Indie Rock Icons The Kooks Continue to Charm a Decade After Their Debut

By Valerie Osipov, November 11, 2019

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UPDATE 12.33pm on November 12: The Kooks have canceled their China tour, because singer and guitarist Luke Pritchard has yet to recover from a spinal injury. The indie band’s frontman took to Facebook to apologize to Chinese fans, while promising that the band will come back to China soon.

The British rock renaissance that dominated the early 2000s gave birth to a number of iconic bands, such as The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. These groups have cemented themselves as essential ‘landfill indie,’ surviving the test of time and following us from playlist to playlist.

Among such groups is The Kooks. Formed in Brighton in 2004, the rockers first stole hearts with their debut album Inside In/Inside Out in 2006, which included darling tracks like ‘Naïve’ and ‘She Moves in Her Own Way.’ The pop record would come to define the feel-good sound of The Kooks, and was accompanied by such buzz (it went quadruple platinum in the UK) that the band went on to record a live acoustic version at Abbey Road Studios (you know the one) just a year later. 

Their follow-up releases, 2008’s Konk and 2011’s Junk of the Heart, continued to charm, solidifying the band as a bright and breezy soundtrack for teenage youth, with upbeat guitar riffs and effortlessly catchy choruses about falling in and out of love. 

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Image via The Kooks/Facebook

Having gone through a few shifts in core members, including the departure of their original bassist and founding drummer Paul Garred, the band is currently comprised of vocalist Luke Pritchard, Hugh Harris on lead guitar and Alexis Nunez on drums. 

After a decade of studio albums and experimenting with new sounds, followed by a three-year hiatus, the trio compiled a greatest hits record dubbed The Best Of… So Far, featuring sweet singles like ‘Ooh La’ and ‘Junk of the Heart (Happy).’ Their latest album Let’s Go Sunshine, which they put out last year, marked The Kooks’ return to the spotlight and saw the beloved indie rockers continuing to experiment with styles. 

This month, The Kooks embark on a China tour with stops in Beijing and Shanghai. We caught up with guitarist Harris to talk about the band’s monumental music career and what it feels like being a glimmering emblem of indie rock nostalgia. 

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What are you most excited for while touring in China?
This will be our third visit to China. [We’re] looking forward to performing for all our fans and bringing love and positivity through our music. I also can’t wait to eat traditional Chinese food and practice my Mandarin. 

Being a defining symbol of a nostalgic era of indie, how have you evolved as a band over the years?
It’s an honor to be a source of nostalgia for a generation and we treasure that deeply, but it’s also important to evolve and keep moving creatively. We have grown up with our fans and acquired some new younger ones along the way, but we have never sacrificed our identity to gain relevance to suit a new generation. 

Your first album, Inside In/Inside Out, was so formative and a smashing success. Do you often find yourselves trying to recreate that magic sound of your early material or embracing new directions?
That magic you speak of is something every artist tries to recreate. That’s the juice and it needs squeezing regularly. Sometimes fruit is low hanging and sometimes it’s not. This depends on many things being in place – mental health, a support network and inspiration. 

Speaking of Inside In/Inside Out – you recorded a live version of the album at Abbey Road Studios in 2005. Was that a dream come true for the band at that point?
Making an album as a band is a dream come true in any studio, and the opportunity to do so at Abbey Road was humbling. It’s an expensive studio to work at, and you are consistently reminded of the achievements of projects that have happened there. It’s sometimes hard to focus on what you are actually doing with all that looming in the background. It felt at times like we were recording in some kind of museum with a gift shop, not a studio. I would love to go back there 50 or 60 years ago and be a fly on the wall. 

Let’s Go Sunshine came out just last year after Hello, What’s Your Name? in 2015. What were The Kooks up to in that three-year gap between albums?
I spent that time traveling in India, meditating and doing yoga – getting the intention set in my life. I was young when we started the band, and I needed to do some catching up with things internally. I also worked lots on my solo record, which is going to come out early next year. It’s kind of orchestral soulpop music recorded in my spare time over eight years and across four continents. 

Most recently, you put out a new single titled ‘So Good Looking’ this summer, which undeniably captures that quintessential sound of your debut record. Tell us about the track and what inspired it.
It’s more of a return to format for us. We wanted to make something that was part of our refined essence and so we decided to almost pastiche ourselves. Our fans loved it! 

What was it like putting together a greatest hits album so early in your musical career?
It was surprising and exciting to be asked to do that by our label and also extremely hard to pick the songs! I guess that’s a good thing. People listen to music in compilations these days anyhow, cherry picking their way through catalogues on streaming platforms. I do feel young compared to other greatest hits artists, but I wouldn’t describe that as a negative thing. 

Are there any older tracks you get tired of playing live?
Honestly, I never get tired of playing any [of our] songs (except perhaps in rehearsals). I don’t allow myself to get bored of them live and personally, if I feel that emotion coming on, then I change what I’m playing to keep it interesting. That’s my duty as a performer. 

[Images courtesy of promoters]


Beijing: Thu Nov 14, 8.30pm; RMB320 (presale), RMB400 (door); Tango, see event listing. Buy tickets here.
Shanghai: Nov 15, 8.30pm; RMB320 presale, RMB400 door.Modern Sky Lab, see event listing. Buy tickets here.

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