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“I feel like it’s your responsibility as a musician to adapt and change the way that you do things live.”

“I feel like it’s your responsibility as a musician to adapt and change the way that you do things live.”

It was just over a decade ago when The Kooks came bounding into the collective conscience in a flurry of chirpy guitars, Britpop-sized choruses and shaggy mop-top haircuts. Their debut LP, 2006’s Inside In/Inside Out, is home to some of the catchiest songs to emerge from the UK throughout the entire 2000s – from the urgent, barrelling (pun intended) ‘Eddie’s Gun’ to the acoustic charmer ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’.

Most of the songs remain a key staple of the band’s shows, and that much is reflected in the band’s greatest hits compilation, The Best of… So Far, released back in May. “My relationship with these songs has grown and grown exponentially,” says Hugh Harris – the band’s lead guitarist and one of its two founding members alongside vocalist Luke Pritchard.

“I never really fall out of love with songs the more that I play them, to be honest. I feel like it’s your responsibility as a musician to adapt and change the way that you do things live. That’s not necessarily to the lengths of, say, Bob Dylan; where the songs become unrecognisable. It’s just something that you have to go about in your own way as an individual. I can understand why people might think I’d be sick of the songs by now, but I’m honestly not. I think it’s testament to the fact that the album has stood the test of time. It’s taken on a life of its own.”
Harris puts a lot of the band’s continued success down to the immediate accessibility that fans have to their back catalogue. In a lot of ways, The Kooks themselves have gotten older but a lot of their core fanbase has stayed the same age. “What a lot of people forget is that the album came out at a time before there was Spotify, before there was Facebook. I think there was basically only MySpace around, really,” Harris recalls with a laugh. “The album has really been able to live on through things like Spotify – being put into playlists and that sort of thing.”

Not only is Harris incredibly proud of Inside In’s ongoing success – and, by extension, the band’s other early work – he’s confident that its legacy is one that’s still unravelling. “It’s punched through on its own weight and its own craft, and now it belongs to a whole new crowd of fans to the ones that were originally coming to see us play when the record first came out,” he says. “The band’s probably bigger now than it ever was before in Europe and in England, and I think a lot of that has to do with the older songs being continually rediscovered.”
When The Kooks formed in 2004, it was at a time where the landscape of guitar bands in the UK was decidedly cutthroat. For every success story like Bloc Party and the Arctic Monkeys, there were also the crushing defeats of also-rans like The Thrills and The Pigeon Detectives. “When we were first starting out playing shows, the scene was very competitive,” says Harris. “It was a different climate, really. In some ways it helped, but it mostly hindered – it was really hard to find a way to stand out.” The Kooks were able to adapt at a time when many bands came to the conclusion that if they repeated what they did on their first records, similar success would await them. As other bands learned the hard way that was not the case, Harris and his bandmates found ways to adapt and evolve with an open mind.

“Truthfully, I don’t know how it is that we were one of the bands who survived,” says Harris. “Part of it certainly has to do with the fact that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. There’s also the fact that our approach to music is flexible. We allow a lot of space for artistic input. Everything has added to the forward motion of this band, and it’s helped us to remain at the forefront of what we do. It’s all ingrained into the ethos of what we do. We’ve never compromised on writing great songs.”

The Kooks will perform at Falls Festival, coming to Lorne from Thursday December 28 until Sunday December 31, also featuring Flume, Run The Jewels, Glass Animals, Liam Gallagher, and more. They’ll headline Festival Hall on Wednesday January 3. The Best Of…So Far is out now.