It’s wild to believe that it’s been more than a decade since The Kooks spurted from the Britpop explosion of the early 00’s. In fact, 11 years have passed since the quartet released their debut album Inside In / Outside Out, which spawned hits such as ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’. And yet, after all this time, they still find themselves as one of the biggest acts on this year’s Falls Festival lineup.
This is because, rather than fading into obscurity with matching velour tracksuits, flip phones and other trends from the first decade of the 21st century, The Kooks have maintained a steady momentum. They have four records under their belts, and to celebrate a decade in the biz, they dropped their greatest hits The Best Of…So Far earlier this year.
The boys from Brighton even found themselves a new wind and legion of fans thanks to the rise of streaming services and social media. Now in their finest form since the debut record, you can expect a hell of a show by the time Falls (as well as the Sydney and Melbourne sideshows) roll around.
Until then, we had a chat with lead guitarist Hugh Harris about ten years of kookin’ around, what you can expect from The Kooks’ next record, and why their set at Falls will be “all killer, no filler”.
Music Feeds: You guys are heading down under for Falls Festival in a few weeks. How excited are you for that tour?
Hugh Harris: I can’t wait. I love that festival. I love Australia. I’m half-Australian, I get to see my sister while I’m down there and I’m coming down for Christmas. It’s gonna be great. During Falls, I’m quite looking forward to seeing Foster The People and catching up with them. We did a tour with them in America a while ago which was fun. I’m looking forward to seeing Fleet Foxes, Liam Gallagher. It’s a really great lineup and it’s always a great lineup, Falls.
MF: And what are you looking forward to the most about playing for Aussie audiences again?
HH: Well, they’re just great, enthusiastic, young people who adore music and don’t really hold back. It’s like playing in Scotland, like playing in Glasgow or something. The Australians and Scottish have slightly the same passion for music and live music and dancing and being stupid and having fun and getting smashed. And not really holding back. I feel like Australia in general is so uninhibited compared to England but it shares a lot of parallels with Scotland. So I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of Aussies having fun and the time of their lives.
MF: And you’ll be playing in Marion Bay on New Year’s Eve! Is that a lot of pressure you guys?
HH: Oh yeah, exactly! We might have to do the countdown on stage again. This is quite stressful, really. Yeah, there’s a huge pressure there because like, I think we had to stop ‘Naïve’ just to do the countdown once and then like restart it, which was really awkward (laughs). I don’t know if we’re going to be doing that this time.
MF: You guys should just roll with it. Maybe work the countdown into one of your songs and then announce your New Year’s resolutions on stage or something.
HH: (Laughs) Yes! Although we’ve tried the whole talking on stage thing before and it’s like, unless you’re a professional comedian, no one really gives a fuck what you’re saying and that’s kind of what we’ve learned (laughs).
MF: Well, I guess that’s fair. And it will be New Year’s Eve after all. No one will be able to comprehend what you’re saying anyway.
HH: Well, quite. The accent is a bit of a barrier.
MF: Oh, forget the accent. I more mean because everyone will be too drunk to comprehend their surroundings, let alone understand what you’re saying.
HH: (Laughs) True! (In best slurred, Australian accent) “What the bloody hell is this guy sayin’?”.
MF: Exactly! And you guys are playing sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne as well. Do you generally have a preference when it comes to playing a festival or playing your own show?
HH: I don’t know, really. I think the same people go to both but people just behave differently at a festival. Whereas people behave themselves a bit more at like Melbourne Festival Hall. I think everyone’s on their best behaviour. Kids might be out on a date, taking their girlfriends out. So it’s kind of more like swaying and hugging and kissing and then a couple of rowdies at the front. Whereas a festival is just…everyone’s at it! Everyone’s going AT it. Personally, I like them both. I literally don’t have a favourite. I just love both scenarios.
MF: The Kooks have been together for over a decade now, so there’s a lot of songs on the cards. But what can we expect from the set list at Falls?
HH: Oh man, just singles! The reason the tour we’ve just been on was so successful is because people know that we’re just playing the singles and not mucking around with obscure second, third, fourth album tracks. And it’s great, you know? Because it’s so effortless to have a setlist full of four or five album’s worth of material and such dynamic singles. And it’s dynamic between the sound of each single as well. It’s just great to have that armour. Yeah, I just feel like we’ve finally become the band we set out to be in the first place. It feels really good.
MF: That’s awesome. So no filler tracks!
HH: Exactly! All killer, no filler.
MF: (Laughs) I love that! So that’s the new tagline for Falls? All killer, no filler.
HH: Exactly! I’ve just wrapped it up with that new punchline. We’re not fucking around on this tour (laughs). Like we’re literally not fucking around with anything.
MF: So, it’ll basically be The Best Of…So Far?
HH: Yeah! And the best of the tour has just reinvigorated the band and our crowd. We’ve got a career again! It’s not like we kind of died but it’s like reinvigorated. We’ve just gained a whole load more fans through streaming. The first album came out before Facebook and before Spotify, so we never really got the airtime. And now we’re getting the airtime, we’re growing. The band’s growing. And we have the skill set of 15 years of touring, so we know how to deliver a live show, which is great.
MF: Well, now that the band has a new wind, can we expect a new record anytime soon?
HH: Yeah! We’ve finished it! It’s finished, it’s ready to go. We’re just mixing it now and we’re going to put it out in summer.
MF: That’s awesome! And what can we expect?
HH: Well, it’s some music. There are some songs and guitar playing. I don’t know, at times it’s quite rocky, it’s quite Queens Of The Stone Age-y and at other times it’s quite Velvet Underground-y. It’s our perfect record basically. Probably the best record since the first album.
MF: And why’s that?
HH: I think it’s just fresh because we’re on this new label and we’re kind of feeling more like a global thing now. And they encourage us to do basically whatever we want, whereas Virgin didn’t so, we’re just incredibly happy. So, it’ll either be terrible or fantastic (laughs).
MF: Well, even if it sucks, at least you guys did what you wanted, right?
HH: Exactly! You can’t regret pride (laughs).
MF: And even if that happens, I guess you guys can just go back to playing The Best Of…?
HH: That’s true. We’ll see. Thanks for giving us the option (laughs).
MF: And will we get to hear any of the new tunes on the Falls tour?
HH: Mmmm, no.
MF: What if we ask really nicely?
HH: If you ask really, REALLY nicely, then definitely. Otherwise, no (laughs).