After three years, British rockers the Kooks will return with their third album, Junk of the Heart, on September 13. Get a sneak peek with two of its songs - "Mr. Nice Guy" and "Fuck the World Off" - available exclusively here.
SPIN caught up with frontman Luke Pritchard to get the details on the band's synth-spiked sound and last-minute switch in producers that forced the them to scrap half their recorded material and start over.
The title Junk of the Heart certainly suggests a lot of emotional drama...
"Yeah. That phrase kept coming back to me. Even before we went to record, I wanted to name the album that. It made sense. The songs lyrically are about baggage, my 'Junk of the Heart.' I got very obsessed with the relationship between pain and love, and how you can't have one without the other. 'Junk of the Heart' represents that for me in one phrase."
You recorded with producer Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian) but scrapped the sessions and started over with Tony Hoffner, who produced the band's first two albums. What happened?
"We did about six tracks with Jim. We liked working with him, but we felt that it wasn't the right direction -- we were going down a road we'd already gone down. We felt that we weren't progressing. When I talked to Tony, I said that I felt lost and stuck. I had the tunes but they didn't connect. He came to me with a very clear direction, saying that the Kooks needed to open new doors in terms of production and instrumentation. When I told the band I wanted to go back and re-record with Tony, they thought I was crazy. They thought we'd be repeating the sound of the first two records. But it wasn't like that at all."
It must be frustrating to scrap half a record and start all over...
"Yeah. It was quite a painful process [laughs]. We had to ask ourselves some tough questions, like, 'Why are we doing this? Where are we going? What do we really want people to get from this next record?' I ended up writing most of the album when I started working with Tony again. So it was all rewritten and re-recorded, the whole thing."
Has your sound or songwriting approach changed as a result?
"This album is a rebirth for us in lots of ways. In order to open up the channels in your mind and write the best songs, you need to feel fresh -- and this album is all about that. It was all about re-thinking our music in a different, more experimental and free process. We didn't work in the same way anymore. Before it was very rehearsed. I'd bring songs in and we'd start playing them. It was pretty straightforward. But a lot of the new songs were built from the bottom up with a laptop. We'd build layers and layers on the songs."
Were there any specific artists or albums that helped shape this sound?
"LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver, Lykke Li's Youth Novels, Little Dragon -- music that's a lot less commercial than what we listened to before. I got into Daft Punk, and became obsessed with Air. I told Tony that I got into the Virgin Suicides soundtrack and wanted to do something with the same feeling as that album. The synthesizers on 'Junk of the Heart (Happy)'" all came from that desire for the eerie and nostalgic feel you get on Air's record. When I was writing the last two Kooks records I was inspired by music from the '60s and '70s. But for this album, the whole idea was to rethink it and make it really modern."
You guys traveled to Los Angeles to record Junk of the Heart. How was recording in the U.S. for the first time?
"We wanted to record in America from the start. We just wanted to get out of our normal space. There was a lot of pressure and it took going to Los Angeles to record it, which was quite good for us. The coolest thing was that we met Mark Foster and Foster the People, who are starting to do really well now. We hung out with them a lot. It was really great to find a band that we really like."
The Kooks are a massive success in the U.K., where both your previous albums went gold. Is crossover success in the U.S. a big priority for the band?
"Yeah, it's really important to us. Connecting culturally in England and America is the greatest thing a band can do. All my favorite bands from the past did. It's all about the work you put in and if we can, we'll keep touring in the U.S. It's fun -- it's one of the best places to tour. We've spent a lot of time in the States and feel at home here, especially in L.A. and New York. This album should connect here and I hope it does. You just have to wait and see if something sparks.
The Kooks Tour Dates
11/15, Philadelphia, PA (Trocadero)
11/16-17, New York, NY (Webster Hall)
11/19, Boston, MA (House of Blues)
11/20, Washington, DC (9:30 Club)
11/22, Montreal, QC (Club Soda)
11/23, Toronto, ON (Sound Academy)
11/25, Columbus, OH (Newport Music Hall)
11/26, Chicago, IL (Vic Theatre)
11/27, Minneapolis, MN (First Avenue)
11/29, Denver, CO (Ogden Theatre)
11/30, Salt Lake City, UT (Club Sound)
12/2, Seattle, WA (The Showbox at the Market)
12/4, Vancouver, BC (Commodore Ballroom)
12/7-8, Los Angeles, CA (The Music Box)
12/13, San Francisco, CA (The Fillmore)