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Interviewing The Kooks ahead of Ibiza Rocks closing

One of England's best-kept treasures Luke Pritchard from The Kooks spills the beans.

It's that time of year when the parties start to close their doors, but as usual, none of them do it quietly. Ibiza Rocks certainly haven't this year. Britpop started to fade back in the day. Thankfully before its departure, it left us some absolute English roses, one of our favourites being The Kooks.

The band that is responsible for Naive and Ooh La, tunes that every person with quality music taste will always know the words to, are set to close the legendary San Antonio venue. It doesn't just take any other band to close Ibiza Rocks. It was right only for a band with a history such as theirs and who made such an impact on the British indie music scene to take the throne.

We talked with The Kooks' front man Luke Pritchard about all things electronic, Ibiza and the past. As imagined, Pritchard conveyed the same unique and humble attitude that his band has always done.

How does it feel to be closing Ibiza Rocks this year?

"We have great memories here and have always been looked after. It's a special Island, where there are always good vibes. Especially this year because it's our 'Best Of' tour. It's nice to sort of do a full circle. One of our first gigs we ever played outside of the UK was Ibiza Rocks; now we're 10 years in and we're going to play all the old hits… well the old ‘hit', we're well excited."

Had you partied much on the island before?

"I'm not really a raver but I have been out there for holidays before. It kind of defeated me, especially DC10. It's the sound levels for me. The bass is like a drug: you feel it really permeates the soul and has that deep bass that you're constantly hearing. It's something I don't really do unless I'm on Ibiza, so it's fresh when I'm here.

The first time we played Ibiza, we were this new band and we were playing Manumission. Before then, we had heard stories about it being a sex club, bearing in mind we were only eighteen at the time. We thought "oh my god, this is going to be crazy" so we went to the dressing room and we were it with strippers. We ended up getting really drunk because we were quite nervous about the show. We came off after the show and I got introduced to Zane Lowe, he had said he loved our music so then...I just threw up all over his shoes… He's obviously this really important DJ from Radio 1 and at the time I thought I'd ruined my career, but he's such a sound guy and we laugh about it now!"

Your new single Be Who You Are has the same indie essence of The Kooks, but you can hear how you have grown as a band. How conscious were you to stick to original sound?

"Be Who You Are is quite a tongue in cheek tune. It's definitely got this childlike innocence to it; that's what we were trying to channel. Back in the studio, back to rock 'n' roll really. There's a bit of gospel/soul influence as well as progressive rock influence, but in all, it's a totally kind of different record. This was nice for us. We've moved on from the first album, but we were definitely more playful with this track."

How did it feel releasing Be Who You Are after it had been two years since your last release?

"Releasing a song now is so different from what it was. I was talking to a mate of mine who is actually a DJ; for them their singles are everything. They may be wondering if it was on a playlist or if it was going to chart. Whereas for us we're at the point where we have been around a while and obviously we're an album band. Back in the day, we'd be thinking "oh shit, is it being played on Radio 1? is it in the charts?" However, now we don't operate in that world anymore. The way I look at it is that if we get lucky and a mass of people gravitate towards it as a single, then great. I just don't think we feel like we need to be chasing that, we operate in a different zone."

You mention how back in the day you would worry about being in the charts. Do you think this was inevitable for as a young band?

"No one expects to be in that position, so when you are in it, it instantly brings on these kind of worries. All of a sudden you've got a team pushing you. Of course, they want you to do well, so it was inevitable. After our first album we had such commercial success, so of course after that anything less wasn't good enough. We have definitely mellowed a bit on that front, though. Once you've done four albums, you feel quite legitimised by that. We definitely don't feel as pressured now."

"Be Who You Are is quite a tongue in cheek tune. It's definitely got this childlike innocence to it, that's what we were trying to channel. Back in the studio, back to Rock ‘n' Roll"

Was it ever your intention to become a well-known band? How was it being a young lad and all of a sudden in the limelight?

"I never wanted to be in a boy band. The intention was never to sort of be the bubble gum to a band; it was always to write my own music. So it was a little frustrating back then because we were this almost pretty band… I'm joking! No, I never personally wanted the other side of it too much. When I started at school, I used to write songs for other artists, as well as play backing guitar and stuff like that. My dream was to be the guy behind it, to produce and write songs. I feel like I kind of fell into it really. I discovered people liked my voice quite later on, so that was how it worked for me personally."

Are you glad that it worked out that way, even though that wasn't quite the way you had planned it?

"Of course yes, but there are good and bad sides to everything. Look at Daft Punk or Slipknot: they're amazing because no one really knows who they are because of their costumes. You're not gonna walk in the pub and have someone shout at them; they are creative characters. On the flip side, I love being an artist like myself because I am putting my head on the chopping block. A lot of my songs are quite personal and sometimes they can be misunderstood, but that's part of being an artist. It's quite an empowering feeling. All in all, I think it was the right thing for me, when I met the boys and we found the right sound. That whole experience was unforgettable. It's great working with people you have so much musical chemistry with; it's so rare these days."

"A lot of my songs are quite personal and sometimes they can be misunderstood, but that's part of being an artist, it's quite an empowering feeling."

Are you glad it happened then and not now? Would you have done it differently?

"I would have done things very differently. There are not so many regrets, but I would have done things differently. Who knows, I could be DJing EDM right now! There's still time now. I'm working on a whole new project and it's something different. That's again a thing you get to do after 10 years. I'm doing an electronic project and I'm also writing for some other people; I feel really free at the moment and don't look back wishing I had done it in a different entity."

In past interviews, you've said that you're glad to be that 'traditional' band, is that always the case or do you ever think about what it would be like with a clean slate?

"There's always the element of wanting to shake off your skin, and for people to give you a chance without the baggage, I do feel that. One of the things that makes me very positive about music now - and sometimes it is quite hard to find the positives these days, compared to when we started - is that there's a lot less pretension now, there's so much more room for fusion in music. People are collaborating a hell of a lot, and that's where you get the freshness. The Kooks were and still are kind of the end of the Britpop-era kind of band. You can group us in with all of those other bands and that's great.

Back in the day, people would have freaked out at a collaboration to make a house track; now not so much. I think that's what is really fun now. I know a lot of people who are in that scene in the EDM world: they all love The Kooks. They love all kinds of music and vice versa, and I find that really exciting. Like I say, I've been having a lot of fun and pushing myself into that world at the moment, and I don't know what may come out of it. What DJs can do with the sounds on computers is so amazing. For someone who is a purist on the guitar and sounds like Bob Dylan, this side of it is fun."

"There's a lot less pretension now, there's so much more room for fusion in music."

When you're in the studio watching them produce it's amazing, I do it myself with Logic but obviously not in that depth. And then comes the creative element, how they put together songs. One thing I find amazing is analysing electronic music or new pop: they never change chords, they do the same chords for the whole song but it feels like there are sections. I obviously get the dynamic from the chord changes, but for them, it's all in the soundscape. It's really fascinating."

It has been said that The Kooks had struggled to break other countries in the past. Now you're playing New York and Ibiza. Do you view it as a sort of middle finger up to the past?

"Not at all, I mean there's an attitude but we're not like Oasis. I think of the way we are as a band: we worked hard and we deserve it. We also feel we always have ambition, but we're still at a level, people are still listening and it gives us more confidence. I feel happy; I feel like there is still a shot and there is still that excitement. We can still set the world on fire with a song. It feels like anything is possible. What I'm saying is we really appreciate our fans; they give us that opportunity. We have this audience there that supports us, and it is worldwide and that's amazing! We're not a stadium band but in most places in the world we can get a vibe going. The confidence that that brings to the studio and to songwriting is awesome."

You guys have been together for 10 years now, and I know you've had certain people in the band that have been almost the glue that keeps you together. Can you imagine what it would have been like without those elements? How do you imagine your life to be without The Kooks?

"It's hard to say: it would have knocked me out for quite a while if we didn't see it through. There's not really been a moment where that's been close although there have been a lot of fallouts. Hugh and I have never looked at each other and thought 'enough is enough'. There are a lot of things you can do when you're in one place. It may have been quite exciting to set up a studio, maybe got into food. I've opened a food business at the moment - I'm a bit of a foodie! Music would always be something that is the main focus, but it is tough because I know people who had that happen and it's tough to get back in the game."

What can we expect from your new album?

"We have gone really kind of 'full band in a room' organic kind of vibe. It's a powerful rock 'n' roll album. There are some really magic moments in there. We are focussing on chemistry. Our last album Listen, had me doing a lot of the producing. There was very little band interaction on that album, but this one isn't like that. That's all I can really say about it: it's like a modern Britpop record. I want it to be like our kind of ‘What's the Story' moment. The tempos are slower and it's got a lot of big, rash, rich guitars with a lot of harmonies. So I'm really excited about it! We're a couple of songs away now!"

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