Catching up with The Kooks at Bonnaroo: Q&A with Luke Pritchard

Saturday afternoon at Bonnaroo was just what one would expect: hot, sweaty, and brimming with electric energy. The Kooks kicked off the day’s festivities on the What Stage with a lively and animated performance that, even at noon, drew a crowd of hundreds, much to the surprise of lead singer Luke Pritchard. Riding a “positive energy vibe,” as he puts it, Pritchard sits down over a PBR Tall Boy to talk outdoor venues, gear, his creative process and whether or not The Kooks beat Foster the People in the latest football match.

How are you feeling about your performance today at Bonnaroo?

It was brilliant. We had a great crowd and I’m on a bit of a positive energy vibe. I feel like it was really early, we’d only just got up, but the crowd kept us together. I really think we played well, and it was amazing to see that many people come see us. I really didn’t expect that. It was so early and yet, there they all were, and it was brilliant.

Having finished your set here at Bonnaroo, what is your opinion on outdoor versus indoor venues?

I prefer indoor, definitely. Outdoor is good if you’re the headliner and you’ve got lights and its dark, but during the day it’s a bit harder. It’s definitely fun, but I don’t think the crowd can ever get the same experience. It’s a bit like Punch and Judy, isn’t it.

Are you guys currently working on any new projects?

Yeah, we’re working on some new stuff. I think that August will be when we really start demoing. We’ve got a dozen or so songs that we’re rifling through and so it’s all a go, really. We feel that between our second and third album we sort of took time off and on this one, we just want to keep going.  I think that Junk sort of marked a new beginning. If you’ve got all three records, it’s like each is a chapter and right now we’re looking forward to something new.

You’ve been touring, rather extensively, throughout your career. What’s your favorite touring experience or story?

My first time going to Japan. It was a real eye-opening experience to see the kind of fanaticism that exists over there. It makes you feel kind of more important than you are. Its much more structured and precise: ‘At this time we will meet in the lobby, we will then leave at this time.’ Everything is in order and on the dot. Also, on stage with Ray Davies, that was brilliant. I don’t really remember it very well, it was sort of a dream, so I question if it happened. People tell me it did, so I believe them, and it was amazing.

What is the number one piece of equipment you have to have?

I’m not really a gear guy, honestly. I’m the opposite of that. I’ll play anything really. I actually would say nothing because for me, if you put a guitar in my hand I’m happy. I collect guitars massively but I’m not precious person about it; I’m not super attached to any one piece of gear in particular. I mean I love my guitar, my Domino, but honestly I love new shit and I love try new things. On Junk, I actually played a bunch of different instruments and pieces of gear. I loved that; I think it helps make you a better musician, to experiment.

The Kooks have always been a collaborative group. But with three albums under your belt and several years as seasoned musicians, has your collaborative and creative process changed at all?

It definitely has. The first album was very collaborative. Me and the bass player, Max, were best friends and we wrote a lot of those songs together. We had a good way of soundboarding off each other and working together. Then on the second album, it was much more separated. Paul, the drummer, and I were a bit more collaborative, we wrote songs together and Hugh, our guitar player really came in to it. The way that it worked was that I would write songs and then Hugh had a lot more free range. His guitar playing really opened up and evolved. That was a really cool time for him and a great way for him to come into his own as a guitar player. Then the third record it was really more me. I did a lot of stuff on my own. I did a lot of the basics of the songs, with drum loops and things like that and I brought it to the guys and said, ‘Hey here’s a song, lets play with it.’ It was cool and fun and experimental but I don’t think we’ll do that for the next album.

Why not?

Well, the song writing in particular was more solitary and more me having a vision for it rather than it being collaborative. I didn’t really like that. This time around, me and Pete and Hugh are much closer and have been writing a lot of songs together. I think the process always changes. I don’t know what the next one will be like, but I don’t want it to be as solo as Junk, that really wasn’t intentional. All the guys were cool with it, but it’s definitely not what I wanted.

You guys are often labeled as Pop or Indie. As an artist, how would you classify The Kooks?

Well, we’re not indie because we’re not on an independent label, but we do have an indie mentality in some ways, I guess. I don’t really know. To me, I always wanted to be in The Beatles, like anyone else who wanted to be in a band. I wanted to be in a rhythm and blues band, not R&B, like this modern stuff, but in a harmony based rock and roll R&B outfit. So that’s kind of how I approached this. I think we’re a modern version of that. Our whole thing is about melody, simplicity and harmony, and that’s pretty much it. We never wanted to think of ourselves as one particular thing. It just started as a few guys playing together and it was and has been, very organic. That’s why the latest album is a bit weird. We put all this modern instrumentation on it, which was fun, but it wasn’t really us. It may become us, I don’t know.

You’ve performed with Ray Davies, toured with several great acts, but if you could work with any artist who would it be?

Lykke Li. Final answer.

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