True believers

The Kooks keep it classic
By KEN MICALLEF  |  May 8, 2007


VIDEO: The Kooks, "Ooh La"

Luke Pritchard may look a bit like a shaggy dog with his lips curled in a mock Jagger pout. But it’s no pose. The 23-year-old singer/guitarist is a walking rock-and-roll obsessive. “When you put on a Stones or Doors record, you’re there,” he mumbles excitedly from his home in Brighton, England, in a manic jumble of references. “You’re in their studio. Songs like ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,’ that is rock and roll to me. It’s got that Jagger swagger. And ‘I’m So Tired,’ that is genius. And ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun,’ it’s that whole vibe. Recently I am really getting into Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. There is one song, ‘Almost Cut My Hair,’ that is so grooving. And I got Buffalo Springfield Again; it is such an eclectic record. ‘Mr. Soul’ is a basic R&B/soul track, then they go into country music and harmonies. I can listen to that for days. It’s beautiful music.”

Pritchard’s band the Kooks, whose late 2006 debut charted multiple UK hit singles and landed on several year-end best-of lists, believe in musical mysticism and in that old-time religion as expressed in pre-digital, straight-to-tape recording. It’s what inspired the visceral Inside In/Inside Out (Astralwerks), an album that’s still making waves as they embark on a US tour that brings them to the Paradise this Sunday. (The disc’s current single, “Ooh La,” is iTunes’ “Single of the Week.”)

Originally a group of college chums, the Kooks — Pritchard, Hugh Harris (guitar), Max Rafferty (bass), and Paul Gerred (drums) — may be a Britpop band in name, but their organic rock is nothing like that of fawned-over peers like Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs. They’ve locked into that rock-and-roll element that goes straight to the gut. Beneath the rough surface of Inside In/Inside Out is the essence of classic ’60s rock.

“It’s the way we recorded the album — entirely to tape,” Pritchard says. “When you record four people in a room, you capture something underneath the music. . . . It is quite hard to get hold of tape today. I think Jack White bought it all up. But when you record to CD, there are many processes involved in getting the sound, from the mic to the recording desk to the computer to CD. When you record to tape, what you are playing is being burned directly onto a piece of magnetic tape. It’s not a computer or digital representation of your performance. The way computers record, they basically take snapshots of the sound wave, so you don’t actually get the whole picture. They take a snapshot every .001 seconds, so you miss out tiny little bits of the music. That stuff matters — you can feel it.”

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