Here we are again – old friends embracing, knowing smirks capturing fond memories.
Clash and The Kooks go way back, and there’s lots to catch up on, but something is drastically different. There is a dark cloud hovering, and soon the creased faces flip to concerned frowns. This morning we learnt of the irrevocable departure of original bassist Max Rafferty, and for a band as tight-knit as this, it has hit them hard. Releasing your second album is scary enough, but with one man down and a long road ahead, this really does feel like make or break…
Max had previously left the band early in 2006, though it was frequently emphasised to be temporary. The lure of hedonism had taken its toll, and his increased unreliability wasn’t helping. Welcomed back into the fold in time to commence recording the follow up to multi-million selling debut ‘Inside In / Inside Out’, he lasted just as long as it took to complete it. The bearer of bad news revealed to Clash that things just hadn’t been working out, and that still reeling from shock, the band might be a little knocked for six by the time we meet. Were they ever.
“I’m definitely a bit misogynistic lyrically sometimes.”
And so England’s darlings find themselves in Wales, being interviewed by a Scot, facing a problematic start to their second coming. Nevertheless still self-assured, the empire, it’s evident, is striking back…
Konk studios in North London are owned by Ray Davies of The Kinks, a quintessentially English band. Do you see your band as continuing that legacy of English songwriting?
Luke: Definitely. I think we are, you know. I think that we try and write real conclusive pop songs, which is definitely in that lineage of those kind of songwriters, without a doubt. So we definitely feel part of that. You can’t really not be, can you? But certainly our way of looking at it is trying to do that kind of concise pop music. I’m kind of obsessed about putting real complicated feelings or whatever it is into something incredibly simple. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do as a writer.
Do you mind being tagged with that generic term of being “pop”?
Hugh: I don’t really mind how people see us, to be honest. It’s not like a competition to be cool. I don’t think that’s how music should be gauged anyway. If someone doesn’t like a pop band being successful then they can fuck off back to that niche of underground bullshit. In every genre you have music and bands, and then at the top of those genres are catchy, great songs that last in time, and they fall – for me – into a different category of pop, in a way that everyone can sing. Every artist wants to be commercial – it just means you can use your success as a medium to distribute an emotion, and that’s what it is – if you shy away from that then you’re a bit of an idiot really.
Luke: You can’t ever change how you’re seen anyway. I’m happy just to play music and see what people think. But I definitely would like to think that we are trying to be a band like The Beatles, where we just try and do everything and unashamedly sing pop songs. I love that whole philosophy and I think it’s something that is quite lacking. Because people are afraid to say that or to act like that or to come across like that, but I’m not like that at all. I just think that’s what you should do; you should make songs for people, not to be clever.
Luke, you said recently that Noel Gallagher was too rich to write. Do you think that success brings complacency?
“If someone doesn’t like a pop band being successful then they can fuck off back to that niche of underground bullshit.”
Luke: I don’t think that necessarily. I don’t remember saying that specifically. I think I did. I think with him, I mean I just remember reading somewhere that he said he wrote the first two Oasis albums before they had done either of them. I just think his content, what he writes about, a lot of it was to do with aspiring to be something and then being it. I think it’s the same with any songwriter; I suppose even to a degree with us. You get to a point creatively where you become big and then it’s like a hunger thing I suppose, keeping the will to write. But we haven’t got to that stage yet by any means.
Would you consider other such methods of releasing your music?
Luke: I’m just really old school with that. I just love records, and I love artwork. When you get a download you lose the physical object of it, which is not cool. Music seems to be really devalued at the moment. And what Radiohead did really pissed me off. Because at the end of the day, it’s devaluing what everyone else does, because they’re just going, “You can have it for free”. It’s not about the bands making money, it’s just like… When I was young, I used to get fucking ONE single a week, maybe even a month, and that would be a thing that you do. Now it’s just like you sit at a computer and you get a song for 70p. Okay fine, it’s great that music is shared and cheap, but then it kind of just devalues the whole thing of it and cheapens it. Ringtones man, what the fuck?
You have attracted one or two females in your time. At this point in your life, what role does a girl play: a friend, a confidante, a lover?
Luke: I don’t really have that many friends who are girls that I don’t sleep with. I can’t really do that – especially if they’re attractive, I just try it on basically! (Laughs) That’s just the way I am! I’ve got like maybe a few friends that are girls, mainly my friends’ girlfriends! (Laughs) I get really obsessed with girls. If I fall in love with a girl I just get totally absorbed by a girl. I will be like, nothing else in my life is as important as that person. I’ve always been like that. I’ve only been out with two girls but, you know, I just get completely fucking…which is why it’s so intense, man. I just feel so fucking intense about it, man. And I’m a total jealous cunt, I really am.
Thie full version of this interview can be found in Issue 25 of Clash Magazine.