Hearing that Serge Pizzorno is spending time in Hove and “enjoying the British seaside”, it’s a little strange to think of the Kasabian frontman, and founding member, building sandcastles — especially when the Leicester band’s anthemic seventh album is merely days away from being released. It may be a full circle moment for Serge — sandcastles or not, since ‘Alchemist’, the first track of the upcoming album ‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’ actually begins with the sound of crashing waves. What follows is a song that is so personal and raw that it almost leaves you feeling a little taken aback, having witnessed Serge singing about such a vulnerable moment. But don’t worry, that classic Kasabian hook and chorus is still right there, inviting you to turn the volume right up.
Serge tells us about the inspiration behind this new album: “The album’s based on [a] character, the alchemist. Using the alchemist [as a] metaphor for bringing different genres together, so using psych… R&B, garage rock, blending them all together to create something new. His euphoria is… the inception of a great idea.”
He goes on to explain that it doesn’t matter if the hard work only results in a seemingly small reward, for example, one lyric, it’s the “incredible feeling of creating something…something is born from nothing.” Working alongside Chris Edwards (bassist), Ian Matthews (drummer) and Tim Carter (guitarist), the band has put together a 12-track album that focuses on the alchemist’s journey.
When comparing the fictional alchemist’s journey to the indie band’s own quest for musical fulfillment, was there a particular song which gave that feeling of euphoria? Serge answers without hesitation: “There’s a track called ‘Rocket Fuel’. It’s based on the new tempo for a mosh pit. I was noticing that at a lot of Kendrick [Lamar] gigs or [a] Travis Scott gig, the tempo for a mosh is completely different; like it’s changed, so I was like, ‘I base the track around that tempo’, but then trying to blend in the sort of grunge Nirvana thing of quiet and loud. I flipped it on its head. The quiet bit, it’s kind of like the sort of psych, R&B bit, and the loud bit is that sort of 80 BPM. And, when I was [at] 80 BPM, and I had that flow, that bounce, that was particularly euphoric. That was a bit… in the studio, where the speakers are turned up to… so your ears bleed loud and just sort of bouncing around the studio…”
The aim was to translate this feeling across to their listeners, especially in a live setting. “We’re looking at the songs through a new lens; we kind of look at it through the alchemist’s lens… We’re sort of tweaking the oldest songs and bringing them into where we are now. So the setlist flows like a dream, it really does. We spend a lot of time sequencing it for the live experience to make it feel like a proper journey. I’ve always been massively inspired and buzzed off dance music and electronic shows, because they’re almost curated like films, they’re sort of based around knowing exactly when to hits moments. I think what’s been great is really being able to sort of hone in on that and the new tunes have just sat perfectly within the old, looking at the old songs in a different way.”
Every Kasabian album has its own identity, according to Serge. “I would say that this album does feel really special. It’s definitely a new chapter. It feels like we’ve kind of kicked it on a bit, we’ve pushed through some levels that we didn’t know were there, maybe.” Kasabian’s former frontman Tom Meighan parted ways with the band after he plead guilty to assaulting his then-girlfriend (now wife), Vikki Ager. He was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work in 2020. Finding themselves without a frontman, the band looked to chief songwriter Serge – who had sung on some tracks previously – to take on the role. Thinking back to his decision to become their next frontman, Serge says: “I never thought… something I never wanted to do, something I never thought I would be doing…”
Picking up the mic became a “necessity” if the band were to continue. “I needed to step up,” he told us. “And then once I made that choice with the boys, then it was just a matter of me committing and trying to do it. I only know one way of going about things. I look at things, try to look at things differently and try to make choices that aren’t the most obvious. I knew that I wouldn’t just be playing guitar and sort of having a go and singing a few songs… If I was going to do it, then I was going to learn, and learn every day, and carry on learning for the rest of the time that I’m up there doing it… they’re my words, every single word means so much.
“I just thought, when I’m on stage, I’m just going to become the crowd, and get up there on that stage, and give it everything I’ve got…. It’s been a life-changing, crazy experience.” It must feel great to then receive so much praise for being a natural frontman. Serge accepts the compliments graciously, but his work isn’t done yet. “It’s so humbling. I’m far from where I want to get. I’m thankful that people are sort of connecting with it. I just want to be like, an extension of that front row. I just want to bring as many people in as I can and I want to make people leave that gig going, ‘That was a good night’. Essentially, it’s just giving people that feeling of ‘For a minute, I lost myself’ [or] ‘That was a show!’”
Serge co-produced ‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’ with Fraser T. Smith, which he described as an “amazing” experience. “He’s made seminal albums, commercially and culturally… I had a clear vision of what I wanted the record to be, he brought in focus, honed in all the skills that he’s got. Together, we’ve just made something really special.”
‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’ is out on August 12th.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Neil Bedford