12 years on from the album that defines the British indie sound, Inside In/ Inside Out, The Kooks are back with their fifth studio album Let’s Go Sunshine.
Guitarist Hugh Harris says “It’s not a return to form but a return to our format.”
“We are sticking to our strengths and not bothering with sodding around. It’s not too experimental we’re just sticking to what we’re good at and by proxy what people liked us for in the first place.”
The album enters the charts during a competitive slog for the number one spot. Harris says “We’ve just released and it went to number 7 but it will probably get knocked out by Eminem, George Ezra or one of the big hitters of our day but whatever.”
“My friends have told me that it’s probably the best work we’ve done since we stated and they are the only people I really care about impressing because we’ve never really had critics on our side.”
Feedback for the album has so far been mixed. Spill magazine gives the album 5 stars whereas NME slates it with 2 stars. Harris explains that the constant barrage of negative criticism towards The Kooks over the years has become “quite hilarious” for the band.
“Any compliments that we receive are just back handed. Even the Official Charts Twitter page on Tuesday said, ‘The Kooks are back at number 7 for their first top ten in SEVEN YEARS.’ What the Hell? That kind of implies that we’ve had loads of attempts in the last 7 years when really we’ve had one new record out in the last 7 years.”
“We are so up against it but we have been successful and that will forever be the critics issue. They never predict the public psyche and that’s why they do not reflect or influence their public which is why they’re so bitter.”
Before creating Let’s Go Sunshine, a whole album that was under production was dropped by the band. “It is a lot of work and there was a lot of upset but the standards we have didn’t allow it. The ideas are still there. It was a lot more bluesy, slower and darker. A lot more in keeping with how we are as people. A much more honest record but it probably wouldn’t have sold anything. It’s parked, not scrapped.” Harris says.
Their last album Listen was released in 2014 and after a 4-year break Harris jokes their only motivation to release a new album is money. “I’ve got a kid now and she needs to go to a good college. I just want to make a load of money then sod off to Jersey.”
Reiterating that he is only joking, Harris explains, “We’ve been working on it for ages and just the fact we’re still together as a band is pretty astonishing so we thought let’s do something of worth and stick to our strengths and I think the motivation of the record has been that as a mantra; Have fun with your life and do what you feel you’re good at and stop trying to prove yourself.”
The fact the band have stayed together over for 12 years is something to admire but Harris admits “it’s been really hard.”
“Luke and I have been in various forms of friendship and out of friendship as well. It’s like a marriage and we sometimes forget that we need to show that we love each other still. You take each other for granted. We have this life and this career together and you forget we need to maintain that. It needs oiling, it needs love.”
“Then when it comes to the others in the band, we just sack them if we don’t like them. I am joking but it does take a while to find a good balance of people because music does attract oddballs. People that want to play music for a living have either been ruined as children and told they can make it so they’re kind of deluded, or they’re just really lucky and become self-destructive. I’m kind of a bit of both myself.”
The chemistry in the band is pivotal in retaining their ethos towards music production. “In a way, it’s our most commercial record but also the most fun record to make because we haven’t been worried about things like inventiveness or pushing our boundaries…or trying to be Radiohead. Our philosophy is just be The Kooks and have a nice life, just chill. So, this record has just been about sticking to our strengths and having fun.”
Harris implying The Kooks have tried to be Radiohead in the past is like Alex Turner singing “I just wanted to be one of The Strokes” in ‘Star Treatment’ on the Arctic Monkeys most recent album Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino. Relating the two, Harris replies “I don’t know how I feel about Alex Turner.”
“I love him but it’s almost like he’s toying with you. It’s a shit opening to a record, it’s terrible but that is what sucks you in. Then he just right hooks you with some poetry. But it’s honest as well and we can relate as band. I can’t work out whether he’s a genius or not. I think at times he sounds a bit rambling and a bit mental, like come on dude let’s make sense now.”
Like the Arctic Monkeys, The Kooks debuted in 2006 and lots has happened since then. “I’ve been through a lot in the last 12 years and I’d like to think we’ve learnt from those experiences. But we all think a lot more than we used to. More pensive. I used to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what stuck. Now I think about what kind of flour I’m going to use to make the spaghetti. How very Alex Turner of me.” Harris says.
Not only have the band themselves had to go through changes but the surrounding music environment has changed as well. “Streaming is the new way of listening to music and I think nowadays you don’t really have scenes. You don’t really have movements. I think the last one was the indie movement in the noughties. These days people aren’t as defined by their music. Whereas you used to slot into one identity so we’ve just had to adapt. Adapt or die. I want that on a mug. Quite an aggressive mug actually maybe just a keyring.”
Since the noughties other music cultures have challenged the indie band movement in the UK. Harris explains, “There’s quite a big rap culture at the moment as well.”
“We actually met Post Malone at Reading festival. We were like ‘whatever’ but then we saw him play and thought oh my God he absolutely smashed it. People are obsessed with him. He came up and said hello and that he really likes us. It was kind of sweet really. Pete did most the talking when I was like who is this guy? What has rap become when people with man buns are spearheading the way?”
Harris believes that despite the changes The Kooks have kept up with the music culture changes. “We’re seeing a renaissance of our band because of streaming and teenagers watching films like ‘13 Again’ and getting into ‘Naïve’ and it’s awesome. It’s a different way of touring now though because we are about 10 years older than a lot of people that come to our gigs whereas we used to be a year older. There are still screaming girls but to think that that’s cool when you’re 30 is a bit creepy and not that cool, so no comment.
“Indie bands are sadly becoming a thing of the past but at the same time we’ve just been submitted to the annuals. We’re cemented in time, like Han Solo, ready to be cracked open again. We’re still here, we’re still fucking here.” Harris insists.
The Kooks’ new album Let’s Go Sunshine is out now and available to stream on any platform and if you want to see them live they are currently touring the UK.