas the live set-up is very big and quite visual these days.
'Listen' is the first album you've recorded with new drummer Alexis Nunez, too.
He's been a massive driving force of shift in the band. He's an incredible drummer – one of the best drummers I've ever played with – and obviously he's come in with his influences and his history. He's just a funk-soul king. In fact, we're all pretty sure that he might actually be Prince; we're not quite sure yet, we've got a couple of phone calls to make (laughs). He's incredible – just his spirit, man, he's so laid back and he loves what he does. I also think just having a regular drummer has made a difference; the history of the band has been up and down, and I don't think I've ever done a tour with the same drummer twice. So to have some unity, you can't beat that, really. It feels like the first time in a long time that everyone's been on the same page, it feels like a band again.
Last year was your tenth anniversary as a band – do you think The Kooks will last another ten years?
I hope we'll last another ten years, it'd be nice to celebrate our twentieth. We will, I think we will.
What was your favourite album of last year?
I really liked the Glass Animals record. I wasn't sure about it at first, but the more I listened to it, I just found it really refreshing.
With all this recent talk of Jack White banning bananas backstage at his gigs, what's on The Kooks backstage rider?
Well, Luke doesn't like bananas, but they're not banned. We used to just have so much shit on the rider – then we realised that it was us that were paying for it (laughs). We don't really have a lot. We always eat out anyway, so the crisps and chocolate and silliness stopped because if we put that stuff on the rider, it's going to get eaten. So there was a chance of us turning into a fat band. We did used to have pretty ridiculous requests, but socks and vinyl are usually what we ask for nowadays. We usually ask the promoter for a vinyl of their choice. You can get some good albums, but some of them are pretty weird.
Do you get a chance to look around the city you're playing on an average touring day?
Yeah, we actually do, these days. We try and keep the parties to nights where we have a day off the next day. It's nice to get up and about and have a look around, take some pictures. But some places you don't really want to venture out in. We've been in some pretty odd places.
Finally, what can fans expect from your Dublin gig?
It's great that we've sold out one night – it's very exciting. I don't think we've been back to Dublin for a few years, actually, so I don’t know what to expect in return, either (laughs). It's going to be a mix – we're obviously going to play some of the new songs, as any band would, but it's a big performance these days, it's a show; we've really gotten into the visual side of things to create more of a show. But yeah – the songs have taken a whole new shape live, so hopefully people won't be too disappointed. I think they'll be over the moon to hear them. It's going to be a good night out. Bring your mothers.