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The Kooks to play Upstate Concert Hall

The Kooks to play Upstate Concert Hall

Guitarist says they've moved past their initial sound
The Kooks to play Upstate Concert Hall
The Kooks
Photographer: Andrew Whitton

With nostalgic lyrics and catchy melodies, The Kooks has gone back to its roots.

After releasing several eclectic albums, band members experimented with more of a classic pop-rock sound on their latest album, “Let’s Go Sunshine.”

“I know that that sounds twisted but that was the logic behind it,” said lead guitarist Hugh Harris. 

The Brighton pop-rock band is heading to Upstate Concert Hall on Monday with “Let’s Go Sunshine.” The album, which came out in 2018, is filled with songs that stay true not only to the band’s identity but to a certain sect of British pop-rock that has stuck around for generations. 

“I think when we first started, we were very much purists. We were into guitars and amps and analog gear. These days we kind of don’t really care anymore. It’s more about being creative and getting those juices flowing,” Harris said. 

When the band’s first album, “Inside In/Inside out,” came out in 2006, The Kooks were labeled by some critics as another noughties guitar pop band. But their ensuing records all broke into the Top 20 in the UK album charts and with “Let’s Go Sunshine,” it’s clear that the band has grown into and beyond its initial sound. Band members have outgrown their own expectations as well; “The Kooks were never meant to be big, we were never given the open doors,” said Luke Pritchard, lead singer. 

This new found popularity is in part thanks to streaming services, said Harris. 

“Over the last five years, since all the streaming platforms have come into play, people are now being subjected to things like playlists and they are discovering our early stuff, which is crazy,” Harris said, “It’s humbling as well. It makes you feel very honored that this music has stood the test of time for a lot of teenagers and it feels like that first record of ours [is] a bit of a rite of passage for people growing up. It’s not just our music anymore, it belongs to someone else. It’s a time capsule.” 

With their later albums, like “Listen,” the band really stretched themselves and tried out a more eclectic sound. Harris said that album was like a springboard for the band, freeing them up to sonically go into any direction they’d like. 

“I think for that reason we decided to not go into the avant-garde and to just make a rock record,” Harris said, “Something that people know us for and a record that we all see eye to eye on as a band. In a way, achieving that is avant-garde for us.” 

“Let’s Go Sunshine,” is nostalgic and there’s certainly a “feel good Indie-rock” vibe to it. 

“It’s a bit like these days people are really into unicorns and I think it’s something to do with the ‘kidult’ thing, everyone is a bit panicky about their adult lives. My generation, we look to comfort and nostalgia,” Harris said. 

“All the Time,” one of the early tracks on the record, combines a funky-pop feel with romantic lyrics, while “Four Leaf Clover,” harkens back to the band’s original pop-rock sound. Then with “Tesco Disco,” the band dips into dreamy psychedelic melodies, with wistful lyrics about teenage love. 

“Fractured and Dazed” combines a sort of dazzling pop with classic “Kooks’” rock. 

“I think ‘Fractured and Dazed’ is my favorite because there’s something quite magic [about] the song. I always felt this way since I heard it and I really wanted us to try and record it,” Harris said. 

For the band members, who are in perhaps the most prolific points in their careers--Harris is working on his own record that will be out later this year--it was challenging not to go off into more experimental  territory and really try to break away from their previous albums and to instead think of what they wanted their “classic” record or sound to be. 

“It was very brave and ambitious of us just to do a ‘Kooks’ record,” Harris said. 

A sort of in the pocket sound like that found on “Let’s Go Sunshine” was also what listeners seemed to be craving.  

“Last year, at the time that we released it, I think the world just needed a bit of positive music. We think as a band that there are parts of our whole reality that are basically falling apart, I mean, in your country, in my country there’s not a lot of civility at the minute and I think that was definitely on our minds,” Harris said. 

That’s not to say that the record doesn’t include cloudy skies. “The universe was so unkind to me, oh, but I’d like to let go of the weight of the world,” Pritchard sings in “Weight of the World,” a song that opens with a dramatic and melancholy piano melody. Or in “Swing Low,” when Pritchard sings about bullies--“I’ve been lost, locked up and shot. I’m never gonna let them win, never going down again.”   

When the band heads to Upstate Concert Hall, newer music will definitely be the focus of the setlist, though Harris said they’ll be digging back into the Kooks’ discography as well. 

The Kooks

WITH: Barns Courtney and Future Beats
WHEN: 8 p.m. Mon. 
WHERE: Upstate Concert Hall
TICKETS: $25 in advance, $28 day of show
MORE INFO: upstateconcerthall.com

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