This post first appeared on GigJunkies.com. Photo credit: Andy Jones Photography
I very clearly remember the year The Kooks brought out ‘Inside In / Inside Out’. It was the summer I went to my very first music festival (Oxegen, Ireland) and I recall them playing the NME stage in frightening detail; a highly rowdy crowd, pints flying everywhere, teenagers pushing and shoving each other around to the point the band had to stop playing to calm everyone down. Boys and girls were all there to bounce along to the ridiculously catchy, summery, pop-rock. They were a completely accessible indie band with boy band good looks. It was cool to like them, and most people actually really did. It was no real wonder that album performed so well, putting them firmly on the map.
Eight years later and The Kooks are about to release their fourth album ‘Listen’ after a good amount of time out of the spotlight. The indie music scene has changed massively since that early album. New, young indie bands seem to be less likely to break into the ‘Top 10′ and gain widespread recognition and mainstream following. Is there still a place for the upbeat, pop-style offerings of The Kooks?
The answer is undoubtedly, yes. The first couple of singles from the new album, ‘Down’ and ‘Around Town’ show evidence of a clearly matured sound, and a different one to the bright, breezy indie-pop of before. Lead singer Pritchard describes it himself as percussion sonnets, alluding to the increased focused on different rhythms for the band. It’s not bubblegum lyrics and light melodies anymore. It pays off. The resulting sound is much stronger, it has a deeper and earthier quality to it. The Kooks no longer sound like they’re young guys trying so hard to be rock stars. They sound confident and to be honest, there’s a funky style to this new material. Their influences have started to become more evident. ‘Hooray for Henry’, a track criminally relegated to B-side status on the EP ‘Down’, sounds like a distant relative of the Rolling Stones’s ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Sympathy for the devil’. Delightfully, they haven’t lost the fun, carefree side to their sound though. They still sound like a band from Brighton. ‘Forgive & Forget’ has all the makings of a summer tune despite it’s surprisingly sad breakup lyrics. Everything about these singles suggests this new album will delight old fans and bring new ones.
The recently played a sold out show at Terminal 5 in New York, earning some strong reviews; seemingly Pritchard’s continuing charm and good looks haven’t hurt in helping to hold on to that core fan base. The fact that they are still selling out venues around the world shows the influence of that first album. They’ve retained fans for the best part of a decade, which is no small achievement. Watch out for live shows around the world throughout the rest of the year because seeing new album ‘Listen’ performed live is bound to be a treat.
The band’s Fourth Album ‘Listen’ is out on September 8th.
The Kooks return with a 13 date tour across the UK in November:
Thu 6th – LEICESTER, O2 Academy
Fri 7th – BRIGHTON, Dome
Sat 8th – MANCHESTER, Academy
Mon 10th – NEWCASTLE, O2 Academy
Tue 11th – ABERDEEN, Music Hall
Thu 13th – LEEDS, O2 Academy
Fri 14th – SHEFFIELD, O2 Academy
Sat 15th – BIRMINGHAM, O2 Academy
Mon 17th – BRISTOL, O2 Academy
Tue 18th – CAMBRIDGE, Corn Exchange
Wed 19th – BOURNEMOUTH, O2 Academy
Fri 21st – NORWICH, UEA
Sat 22nd – CARDIFF, Uni Great Hall
The Kooks are: Luke Pritchard – vocals and guitar, guitarist Hugh Harris, bassist Pete Denton and drummer Alexis Nunez.
Home. I am home. After 86 days of travel covering roughly 5,100 miles visiting 10 different States I am home again. At the moment everything is surreal. Hearing the different accent, seeing different landscape and realising I’m back in the UK, I can’t really believe it. When you plan a trip like that for 8 months I guess you don’t really account for how you will feel when you complete it. It’s accomplished, it is done.
A lot of the time when you travel people ask you what was the highlight, where did you enjoy the most and perhaps it’s because I only just landed this morning and I’ve not fully digested what I’ve done, but I’m finding it really very difficult to answer that question. At first I thought my immediate response would be the Grand Canyon because I had a very emotional reaction to seeing it that will stick with me forever. I feel like the unbelievable view of that Canyon is burned onto my retina. But then I think of all the other things I’ve done: standing in Times Square, playing the BIG piano, visiting the Kennedy Space Centre, seeing and holding alligators, listening to real country music, visiting Sun Studios and Graceland, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, seeing the Rebirth Brass Band rock out, eating fantastic food in Austin, standing atop Sandia Peak at sunset following an Irish Coffee, hiking around the red stones of Sedona, watching the Bellagio Fountains dance to Billie Jean, being a guest at Pixar, standing in the same spot as Jack Kerouac, checking out Alcatraz and finding stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And that’s not even getting started.
The real highlight to be completely cheesy and a bit proud for a moment is that I actually achieved it. When I look at a map and see the distance I covered I’m kind of astounded myself. I’ve loved having to become accustomed to change. It has been an absolute pleasure meeting such incredible people along my route and having the opportunity to interview some bright young bands. My iTunes and spotify libraries are all the better for it.
Most of all when I think of America, I will never forget the generousity shown to me and the encouragement I’ve received to follow my dream. Without it I simply would not be sat where I am right now. As the sun sets on my American adventure, it’s time to start thinking about the next dream. So, what now?
So I last wrote after having been in New York really only for about a day and a half and mostly I was in awe. I now write as I leave and the awe never went away. It would be fair to say my 4 days in New York were unexpected, full of walking, kind of crazy and exactly what I had hoped for. I do feel shattered now though. If you intend to take a short trip to New York but want to see everything there, that will happen.
While my first full day in New York was accompanied by brilliant sunshine, I woke up to torrential rain on my second day, which pretty much scuppered plans to go up the Empire State Building. Instead I chose to start off by walking the High Line – a public park and path that runs down Manhattan’s West Side. It was incredibly serene and quiet, probably due to the weather but there were some beautiful views, and I love the concept of it so I enjoyed walking it.
I headed on from there to the financial district. Having used to work at Goldman Sachs I was curious about how Wall Street would look and was actually surprised by how low key it is. I don’t know if I’ve been watching too many movies, but I expected to see people in suits running around, there was none of that really, just some very old but very beatuiful buildings.
The afternoon encompassed the most intense part of my stay. I went to
see the 9/11 memorial. I knew the minute I booked my flight to New York it was something I wanted to see. I so clearly remember 9/11 that going to the memorial and taking a moment to think of all those who died and those who survived felt like an important thing to do. I have to say it felt very strange to be in that spot but the water pools were beautiful and the memorial and visitors centre were incredibly poignant. I thought it made for a fitting tribute and I’m glad I spent some time there.
It was an intense experience though so following that I felt like some rest time and the Staten Island Ferry was perfect for that. I wanted to get closer to the Statue of Liberty without paying for a specific boat tour, and the ferry is free and actually a very pleasant journey. It takes about 20 miutes or so to go one way and you do go right by the Statue which is really cool. It’s funny though, being on the ferry made me think of an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie takes the Ferry to go to a party, the back of the boat is (obviously) exactly like from the show, and it just made me think how strange it is that New York is so familiar to me because of TV and film. It’s actually quite reassuring in a way. It’s not hard to see why so many shows and films are set in the city, there are an incredible amount of places that just scream out for some kind of filming to take place there.
By this time it was almost dark and I headed up Broadway to meet Sam, eating a gigantic pizza slice which I’d been told I *must* eat before I even got to New York. I was thinking how much I loved New York, even in the rain, and then I saw it by night and it was a revelation. It isn’t called the city that never sleeps for no reason.
That night I headed down to The Bowery Room to catch my first gig in the States. What a cool venue. It was so retro and funky and had a perfectly sized small stage with floor and balcony viewing. As for the people, they were all really friendly and just out to see a good show. We definitely got that thanks to Radio Moscow and Graveyard, and I was pretty over the moon to get my first ‘With the band’ interview in the States and chat to some touring musicians.
My final day in New York was absolutely freezing cold. They don’t joke about how cold New York gets – and this apparently wasn’t even that cold. I had thermals and about 5 layers on and it was still biting. Anyway I headed to Central Park as I was moving to a hostel there for the night. Central Park really is an oasis in the craziness of the city. It’s sweeping and grand and romantic and so serene. I imagine in the summer you could just spend the entire time there. I also spent a little time on the Upper East side visiting a friend, which was interesting. It is so different to Broooklyn, I’m really glad I’ve had the chance to see such different parts of th city.
It started to lightly snow and I was about to give in and retire to a warm room, when I decided to head down to Times Square at dark. If I adored Times Square in the daytime, I was in love with it by night. The neon screens come to life – it really is the epitomy of an iconic big city. It was strange but I was actually shaking when I stood in the viewing platform and took in the vastness of it – I think of all the things I’ve seen, that was my favourite part of New York.
And so, my time in New York comes to an end. If I’m honest I can’t believe it’s over so fast. I feel like I saw everything and yet saw nothing. Four days is great as an introduction to the city but if you want to get to know New York you definitely need longer. I feel like I walked a thousand miles around it and one thing I know for sure, it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to return to (perhaps next time not doing it on a backpackers budget!). New York has been the *perfect* start to my trip, I’ve been welcomed with open arms. So now I head on to warmer climates..Orlando, Florida…
So having been in NYC for a couple of days I was really excited to check out my first live gig, after a recommendation from a friend (props to Mr Jason Mollring) I headed down to The Bowery Ballroom. A band called Graveyard were headlining but I was actually more interested in seeing and talking to Radio Moscow. Describing themselves as ‘pyschedelic blues’ I thought they would be the ideal way to start ‘With the band’ in America. I was not disappointed.
It is hard to believe that the current line-up have only been playing together for 3 days. Their sound is tight. The best way I could personally describe it would be dirty, bluesy and kind of earthy – or as they describe it ‘real’. What I most enjoyed about it was that although this is clearly a band which enjoys a good guitar solo (and why not when you have the talent to do so), it is not overplayed. They got on stage, they played their music, they barely needed to look up to the crowd, the music spoke for itself. The music was rousing, often ending in a crescendo of guitar riffs – it was definitely rock and roll.
My personal favourite song was ‘Creepin’ mostly due to the way it patiently grew into a stomping bluesy track. There’s definitely a retro feel to it (which suited the venue down to the ground) and the audience were loving it. By the end of the set there were a number of murmings in the crowd, including the line ‘no one can touch them!’. I’d be inclined at this point to agree. They were exciting to watch and it was genuinely one of those moments you feel you’ve seen something special. If a band can achieve that after only 3 days, you have to wonder what lies ahead.
I spoke to the very friendly and good fun Parker, Billy and Lonnie about Radio Moscow, the music and their future:
Watch Radio Moscow live here:
The band have just brought out new album ‘The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz’ which I urge you to check out and are currently on tour with Graveyard across the States.
Well, I have landed in New York and just wow. It is immense. I think you imagine what New York will be like but it far surpasses any expectations. Landing at JFK I navigated the subway to Penn Station which brought me right out in the centre of Manhattan. I couldn’t stop looking up. The buildings are so tall! And of course there are so many yellow cabs and all things New York related the minute you step on the sidewalk. That first afternoon I was so in awe of everything I didn’t really take it all in, until I walked past the Empire State Building. It was then I really realised I was in New York.
During my stay in New York I’m staying with my friend Sam Beinhacker or @slboval on Twitter in Brooklyn. It’s actually really nice to be staying out of Manhattan because every time you enter the place you are completely astounded once again. And Brooklyn is gorgeous.
After an evening chilling and finally succumbing to jet lag, I woke up Wednesday morning refreshed and ready to see some sights. Following a run around the beautiful Prospect Park in Brooklyn, I headed down to the Brooklyn Bridge. Walking across the bridge there are such iconic views of Manhattan, it takes your breath away. It’s the scene you’ve seen in a thousand movies, and you can see the Statue of Liberty far in the distance. The view was so incredible it actually gave me chills. Upon arriving on the other side of the bridge, I found myself pretty much in the middle of a buzzing China Town and carried on walking all the way up Broadway to Times Square.
There is no other word for Times Square but spectacular. Whether you like massive neon signs, videos and posters or not, there’s no denying that it’s an impressive location – it makes Picadilly Circus in London look quiet. It’s not just the giant billboards but the fact you are surrounded by everything ‘New York’ there. There are hundreds of yellow cabs around, even more tourists queuing up to get discounted theatre tickets and skyscrapers aplenty. There is a kind of viewing platform right in the centre of it which I took advantage of to just stand and take it all in for some time.
From Times Square I headed up to the Rockefeller Center which actually seemed relatively quiet considering where I had just been. The ice rink just below it was unfortunately empty when I was there, but I could imagine it would be a pretty magical place to spend an hour or so skating at Christmas time.
The absolute highlight of the day was finding the piano from the film BIG at FAO Schwarz. If you know me at all, you’ll know I’m a massive Tom Hanks fan, so when I found out it existed I knew I had to find it. If you go up to the first floor, there’s an entire area dedicated to the BIG piano, and like the big kid I am, I was straight in there, shoes off, dancing on it. You really do feel a little magic attempting to play the piano on it, it’s just an incredible experience – I’d recommend it to anyone visiting New York.
From there I headed over to Grand Central Terminal. It is such a beautiful building. Most recently I saw it on film in Friends with Benefits. In the scene there is a massive flashmob singing ‘Closing Time’ by Semisonic – it’s pretty cool. Seeing it on film and even photos of it don’t do it justice. In real life you can almost feel the history of the building in the atmosphere – it’s super impressive. Despite the fact it is really busy, you don’t feel like you are in a crowd.
That essentially sums up my first day and a half in New York. One thing is for certain, I have walked miles – but when I see one sight it spurs me on to want to see the next! I have 2 more full days left in New York, I can’t wait to discover more. I really get the feeling 4 days isn’t nearly enough.
So I’m sat here at the airport about to head off on my trip. It’s so early in the morning it’s all relatively quiet which is pretty welcome after I only got about 2 minutes sleep. I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking about this whole adventure last night and honestly I can’t believe I’m about to actually embark on it.
It was pretty cool travelling across London while everyone was sleeping though. I love London in the early hours, it’s the one time I can be at peace with the city and actually appreciate its scale. I had an amazing send off with the housemates last night. They cooked me a fantastic American meal, decorated the kitchen with flags and then we lit and set off a sky lantern. You’re supposed to write your wishes on sky lanterns, light them and then send them off into the sky. It was quite the metaphor for my trip and how I hope to get my dreams off the ground.
So I guess this is it! I will see you all from across the Pond. First stop New York City, the place dreams are made of. I cannot wait to explore, meet some New Yorkers and see what the Big Apple has to offer! *sets iPod to Empire state of Mind* – Let’s Go!!
Now that I’ve gotten round to telling everyone I’m planning a trip to the states, I should probably share my planned route. When I started planning my trip I knew one thing for certain, I wanted to go across the South. The destinations included on my route are a mixture of places I’ve always wanted to go, places where I know people and suggested places. I’m pretty excited about it. I have to say though this is a really rough route – I expect and I even hope it will change – I’m hoping you’ll share any suggestions with me! Not remotely claiming to think I’ve got this right…! I’ve got a basic idea of the dates I’ll be in each place but that’s not set in stone at all yet..
View Trip across the States in a larger map
New York – I’m starting in New York City because it’s a city I’ve always dreamed about visiting. From Central Park to Times Square and everything in between I can’t lie, I want to see it all. To me, New York represents a city where dreams come true so it kind of makes sense for me to start out there! I’m really excited to be hanging out with a good friend of mine, Sam, there and can’t wait to see the Big Apple!
Orlando, Florida – I’ve been to Orlando before when I was 17, to visit my uncle Darren and aunt Dawn. It was a family holiday and we did the whole Disney thing and I did like the place a lot. This time it’s an essential part of my journey because I really want to spend some time with Darren and Dawn, and hopefully see a bit more of what Orlando has to offer – looking forward to some quality time there!
Savannah, Georgia – To be honest this has been a last minute addition to the planned route. I was thinking that travelling straight from Orlando to Nashville would be a big trip and a stop in Georgia would be nice, when an awesome friend Trevor suggested Savannah to me. From what I can tell the place looks beautiful, a great place for me to travel through.
Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee – I’m so excited about Tennessee in general, Nashville and Memphis felt like the natural places for me to visit – I believe they are music-central! I already can’t wait to experience the different kinds of music they have there and meet lots of incredible people. This is where I think the heart of the live music will be.
New Orleans, Louisiana – When I told people about my trip, I think pretty much everyone said: “you have to go to New Orleans”. You can’t really argue with that! It seems to be a pretty exciting city, and I feel it will definitely be a highlight of the entire trip.
Houston and Austin, Texas – A trip across the South without visiting Texas I just don’t think I could do! Especially Austin, where I am planning to be just in time for SXSW, which everyone tells me is the best music festival in the world. Can’t wait to compare it to Glastonbury – thinking it might be a little less muddy..
Albuquerque, New Mexico – Albuquerque is somewhere I actually don’t know that much about yet, but it seemed liked a good place to plan a stop between Austin and Flagstaff. I’m thinking I’ll be most surprised by this city, simply because I don’t know what to expect.
Flagstaff, Arizona – Why Flagstaff? Well this is the Grand Canyon stop. Do I really need to explain why I want to go to the Grand Canyon?! EPIC views. Every glimpse I’ve had of it on TV is not going to prepare me for the vast beauty of it. Expect LOTS of photos from me from there. Just to make it there will be a massive dream come true.
Las Vegas, Nevada – Vegas is on my list mostly because it made no sense to pass it by! I’m doubting I’ll actually have the money to really experience it (which is a good thing – I’m no gambler!), but the chance to see it is too tempting. Reckon I’ll only be there briefly though.
San Francisco, California – San Francisco I’m mostly excited about because I’ll get to hang out with my gals there! A friend I met at dance classes, Emily, moved back there not long ago and I’m so excited to hang out with her and our other friends from dance who are flying out to visit! Plus we get to spend Anna’s birthday there! Will be one to remember I reckon! It will be so incredible to see a group of friends there having done so much travelling by then.
Los Angeles, California – My final destination, mostly because my flight home returns from there, is the home of Hollywood. I feel like after all the cities I’ll have visited LA is going to be a change of pace, but I’m excited about it. I’m still to meet someone who hasn’t liked LA, so I’m looking forward to seeing it myself.
So there we go, that’s the general idea…this could change but I’ll update it. I’ll probably do a post on each places as well before I go, looking at my research and the recommendations I’ve had as to where to go in each place. Seriously any and ALL recommendations welcome!! I know people will think I’m missing some key places. I can’t go everywhere(!) but I do want to hear suggestions if you have them!