In their newest album, “Let’s Go Sunshine,” The Kooks have produced some of the catchiest tunes of the summer. Yet, the themes behind the lyrics are described by their lead singer, Luke Pritchard, as a combination of “emo” and humour. With songs about unrequited love, and “keeping your chin up” under the weight of the world, the album delivers a rare and powerful message of hope in a creative and (well needed) homage to the forefathers of British rock. This primarily “guitar album” is an attempt to return to their roots as a British band. Many of the songs, such as “Picture Frame, “All the Time” and “Chicken Bone” feature classic rock guitar as well as accompanying strings, composed by Luke himself, while others, such as “Tesco Disco,” even emulate the musical style and cadence of The Kinks and early Rolling Stones.
In the latest interview with The Cambridge Student (TCS), we had the pleasure of speaking with Luke about how the band really “found their feet” with the album, and the impossible journey of expressing love, acceptance, and growing as a musician.
TCS: How did you get the idea for the album?
Luke: With records, you kind of fall into them. There was definitely a conscious effort to make a guitar record, to go back to the roots or the DNA of the band. When we started we had a mentality to be a modern-beat band, so we wanted to bring back that humour and that British guitar sound. In that respect, it’s playful and imaginative because you’re documenting your own feelings. There’s no real concept in the record, except proper guitar.
TCS: You have some powerful messages in “Believe,” the fourth song on the album, about love, acceptance, and growing up. In your own words, what is the song about?
Luke: I wrote it about the journey of being able to accept love and be loved. I think the key lyric in it is, “Even though I didn’t love you, you showed me how to believe in love.” It’s kind of like the journey story of keeping your chin up because things are always around the corner and happen quick.
TCS: What about “Chicken Bone?”
Luke: “Chicken Bone” is playful. I was just writing about the frustrations of living on my own in the city, being quite claustrophobic and a slave to debt and urban squalor. Then there’s this [character of a] “big mama” who takes care of you and all the woes of the world go away. It’s a dream really, but I just thought it was quite funny to have this “chicken bone,” or stick-thin kind of indie dude, and this chunky mama [who can take care of him]. It’s definitely in that colour… a bit Monty Python.
TCS: It definitely has aspects of British humour.
Luke: I love that. I mean, it’s like Ray Davies and The Kinks, who made these really American songs while singing about British things.
TCS: Like The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon”?
Luke: Exactly, with that really annoying twang. “Chicken Bone” also has that real Southern American chordal structure, but then this very British humour.
TCS: What about “Swing Low”? Who is it for?
Luke: I really just wanted to write a song for my football team [Crystal Palace], because they don’t do so well. I’m not even a big football fan, but the underdogs need songs too. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” is a real rugby chant here, so I thought it’d be funny to knick it.
TCS: There are a lot of accompanying music videos with the album. How did those narratives come about?
Luke: The videos were something that we really thought about. We wanted to do something that was uniform, and it was quite fun. I was really keen to take the band out of it a bit by having some strong female leads and a bit of storytelling. All the songs on the album have quite particular stories. It’s good to be able to really show that in the videos and tell a little tale, even if it’s not the exact tale that I was writing when I wrote the lyrics. In “All The Time,” I loved the way that the director came up with the concept of a love affair between a group of friends. I think that’s really cool, because whenever you write a song everyone will hear it differently and interpret it their way. It’s nice to learn how there can be storytelling with our music.
TCS: Like “Four Leaf Clover?” The music video has some very powerful imagery.
Luke: The directors are real eccentrics and I liked that a lot. [They made it] stylized, trippy, weird, pagan…But I think it’s great because it’s directed towards the cyberbullies of the world. And again, to have a really strong female lead in that one I think was the right thing to do. I didn’t write it about that, but [cyberbullying] kind of became quite fresh in my mind and we wanted to make a statement about that and that kind of echo chamber.
TCS: Do you have a favourite song on the album, or one that you particularly like to play?
Luke: “Weight of the World.” It’s a very special piece of music for me, an Americana, cello, saloon-bar [kind of piece], but I’m proud of them all.
TCS: Do you have a favourite instrument that you play on the album?
Luke: I play many different things on the record. I’m a guitar player really, but I played a bit of drums and I really enjoyed composing the strings for “Picture Frame,” and “All the Time.” I really enjoyed that challenge. I did it in a very bullish way, so there’s not a lot of finesse, but I think there’s something naive about the arrangement that I think works quite well. My producer really encouraged me to spread my musical wings.
TCS: Where do you see The Kooks going in the future?
Luke: It will be interesting. I think we sort of found our feet with this record and I think that we’re already on a good page… but once I start writing again I’ll have a clearer idea.
TCS: What’s your advice for aspiring musicians?
Luke: Keep faith! It’s a different time now, and a different way of breaking through. It’s hard for me to give advice because I came up in a very different way, but I think people need to have faith that writing music will have an audience. You don’t always need go in with the hot-shot producer, you can find it within yourself. I would be nice to see more independent artists rather than mouth-pieces for producers, but I would just say that playing live is such a key part of it. People forget that. I’ve met so many people who have made records and have only done a couple shows, and I would advise against that. Play where you can, in Clapham Common or even in the park, that’s really important.
TCS: Do you have anything that you’d like to leave us with?
Luke: It’s not the easiest thing at the moment to be in a band, so we’re very appreciative for your support. I’m really proud of the record, so thank you for everything.
Tour dates in the United Kingdom can be found here: https://thekooks.com.