An Interview with The Kooks
I spoke with Alexis Nunez, drummer of The Kooks, following the release of their new album Let’s Go Sunshine, and during a run of intimate UK shows. We discussed the state of the band and the vibe of the new album!
Ellie: Hey Alexis! How are you? It’s nice to chat, I’m enjoying the new album!
Alexis: Hi Ellie, I’m very well thanks, how are you? Thanks a lot, that’s good to hear.
Ellie: Yeah I’m good thank you. No problem! Could you tell me a bit about your involvement with The Kooks? I know you started as a session drummer for the band and it was 2012 when you joined full time right?
Alexis: Yeah that’s right, I started in 2012. Basically, I got a text from Luke just saying that he’d got my number from a mutual friend called Nat Jenkins and that the band were looking for a drummer. I got back to him and we met up the next day in a pub in East London and we kind of just hit it off. He explained the situation, they’d gone through a few different drummers and it was quite a stressful time for the band so they were looking for something permanent. After talking to him I said I’d learn a few songs and we could play together and see how it felt, about a week later we went through the songs together and it all just took off from there really. After that, they flew me in to do a little tour of the States, they were supporting Foster the People so that was nice because the fact we were support meant there wasn’t as much pressure as there would have been in a headline situation. The sets were only about half an hour long you know? And then it just carried on from there, I had to learn a whole bunch of songs, I think I had to learn about 25. We just rehearsed a lot and got used to playing together as musicians and it went from there yeah!
Ellie: It sounds like that was a really nice way of easing into it doing the support slots. I was going to ask if it felt like being the new kid at school when you first joined because they were already such an established band but it sounds like it was an easy fit from the beginning.
Alexis: Yeah, absolutely. They were doing quite a lot of gigs at that time so I kind of got thrown in at the deep end. It was a little bit like being the new kid at school because they were very well established, and it’s not just the band, there’s crew and management and loads of other people involved. But I was very certain about what it was that I could do and confident about that, and they needed someone to just step in and take care of business which is what I feel I did and still do. It all worked out, you know? This incarnation of the band has been together for six years now and it’s really settled. We all get along really well and I think it just allows us to take care of the musical aspect rather than there being drama.
Ellie: I can certainly sense the stability of the band in the new album, it feels like you’ve really had a chance to sit down and each contribute everything you’ve got to it.
Alexis: Thanks so much! That’s how we feel, yeah.
Ellie: How involved are you in the concept and lyrics of the music? Is it generally Luke that does that?
Alexis: It’s been different each time really. There have been times where we’ve sat down and written together but this time, Luke did a lot of the writing with the producers involved before we went out to record. Then when we got to the studio we did some arranging together, you know sat and tried to work the tunes out and figure out the best approach to them. That’s always a lot of fun in the studio, moulding the songs to make them sound as good as possible. In terms of our involvement in the album, the songs were pretty much there and then we came in and did a lot of tracking as a band.
Ellie: Awesome. I’m actually reading a lot of comments where fans are saying Let’s Go Sunshine is reminiscent of Inside In/Inside Out, I know you weren’t a part of the band for that album, I just wondered how intentional that was and also how you guys take those comments? Do you see that as a compliment?
Alexis: It wasn’t an intentional thing, if anything it was kind of like…it was a good time at that point, there were a lot of great bands coming out, and it was a good time for The Kooks, and it’s not necessarily reminiscent but now is a good time for the band too. There was a certain sound back then but with this album there are a lot of genres in the music, even though that original Kooks sound has stayed all the way through. Yeah, the new album is a bit of a nod to the past, saying that we do still like playing this style of music but there’s more experimentation. It’s nice for people who did love Inside In/Inside Out to hear that in the new music for sure. In terms of the comments, it doesn’t bother me personally. We’re very comfortable with what it is that we do and it’s all feeling very exciting and fresh right now.
Ellie: That’s cool, so you say that you’ve experimented more with this album, what has that involved?
Alexis: Well we played around a lot with different samples and sonics and stuff. There are a couple of slow, ballad like songs, including ‘Weight of the World’, which is my favourite track on the album. It’s just kind of whimsical and there’s a lot of emotion there if you listen to what he’s singing about, I really gravitate to that tune. But then there are faster ones, more up-tempo. It’s just a really varied album in terms of genres.
Ellie: Well I don’t think sticking within one genre is as much of a concern for artists as it used to be right?
Alexis: Definitely not, I think as long as the songs come across, it’s nice to keep it varied. Certainly as musicians, you’d get tired if every song sounded the same.
Ellie: Yeah, another thing I always think must be fun about being in a band is music videos. I watched the video for ‘Four Leaf Clover’ and I really liked it, can you tell me a bit about the concept, and again, how much of an input do you guys have in that side of things?
Alexis: We haven’t had much of an input lately, we get the ideas sent over and then we make suggestions and edits but generally not much. It would be cool to have more of an input I suppose but the directors and producers take the main role. But like I say, we all try and work together and find something that everyone agrees with. In terms of the concept of that particular video, there’s a girl being bullied at school and she finds a friend and breaks free. It’s kind of psychedelic and there are a few references throughout it to look out for. With this album, we’re making more cameo appearances so the videos aren’t just centred on the band. But yeah, the girl who appeared in the ‘Four Leaf Clover’ video is amazing, I think she’s really striking.
Ellie: Yeah she definitely is, it’s a cool video. So tell me about the show last night in London, how did it go?
Alexis: It went fantastically yeah, it was in a great place called Moth Club, I’ve seen a few bands there and they always put great shows on. It’s very small and intimate but the place was packed and everyone was singing along to new tunes and just having a great time. It’s a small stage so it just felt like an old school club show which I love. It was hot a sweaty and everyone was just loving it. You get used to playing festivals and much bigger stages so it’s nice to go back to that sometimes.
Ellie: Was it always the intention to make these shows intimate?
Alexis: Yeah definitely, it gives us a nice chance to play the new songs too. We played quite a few of them last night and we will be for this tour, we’re still working them out ourselves and settling into what they eventually will be when played live so it’s nice to be able to do that in an intimate setting and see people’s reactions.
Ellie: Where else have you got coming up?
Alexis: So we’ve got a few more of the intimate shows, Oban, Middlesbrough, and Bexhill. Then we’re doing a tour of the States, and then Australia, then Europe. We’ll probably do another UK tour, it’s just going to go on forever!
Ellie: Sounds like a good time! Well it was really nice talking so good luck with the rest of the intimate shows and have fun touring the world!
Alexis: Yeah it was great talking, thanks so much!
You can buy or stream the new album now, and you can watch the video for Four Leaf Clover below.
Image Credit: Sonic PR