Less cocaine-driven erectile dysfunction, more introspection -- the Kooks are singing a different tune these days. And this Friday, Sept. 26, they’ll be singing it directly to you, San Diego, when the band gets funky at the House of Blues.
"Listen," the latest album that dropped from the British indie-rock outfit earlier this month, takes a new direction, infused with what they’ve dubbed "electric church music." It’s an aptly titled effort that indicates not only where the group is at but also what they want from fans. With hip-hop engineer Inflo and Kooks frontman Luke Pritchard sharing the production and writing credits and a new drummer on board, the Kooks rallied under a different approach to the studio that resulted in a fresh record from the group. Pritchard speaks on that, looking for the right beats, the healing power of music and more below.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz: Congrats on the new album! It’s rad to see you guys come out in a different direction. Is there anything that you can point to that inspired that?
Luke Pritchard: Well, thanks a lot, that’s really cool to hear. But yeah, we did change quite a lot. I think we took time out from each other, and aside from that, some other influences were coming into the band. Mainly for me it was quite a big collaboration with Inflo. We co-produced it together, and we wrote it together as well, so it was like he almost jumped into the band, almost having a hip-hop guy in the mix. I mean, it’s not a hip-hop record, but it brought loads of new kinds of music into the band, you know? But in terms of pinpointing where the change happened, I think it was basically after touring "Junk of the Heart," I was a pretty sort of fed up with -- I don’t know about fed up, actually, there’s no good way of putting it. I just felt a bit bored by stuff around me. I really wanted to challenge myself, writing wise, and was actually inspired by quite a lot, you know, you wouldn’t necessarily put with an indie band, like Ethiopiques and Ethiopian jazz stuff, and, you know, those kind of influences which we may talk about and listen to but never added to the mix. It just kind of happened.
HLS: How did Inflo come to collaborate with you?
LP: Well, I’d already done a kind of home demo of "Around Town," the first song on the album, with gospel choir, soulful, and that kind of drumbeat, and so I wanted someone to help with the beats mainly -- not the beats, but that really kind of sonic range you get in hip-hop that you don’t necessarily find in other kinds of music. A friend of mine sent me a SoundCloud [of Inflo], and so I just got in touch with him through his manager and said, "Do you want to go for a cup of coffee?" We just clicked instantly.
HLS: So did that have you guys approach the studio completely differently?
LP: Yeah, it was very different. He works in a very different way from Tony Hoffer -- he’d done our previous records. We did a lot more tinkering on the computer, so it was kind of a more modern approach. Previous records we tried to keep it really raw -- not raw, necessarily, just kept it very live. So this one was like a lot of over-dubbing and stuff like that, which was quite different, yeah.
HLS: I’ve read that you were in a bit of a rough spot prior to recording the album, but that this kind of helped you pull out of it. Did the album have any sort of cathartic effect for you?
LP: Well, yeah, music inevitably is going to help you anyway -- that’s sort of the point of it. But for me, pouring myself into the music was definitely a good thing. I don’t know what happened -- there was just a bunch of stuff going wrong, and it’s a bit of a cliche because people will say you write your best stuff when you’re down, but it kinda happened. I was just at a bit of a low, and the music definitely ... finding a collaborator and the band coming together and the new drummer, who is amazing -- all these great things started happening with the music, and so in the process it kind of saved me because I was definitely headed into a bit of a downward spiral. I wasn’t very happy, you know? But now I don’t know, maybe it’s ‘cause the music, maybe that’s why I was on that spot anyway. I don’t know.
Hannah Lott-Schwartz, a San Diego native, moved back to the area after working the magazine-publishing scene in Boston. Now she’s straight trolling SD for all the music she missed while away. Want to help? Hit her up with just about anything at all over on Twitter, where -- though not always work-appropriate -- she means well.