Sometimes you have to change everything, retool everything, rethink everything in order to move in the right direction. The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard knows this, in fact he positively delights in it. His band’s new album – their third, always a crucial moment – has always had one great goal. To reinvent the band from the ground up. Rather wonderfully, they’ve done it.
"The whole way we work has changed,” Luke smiles. “We’re not just a band making noise in a room anymore. We’ve moved on a lot and I’m really proud of what we’ve done. There are elements of all the music we have ever loved in this new record, but it still has our roots. “Junk Of The Heart” is very different and hopefully something that no one’s ever heard before. It’s upbeat – its’ an album to play in the sun…"
"If we dont kill ourselves well be the leaders of a messed-up generation"
This is an amazing time for Example. Two years ago he was support on a Calvin Harris show at the Scala. Since then hes had three of his own fully sold-out tours and hes played a string of huge dates with Lily Allen and Faithless. This summer hes the second headline act on Glastonburys John Peel Stage.
Examples last album, Wont Go Quietly, went Gold, driven in part by the enormous success of the astonishingly popular Kickstarts (10.9m You Tube views). Since then hes been on a serious journey of self-discovery. From Unorthodox, his Stone Roses sampling collaboration with Wretch 32 (a No. 2 hit 1.7m You Tube views), through Look Over Your Shoulder with Giggs and right up to Shot Yourself In The Foot Again alongside Skream (3.6m You Tube views).
Now Example is looking around himself, at what hes seen on the road, in clubs, at festivals, in recording studios, in hotel rooms,taxicabs and aeroplanes and hes wondering what the hell is going on. Playing In The Shadows marks the moment where Example grows up.
"I had to be careful when I spoke to my girlfriend about this stuff in case she thought it meant we were in a tough place he says. But tough places give me inspiration. She gets unhappy about me going away for a month. She wants to know when were getting married, but Im worried that being comfortable and having a family will mean I cant write songs that touch people anymore.
The music industry puts a lot of strain on your relationships and your social life, Example says. Theres always the pressure to drink all night and to stay up for days and to cheat. If its not pressure then its opportunity, endless opportunity. This whole album is me asking, should I be doing drugs Should I be drinking Should I commit Should I stop partying Should I settle down
"No more fun nights for you, young man"
Wrong In The Head
The albums title can be taken in various ways. You can play in the shadows pretending to be someone youre not. You can play in the shadows of your own personality. You can play in the shadows of a great club or night at a festival. There are good and bad times to hide, good and bad ways to get what you want.
Example, like a lot of us, is a bit jealous of those lucky people who know exactly what they wanted to be when theyre 18 and just went for it. He never had that. As a kid he listened to Nirvana, Motown and Michael Jackson. At school in west London it was all Wu Tang Clan, Jay-Z and Slick Rick. At university he would MC at garage raves, make countless mixtapes and host pirate radio stations, but music still came second to film making.
There was a year spent working on movie sets in Australia to avoid the grind of London and time spent doing voice-overs and producing promos at Paramount Comedy, but it wasnt until he was 21 that Example really took music seriously. The first album was all hip-hop as that was all he knew. It sold 10000 copies. Its a cult thing, he says. But it isnt the real me.
On his second album Example worked with 25 producers to get 14 songs. They made 40 demos and ended up scrapping half of it. Example was learning and learning fast, what is and isnt right for him.
I idolise Blur, he says. And even they didnt really know what they were doing until they were on album three. Now Im on album three and that thought gives me confidence. Its only now that I really know what I should look like, how I should sound and what I should write about.
Every song on Playing In The Shadows is personal; every word is rooted in a real emotion. Its a startlingly revealing record.
Its more grown-up, more epic, he says. It all began with Kickstarts that was sad and happy, an anthem. Watching 60000 people singing that back to me at a festival was my Eureka moment. It made me realise what I should do. I draw from intensely personal experiences then tweak those feelings to make them open to everyone.
So, Stay Awake produced by Nero is about waking up at Ibiza Rocks and seeing hundreds of kids still going from the night before. In 10-15 years, if this carries on, will the country still be able to function The Way produced by Faithless wonders whether this will be the generation where drugs become the norm. And if they are, is that a good thing
Skream returns for Under The Influence, a fantastically edgy, moody love/hate song to cocaine, while the first single, the brilliantly kinetic Changed The Way You Kiss Me, is a metaphor for the fragility of all relationships.
The songs are all about the same thing. Theyre all about love. I know what my strengths are. Im not in the Top Ten Rappers or the Top Ten Singers in the country, but Im a good songwriter and a good performer. My gigs convert people. My live show is full on all the way through. The last 20 minutes is a relentless rave whoevers on after me is fucked!
For now, the focus is on Playing In The Shadows taking Example onto another level to where hes fronting the new generation of headline dance acts. Where once it was Basement Jaxx or Leftfield or Groove Armada, now its Example or Pendulum or Chase & Status.
This album will make that happen for me, he says. Ive been on a crazy journey but now Im right where I need to be. Now its all about music. This is the first time Ive really worn my heart on my sleeve. This is about real life now.