BlackBook Premiere: The Kooks’ ‘Westside’ Gets a Glistening ’80s Frank De Wulf Remix

Ahead of The Kooks’ forthcoming Hello, What’s Your Name? remix album, slated for release Dec. 4 via Lonely Cat Records, we have an exclusive first listen of Frank De Wulf’s take on “Westside.” Once a bright, guitar-driven track the band described as a nostalgic dance floor filler, has become a soaring ’80s-infused anthem, dripping with droning synthesizers. It’s a fitting treatment, coming from the Belgian DJ who’s regarded as a pioneer for the region’s original techno scene decades ago.

The idea for this remix album spawned after The Kooks spent time in New York, where they heard a number of DJs remixing songs from their 2014 album Listen. Seeing how listeners passionately responded to more uptempo interpretations of their originally rock-oriented songs inspired the UK band to create an entire full-length body of work celebrating the power of a remix.

Stream the BlackBook premiere of Frank De Wulf’s “Westside” remix, below, and check out the album’s tracklist, which has been carefully assembled to bring out the best in The Kooks’ entire discography. 

 

 

Hello, What’s Your Name?

 

1. Creatures of Habit (Jack Beats Remix)

2. Bad Habit (Apexape Remix)

3. Sweet Emotion (Montmartre Remix)

4. Are We Electric (Kideko Remix)

5. Westside (Frank De Wulf Remix)

6. Sunrise (Midnitemen Remix)

7. Around Town (Max Pask & ‘Spiky’ Phil Meynell Remix)

8. Backstabber (XKH Remix)

9. Murdered & Downer (A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Remix by the Amorphous Androgynous)

10. Forgive & Forget (Isabella ‘Machine’ Summers Remix)

 

Bonus Tracks

 

11. Westside (The Nextmen Remix)

12. Are We Electric (Kove)

13. Down (The Reflex Remix)

14. Dreams (DJ Pierre Remix)

15 Forgive & Forget (Atlas Genius Remix) – Digital only

Finally, The Kooks Are Back in New York City

Two months ago, British rockers The Kooks returned to the music scene with their third full length, Junk of the Heart. Since then, they’ve toured extensively in support of love-soaked record, their first in over three years. Tonight and tomorrow, fans can catch the Kooks at two sold out shows at Webster Hall, where hearts will no doubt be worn on sleeves. We recently caught up with frontman Luke Pritchard, who was bussing around Europe at the time, and couldn’t wait for his New York gigs. “I’m just getting drunkenly ready for it right now,” he said, while sipping a hot toddy.  What a coincidence—so are we!

How does it feel now that, at long last, Junk of the Heart is out?
It’s great to just send it off, ya know? Put it out to the world and not think about it anymore. Let it do its own thing. Playing the shows with the new songs now, it’s cool to see the new songs connecting.

Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind the album.
It’s quite specific to me, really. It’s the most personal record to me, because the album’s all about coming out of a dark place and a lot of the lyrics are sort of about looking back on things. That’s why there’s quite a lot of joyousness. It’s kind of about finding someone. Having a girlfriend was a big thing for me. I love my girlfriend. I had a bit of a crazy time with it, with traveling all the time. I was writing it for her in some ways. The album really came from that. The purity of that inspired me. It’s fucking great.

How long have you two been together?
We’ve been together quite a while. Nearly two years.

Does she ever join you on tour?
Not much. She works a lot herself. She’ll come stay with us for a few days every now and then.

How has tour been so far?
We’re just enjoying playing. The shows have been crazy. Really crazy crowds. A lot of fun.

Do any specific stops stand out?
In Spain, fans are quite fanatical. And, in Paris, a girl managed to sneak into our dressing room. It happens every now and then. It’s quite mad. She basically fooled everyone that she was meant to be there. She just hung out with us. Just some girl who walked in off the street. Things like that happen all the time.

What can fans in New York expect from your two shows at Webster Hall?
We’re doing a bit more of a show than we have been. It’s a different dynamic. The lighting is really cool, we’ve been working on that. It’s going to be quite psychedelic, I think. We’re bringing in some old school projectors and we’re going to have some really cool imagery going on with the shows, which we’ve never really done before. It’s been cool to get a good amount of rehearsing in. We’re playing really well at the moment. By the time we hit New York, it should be pretty funky.

Beyond all that, how’s life, Luke?
Life’s good. I’ve been gettin’ into being a musician more than ever. I feel like that’s the thing that’s going really well. I’m excited about just working on new material, meditating, things like that. It’s quite cool. I’ve been reading this Marcus Aurelius book on meditation, which is really interesting. You can just pick it up and flip through it. It’s really helping me out. It’s all about being a good Roman, the way you should live your life. It’s all about being a good person and taking yourself out of the equation and trying not to have an ego, really.

What’s next, after the tour?
I’m taking a month off in January to go traveling in India. I know that sounds really cliché. I want to do some traveling on my own. The guys want to do some stuff themselves, so we’re taking a little bit of time off.

So you’ll be flying solo, so to speak?
My girl, she might come out and meet me for a little bit, but I’ve been touring since I was 18. I’ve never done any real traveling on my own. I just want to explore. I want to see a different side to things. I don’t want to be a guy in a band anymore. I just want to jet off and not do that for a month and see what happens.

Are you hopeful we’ll hear another album from you before three more years have passed?
I want to do another record soon. I just want to write lots of songs. I’m feeling very creative at the moment. I’m pretty excited about the next album, so why not get on and do it?

September Music Reviews: Laura Marling, Beirut, Grace Jones

Laura Marling, A Creature I Don’t Know (Ribbon) After being showered with praise from The New York Times and Spin for her debut and sophomore albums, each of which was nominated for a Mercury Prize, expectations couldn’t be higher for Laura Marling’s latest elease, A Creature I Don’t Know. Fortunately for the 21-year-old British singer-songwriter—who already snagged the Best Female Solo Artist prize at the 2011 Brit Awards—the record is a triumph. Building on the strength of her previous two efforts, Creature boasts a folksy, wistful feel, but it’s her voice—at times light and subtle, at others bold and deep—that makes her music so unforgettable. —Sharon Wu

Tinariwen, Tassili (Anti-) Tinariwen, a revolving band of Touareg (nomads from northern Mali) musicians, recorded the songs that appear on their fifth album, Tassili, under the stars of the southeastern Algerian desert. They collaborated with TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone on reticence-free rhapsodies against the glow of nightly campfires, and the result is as back-to-basics as their open-air recording studio. Tinariwen’s signature assouf guitar style (which some suggest is a distant relative of blues music) goes acoustic with subdued percussion and handclaps so hypnotic they almost make translation—the group sings in Tamashek—unnecessary, even though their lyrics tell impassioned tales about a group of wanderers struggling for survival. “Tenéré Taqqim Tossam” is an ode to the Saharan spirit: “Oh jealous desert, why can’t you see you are a treasure?” —Tricia Taormina

The Kooks, Junk of the Heart (Astralwerks) After leaving no stone unturned on their multi-continental Konk tour, the Kooks are back with their signature, seemingly indefatigable enthusiasm—and matching guitar rhythms—but this time with the confidence to experiment with a sadder sound. Junk of the Heart, their third record, was recorded in the English countryside beginning in 2009. As infectious as their debut, Inside In/Inside Out, it delivers the Kooks’ classic pop-rock sound and impassioned lyrics, which are reminiscent of a road trip with the windows rolled down. More sedate tracks (“Taking Pictures of You”) may come as a bit of a surprise, but fear not, Kook-heads: singer Luke Pritchard follows through on his proclamation, “If it doesn’t make you feel good, what’s the point?” Point taken. —Rosa Heyman

CSS, La Liberación (V2/Cooperative Music USA/Downtown) Nothing gets the party started quite like São Paulo–based, adolescent-giddy pop-rock crew CSS (an abbreviation of Cansei de Ser Sexy, Portuguese for “tired of being sexy”), and their fourth album La Liberación is no exception. It’s been a while since we’ve heard from the group, who released their raucous self-titled breakthrough in 2006, and it was worth the wait. Jam-packed with one dance-floor anthem after the next, La Liberación delivers tracks like “City Girl,” a surefire rump-shaker punctuated with refreshingly petulant lyrics like “Nothing hurts in the big city.” (If only that were the case.) “Hits Me Like a Rock,” the album’s first single, is about listening to your favorite jam over and over, and it’ll have you doing just that. —Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez

Beirut, The Rip Tide (Pompeii) Whereas The Flying Club Cup, Beirut’s second album, sounded like a zeppelin tour of the world, the Zach Condon–helmed music collective’s third full-length, The Rip Tide, looks for exoticism in the personal. There’s still an instrumental and stylistic fluency on the record, represented by exotic strings, last-call accordions, and a horn section that feels equal parts mariachi and polka, but the overall effect is sparer than Beirut’s previous efforts. Recorded in upstate New York, Brooklyn, and New Mexico, Rip Tide’s tracks began as melodies teased out on Condon’s ukulele or piano before his band would layer in ornate studio accompaniments, only to be distilled and refined again by Condon. Pompeii Records is owned and controlled by the indie darling himself, but that doesn’t stop standout track “Santa Fe” from sounding a bit like a pop song. —Megan Conway

A.A. Bondy, Believers (Fat Possum) A. A. Bondy, the founding member of Verbena, a ’90s rock outfit from Alabama, struck out on his own with two albums that garnered praise from the likes of Conor Oberst and Bon Iver. Now comes Believers, which was produced by Los Angeles–based impresario Rob Schnapf (Elliot Smith, Beck). Deviating from Verbena’s harder sound, Bondy’s individual style is melancholy and deeply soulful. Like many of the languid rhythms for which he’s become known, the quirky instrumentals and rock-rooted melodies on Believers are spartan, simple, and sincere. —Sharon Wu

Grace Jones, Hurricane (Pias) Forget what you know about Grace Jones. No, actually don’t. After nearly two decades out of the limelight, the music and fashion icon has blown into town with her fifth studio album, Hurricane, proving she’s just as bizarre—and genius—as ever. Making full use of her growly pipes, Jones steps away from the Studio 54 beats of her past and veers into a synthesis of nü-metal, dub, and dancehall—which makes sense, given that she collaborated with everyone from Brian Eno and Tricky to reggae producers Sly and Robbie. Jones’ eclectic team gives her music depth, but while it bursts out of the gate at super-speed (“This is Life”), the record loses steam midway through (“Well Well Well”), sputtering to an abrupt halt (“Devil in My Life”) instead of accelerating across the finish line. —Hillary Weston

A Kooky Rooftop Party

Ask any New Yorker sweating on the streets about summer in the city and you’ll somehow hear a cheerful and flowery oratory. Despite the gritty heat, the miles walked upon blistering blacktops, and the strange smells emanating from subway grates (and people), certain seasonal afternoons and city perquisites tend to provide prescribed amnesia to such unfavorable conditions. Certain seasonal afternoons like the one I experienced yesterday involving the Kooks, a rooftop full of friendly folks in Flatiron, and a reservoir of cold beer, proved to be the exact prescription I needed. Cheerful and flowery oratory to follow:

I knew the Kooks were in town. The Brighton-bred boys were set to play two shows at Terminal 5, and being a devoted fan, I was prepared to make the sweltering trek westward to brave the sweaty sold-out crowds. Mercifully, I didn’t have to prove the extent of my devotion, as I had my own Inside In/Inside Out (sorry) from a kind friend from the inside of EMI who let me hang outside at the private show on the the company rooftop. On the deck a couple of Kooks mingled with the small crowd comprised of people from Astralwerks, EMI, and the sons and daughters of such. Senior Vice President of Astralwerks Glenn Mendlinger gave a brief introduction, saying of the recent heat “We thought we might be cooking a Kook here today, but the weather seems to be perfect.” I sipped at my Heineken and enjoyed the easy breeze and skyline view that only a city rooftop can afford as bandmembers Luke Pritchard and Hugh Harris climbed the provisional stage. Perfect indeed.

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image “We’ve never played a show quite like this before,” Luke confided to the audience, “but we love our label, and just think you guys are really great.” I discerningly tuned out the whole “label” part and accepted the compliment as the duo played a perfect acoustic set. Looking like the complete portrait of a British indie band, the boys in button downs, boots and shaggy mops leisurely rolled through songs including Inside In/Inside Out favorites “Naïve” and “Ooh La” as well as the new jem, “Always Where I Need to Be,” off their sophomore album, Konk. Slowly they decided which tracks to display, Luke asking himself aloud, “What song would be perfect to play right now?” The raw performance meshed flawlessly with the sunny atmosphere and their easy talent. When they reluctantly finished, the relaxed atmosphere lingered as they hugged familiar friends, investigated the burger grills, and inspected their Spotlight article in BlackBook’s May issue. Luke was leaning up against the ledge, the placid breeze stirring the pages. “It’s really great stuff,” he said with a smile that erased all prior memory of the roasting hot city, blistering blacktops, and yes, even the strange smells emanating from subway grates (and people).

Those Crazy Kooks Invade Terminal 5

It takes either serious swagger or buckets of talent to riff your album’s name off of the Kinks, without being laughed out of the room. Luckily for the Kooks, it’s the latter. The British pop band’s latest album, Konk, was named after the studio in which it was recorded, which just happens to be where the Kinks originally laid down tracks. Thus, we went to Terminal 5 last night with high expectations. And the Kooks, suprisingly, having just come from a private rooftop performance at the EMI Building, exceeded them by providing an altogether electric performance. Lead singer and guitarist, Luke Pritchard, commanded the stage with a humble elegance, as though unaware of the several indie-beauties gawking at his altar. Take a look after the jump.

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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.”