Taste of Brighton rock – and roll
EMMA LEE One of the hottest bands of the moment – rockers the Kooks – play Norwich Arts Centre on February 12 and then return to the city on May 14 at The Waterfront. Emma Lee spoke to guitarist Hugh Harris.
“We met in a dating agency - we were all looking for love,” deadpans Kooks guitarist Hugh Harris, talking about how the band got together.
While that - sadly - isn't true, the Brighton post-punk quartet's meeting has had a happy ending.
They are currently one of the hottest young bands around and are selling out venues across the country - including Norwich Arts Centre where they play on Sunday.
And they've even been the subject of gossip columns when it was revealed that singer Luke Pritchard had dated songstress Katie Melua.
The band - which also includes bassist Max Rafferty and drummer Paul Garred - got together at college in Brighton and started writing songs, with a diverse range of influences between them, including the Velvet Underground, the Clash, Marvin Gaye and Prince.
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“You can't teach rock and roll,” he says of the decision to form the band.
“In schools you are taught to obey rules rather than challenge the reasoning behind the rules.”
The group was picked up by the same team who also manage the Ordinary Boys, whose lead singer Samuel Preston has barely been out of the tabloids in recent weeks after his flirtations with fellow contestant Chantelle Houghton in the Celebrity Big Brother House.
“I was really shocked when he went in,” Hugh says.
“We are from the same town and I'd met him a couple of times. He was really opinionated and passionate about music. It's such a brilliant move for him to do that - everyone was gripped.”
Last summer the band spent six weeks working with producer Tony Hoffer at Konk Studios in London's Crouch End with the intention of making what Hugh describes as a “real rock n roll record”.
The result was Inside In/Inside Out, released last month, which was eagerly anticipated thanks to the preceding singles the XTC-tinged Eddie's Gun and the Sofa Song, which reached the top 30.
Get Hugh talking about music and there's no stopping him.
“I don't know why there's so many Pete Doherty wannabes out there,” he says. “There's something not quite right about this whole 'indie cool' thing.
“I'm a huge fan of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground - there's no perfection to it. It's so rough.
“And when I heard [the Clash's] London Calling it was just spine-tingling. There's so much emotion in it - it's honest and you can feel the insecurity in the music.”
Hugh says that he enjoys discovering old classics that he's missed out on.
“I grew up listening to Al Green and Curtis Mayfield,” he says. “We all grew up listening to our parents' records. I by-passed quite a few bands. I only got into the Beatles a year ago. I thought I knew all the songs already, so I thought what's the point? But when I heard Revolver and the White Album I was blown away. I didn't know how much depth they had.
“That's the cool thing about older music - you can discover it in your own time. And how great is it that if you discover an old band you like, they've already got five albums for you to listen to. That's one of our hobbies - that's what we like doing.
“It's hard to find new good music at the moment,” he says, getting quite hot under the collar talking about singers who make the charts thanks in part to having huge advertising budgets enabling them to “have their pictures on the back of buses” - mentioning no names.
Bands like the Kooks have to go out on the road to build up that all-important fanbase, who will then seek out their records and tell their friends about them.
Hugh says that touring has its pluses and minuses.
“Touring can be the best thing in the world or the worst. The worst thing is that you are always away from home, you never get to see your family and friends and when you do see them you have to get to know them again. And it can be quite frustrating living out of a suitcase and being on a bus with 10 other men and get quite claustrophobic,” he says.
“But then we know when to give each other space, and we have cool people working around us. But I do enjoy going out and meeting so many like-minded people and talking about music.
“I'm feeling quite refreshed. The tour has just started and the debauchery hasn't happened yet!” he says.
Let's hope he's feeling as perky when their tour buses roll up in Norwich.
Support comes from hotly-tipped Cardiff four-piece the Automatic.
Doors 8pm. Tickets - returns only. NAC box office: 01603 660352.
t The Kooks return to Norwich on Sunday May 14, playing The Waterfront. Tickets at £9 in advance are available in Norwich from UEA Union, The Waterfront, Soundclash and HMV. Credit card bookings on 01603 508050 or www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk