The Kooks‘ Luke Pritchard: „Every song you make, you just try to make it a memorable song“

When Luke Pritchard is being told that we met before, he hunches forward and hugs me like an old friend. „Do you really remember me?“ I ask, and he bursts out laughing: „No! But it is so good to meet people again“. 

That’s fair. It was four years ago when we last met for a chat, when The Kooks were about to release their sixth studio album „Let’s Go Sunshine“, and so much has happened ever since. I tell Luke the story of how back then, I got into a storm on my way to meet him, how I looked a wet mess and how he kindly picked a couple of blossoms out of my hair, before we sat down to talk. „Awww, I didn’t know I was such a gentleman“, he grins. 

Overall, despite the fact that there has been a pandemic going on in the past two years, which lead to The Kooks‘ European tour being postponed more than once and made making music (and especially making a living of it) so much harder for bands and artists, the most we do in these 20 minutes we have got together, is laugh. During our conversation, Luke emphasises a couple of times, that he is in his personal best state ever at the moment, and his evaluation seems to be truly genuine. It also reflects itself in The Kooks‘ latest album „10 Tracks To Echoe In The Dark“, which is an overly positive, life affirming record, fully embracing what Pritchard calls the band’s „Pop sensitivity“. And it surely is no coincidence that the lead single is called „Connection“, something we all have been missing the most during the pandemic.

After being thrown into the industry at a very early age, at a time when music and everything around it, especially live music, was celebrated in abundance, Luke Pritchard is trying to come to terms with this new, much more complicated age. But he doesn’t seem too upset about it, more trying to understand and make the best out of it. We talk a lot about the positive developments, like more technical freedom in recording and producing from home, about becoming a father, Pilates and Yoga and, a general, new sense of gratitude. And about the very simple essence of The Kooks: to just make tunes, tunes, tunes. 

Luke: I can’t believe it’s taken us four years to get another record out… 

It’s been four years, right? 

Mad. It’s strange. You almost have, like, universal amnesia, don’t you? But in some ways for me, it was quite nice. And I think some people have that feeling. It was all a bit of timing and luck, a lot of life. The lockdown of course was horrible. But it was kind of a nice time to have a little break. I’ve been touring since I was 18, every year. It was interesting being… at home?

I get that response more and more from artists. Now that some time has passed by, people seem to realise it wasn’t… all bad. I mean, it was bad.

Maybe financially (laughs). I mean, the artists got fucked. It’s such a shame. I don’t know about Germany, but in UK…

We were the last ones to come back. You started so much earlier in the UK.

Jungle was the first gig I’d seen back. That was really intense (laughs). Five thousand people, fuck me. It was mad, but it was great. 

But you get used to it quite quickly, don’t you?

No, you do. But it’s all about what you make of it, isn’t it? We can make it a refresher, a reminder. I mean, gratitude! To be able to play music. I made a lot of music, and that’s the other thing you probably hear from a lot of artists. What did you do? I just wrote loads of songs. I turned my flat into a studio, which was cool. 

Which I also heard a couple of times now. People switching to their own studios.

Yeah! I even got coproducer credits on the new album. Tobi (Tobias Kuhn, producer) did it all, but I… it’s not like rocket science, but it took a bit of learning. I am a guitar player. I come from the era of „you plug in a guitar and play“. But I like training to use logic, to write music and use the modern ways of working. That was really valuable. I made a duet record with my wife and we produced ourselves. It was cool, finding new ways of working. It’s painful, but once you get over the hard bits, it opens up a whole new world.

These times really push you out of your comfort zone. There is no way of „let’s lean back and relax, nothing bad is going to happen“, right?

I mean, it’s funny, isn’t it? It’s another thing why I do this job. Even though it’s not a job. When you are in a band, you do live and die by the sword. You’re always thinking: when is it gonna end? You can do what you can do, but in the end it’s subjective. A lot of artists I’ve spoken to are like: be fucking grateful for what you have. Could all end tomorrow, so you might as well enjoy it. Like life! (laughs)

You do need to step back sometimes and reflect. I mean, especially someone like you. You were so young! I’m actually amazed you managed to grow up to be quite a decent person.

Sort of grown up, sort of decent (laughs). Music keeps you young. But yeah, we were on the cusp, we were 17, 18. That’s pretty young. We were always a little bit younger than our contemporaries, except for Arctic Monkeys. Pretty much all the bands where three to four years or ten years older. It’s strange for me now being like the older one (laughs). It’s nice. When we tour with bands or meet up with bands now coming through, we are the older ones. So funny. There’s been ups and downs, there’s been some getting through it. But I’m lucky I’ve had the same managers for 15 years. They’ve been amazing, they kept things good. It’s amazing, The Kooks just keeps going. We would always do it. But we are still relevant, and that’s amazing. I mean, hopefully. It’s not really for me to judge, is it? (laughs) „We’re so relevant!!!“ (laughs even more) Relevance feels like, when you have these cool moments with young artists, who like the record.

I remember the time quite vividly when you came up. It was a period of so much happening in music. I feel like it was a time when Indie and Pop started to merge. There was a new depth to Pop. Lily Allen came up…

I went to school with Lily Allen.

Oh, you did?

Yeah. She was cool. But yeah, it was a lot of interesting people! It was kind of a golden age in some ways. And we had so much! So many groups, so many places for music. You know, we were kind of at the end of Brit Pop, that’s the thing. I’m not saying it’s dying, but.. it kind of has died (laughs). It was so cool. I had a beer with Liam and  Noel (Gallagher). When they were still mates (laughs). That kind of thing. We were there when physicals where still a thing. You know, I embrace the future. I think it’s great and it’s exciting. I am into all the new stuff. But to have been able to see that as well… it was just live music all the time. It was so decadent. Now the kids… they do yoga… (laughs)

That is hilarious. To be honest, a couple of months ago I started training to become a yoga teacher.

That’s great timing! You’ll have a lot of work (laughs). I do pilates. Which is like yoga’s cousin, I guess. 

You know what I always secretly say? Pilates is the yoga for housewives.

(bursts into laughter) Alright, I’ll take it. 

That is very condescending and I would like to apologise.

Oh no, I get that. Yoga is too difficult for me. I’m not gonna lie! When I go to a yoga class, there is a lot of middle aged women. That’s cool for me, I’m fine with that. I do meditate. I’ve found transcendental meditation to be quite amazing. Have you read „The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success“ by Deepak Chopra?

No, I have to admit.

It’s quite cool. I do hold all of the laws. Except one. Maybe that’s why it’s not working (laughs). He talks about how you should do periods where you don’t talk. If you don’t talk for 48 hours to anyone and don’t have any interaction, you don’t read, you don’t watch films… which sounds crazy, I’m like how could you do that? But apparently after 48 hours you are getting into this crazy, blissful state…

So this is the one you’ve never done?

I’ve never done it (laughs). How do you do that? I don’t know how you can. I mean, obviously you can. But even just to find the time… I could have done during lockdown. But I like talking to my wife. 

To keep it on the spiritual side – your new album is a really uplifting record.

Yes, it is. Yeah, it’s euphoric! And we’ve never done a euphoric record. We had moments of it in a way, but we never approached euphoric stuff. It was really refreshing. I think it was definitely personal. I wasn’t sitting there thinking: oh, I need to make a positive record. I just found myself in a really quite good space. I felt really good. People say that’s the death of creativity. But for me, I don’t know… I just enjoyed making it. In a way it’s trying to find hope when there was mass depression in the world. And still is. Take „Beautiful World“ for example. I just found out I was going to be be a dad. I was like fuck, I’m bringing a kid into this world. They don’t ask, you know. And it’s amazing, but, you know… With songs like that I wanted to make something that was about trying to find the good things and the hope. And hopefully it will be a refresher, after the lockdowns and everything. I think I was just joining millions of voices. Especially the young people. Everyone’s like come on, we don’t need to live like this. I see a lot of artists coming out with messages that probably are a bit more angry than our record (laughs)

Honestly, this thing about happiness being the death to creativity, that’s the same shit as artists need to be troubled to make interesting art. 

I think it’s kind of bullshit. It’s bad that you feel like you have to be in a bad place. You can make breakup records. Some people make crazy hell of it (laughs). And that’s cool, but… I’m a big Bob Dylan fan, like massive, like obsessive. I always liked listening to some of his later ones like „Infidels“ or „Street-Legal“, when he had found God and he was kind of happy. I was like: I get this, I love this! David Bowie was making some of his best work when he’d gone through heroin addiction and had come out with an insight. It’s a fallacy, isn’t it? Life is what we make it. When you go into the studio, you just gotta be honest. I mean, that’s why we make music. To be honest about how you feel. And if it’s bad, people will relate to that. You just gotta go in and share what you feel. 

And it is a super catchy record. I love the merge between Pop and Indie. I don’t like it when people are like, nah, this is too Pop. I’ve never been that kind of person.

Me neither. That’s why The Kooks could never be really put in a box. On our first record we were kind of marketed as Indie, but we had so much Pop sensibility as well. Tobi and I,were talking about how much we love melodies. Why would you not? Most people only want to put two songs like that on their album. I mean, listen to The Beatles! It’s just tune, tune, tune. I was always a big fan of the sixties. When I grew up, I skipped eighties, nineties and listened to sixties music. At my school at that time I was alone in that. Everyone was listening to Garage and MCs and stuff and I was into Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The thing with those artists is, they weren’t messing about. It was just about singles! They made albums that came out of making singles. I always liked that mentality a bit more. Every song you make, you just try to make it a memorable song. 

Photo © Paul Johnson