Flash forward 15 years, and the four-piece have won fans across the globe with their brand of British indie rock, cementing themselves as heavyweights of the genre. But singer Luke Pritchard says they never dreamed of making it so big.
“We weren’t like the Arctic Monkeys or something like that, we weren’t like expecting to get massive,” laughs the frontman. “You might talk to Alex Turner and he’d say the same, but it really took us by surprise.”
The band have released a myriad of hits since their debut, catapulting into the spotlight with the track ‘Naive’. While it’s now one of their most recognised and most played tunes, it was almost left on the cutting room floor.
“I didn’t want to cut the song,” he recalls. “I wasn’t really that into it, but our record label and management were like obsessed with it. I remember in the studio kicking up a fuss like ‘I don’t want to do this one, we’ve got better songs.’ Anyway, we cut the record and then it ended up being the song that really broke the band to the whole world.
“It’s crazy, my whole life would have been different if I hadn’t done that song. Seriously, like we had some other songs on that album, but that [one] really propelled the whole thing.”
Five albums later, and The Kooks are still going strong. They unveiled their latest record Let’s Go Sunshine back in August, a hefty 15-tracker that sounds a lot like their old school stuff. Considering they’ve chopped, changed and experimented with their music over the past few releases, Pritchard says it felt natural to go back to their roots.
“It was a bit of a journey, you know?” says Pritchard. “We wanted to do less programming and really do a guitar, like a classic record. So, once we’d decided that, then things started to come together.
“I really wanted people who have supported us and people who like the band to like the record and really enjoy it, and make them feel nostalgic as well, because a lot of people grew up with our music and it’s nostalgic for them.”
It was clearly the right decision for the band, who’s joy in creating the album is reflected in the work itself. While Pritchard wasn’t personally in the best headspace at the time, he believes Let’s Go Sunshine captured more of the band’s overall energy than it did his own troubles.
“The lyrics definitely speak to what was going on in my life, but I think there’s a feeling on the record of finding your feet, there’s a confidence,” he muses.
“And there’s kind of a youthful feeling, and a joy to it, you know? And I think that’s what we curated when we did sort of a studio situation, and [it was] the four of us playing together and recording a great take, we really enjoyed that.”
This sense of enjoyment has always been what music is really about for Pritchard, who’s not concerned with pouring over the band’s ratings or reviews. He doesn’t work towards fame or external success but rather is driven by a desire to create what he likes, and what he hopes others can connect to.
“We’ve never really had amazing reviews or really good press, so I don’t really mind,” he laughs. “I’ve always thought of our band as more about the people. We’re not celebrities, we don’t get five-star reviews and we don’t win awards, and that kind of thing in a way sort of shields us. I mean it’d be great, we’d love that, but in life you can’t choose how you’re received.
“Music is fickle, and I guess if you’re in it, you’ve just got to be happy with what you’ve got and enjoy it, and hope you have something that connects. It’s as simple as that.”