Well Respected Men

The Kooks, Terra Blues, on Bleecker Street, New York City.

“Naïve” was the Kooks’ first hit in their native England; aptly, mop-topped frontman Luke Pritchard was supposedly only 16 years old when he wrote it. Since then, however, fame has taught them a thing or two. The Kooks, along with Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs, ushered in a new wave of barely legal Britpop: the Kooks’ debut, Inside In/Inside Out, was one of the U.K.’s best-selling albums of 2006, when the oldest member was but 21. Despite their youth, the band—Pritchard, guitarist Hugh Harris, bassist Max Rafferty, and drummer Paul Garred—prove wizened souls down to their name, filched from a David Bowie song old enough to be their father. “I’ve got all these old vinyls,” Garred explains, flipping through his stash of Funkadelic, Hendrix, and Buddy Holly.

“Even Tusk—the black sheep of my collection! The guitar-band scene gets a bit tired; no one’s doing anything new. Music back in the day was just a little bit better: then, the song was king. That’s where we sit on that.” Singer Pritchard takes it a step further. “When I was a kid, listening to blues music and folk music was a massive influence,” he recalls. “That’s where all my songs come from—the blues. Even if you’re singing it as a rock ’n’ roll singer, you’re still singing about the blues.”

And speaking of old school, the Kooks’ new platter, Konk, was named after the studio it was recorded in—originally home to the Kooks’ forefathers, the Kinks. Like Ray Davies’s crew, Konk offers bittersweet narratives couched in raw sugar-pop confection: all veddy English but universal in its infectiousness, jerked with a bit of white-reggae spice. Despite Konk’s untutored appeal, the Kooks came together at “Brit School,” the London performing arts academy that spawned superstars like Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Leona Lewis. Like Winehouse, Pritchard finds himself a tabloid fixture at home, thanks to his propensity for snogging in public with boldfaced Anglo femmes. Garred feels all the gossip takes away from what the Kooks are really on about. “Welcome to Britain—it’s daft,” he groans. “If it wasn’t Luke, it’d be someone else. We try not to let that bullshit distract us: there’s something more honest, more real, about what we do. We’re here for one reason—to make music. Today’s news will be tomorrows fish-and-chips paper, as they say.”

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