Ahead of their top slot at the city’s newest festival - Meadowlands - on Friday 3 June, we speak to The Kooks drummer Alex Nunez about his Notts lineage, Prince and touring the world…
What sticks out to you when you think about Nottingham?
The first thing that comes to mind is my dad. He's from Chile and Nottingham was the first place he went to when he got to the UK. Funnily enough, he’d been in a relationship with my mum in Chile but they split up. Then they both, without knowing, came to the UK - my dad to Nottingham and my mum to Manchester. They met up again a couple of years after arriving, and then I was born! So when I think of Nottingham, I picture my dad in the mid-seventies trying to get to the UK and find a better life.
You've just released EP number two of a series that makes up your latest album Echo in the Dark. The chorus to your latest single Beautiful World suggests there's one or two things you'd like to fix about the state of things. If there was a magic bullet to solve all the world's problems, what do you think it'd be?
Just a deeper understanding about the more important things in life and like, just love. I can't think of another word. It just has to be more acceptance and equality; we all live here on the same rock together - we're global citizens. So love, that's all I can say.
It’s all you need! You've been in The Kooks for over ten years now - what's the best memory you've made along the way?
There have been a lot but I think that all the fondest memories I have are on tour. We're so lucky because there's a lot of love for the band all over the world, so we get to travel quite a bit. After we’ve just released an album we'll do a couple of years of touring, and there's just something about the touring lifestyle that takes a little while to get used to, but when you get it right, you really get to appreciate where you're going, and you make time to go and find the best things about where you are. I couldn't really say one memory, but just getting to experience different cultures and being around lovely people that like the band. South America is always a lot of fun when we're on tour.
Have you got to play in Chile much?
Yeah a few times, which is just great. My aunties came to the last show that we did out there. We’re so lucky just to be doing this. Really lucky.
It only took The Kooks four months to get signed to a major label… What's your advice for artists today trying to get noticed and get out there? Do they need to get signed?
It's not as important as it used to be, because people can do it themselves. I'm sitting in my studio at the moment and I've got the capacity to record whatever I want and then it's not as hard to release it these days. My advice for bands would be to rehearse, get the chemistry together, in terms of what it's actually like to be in a band, and feel one another's role in the band.
I saw The Rolling Stones a few years ago. Charlie [Watts] and Keith [Richards] have that dynamic between them that was just the whole groove. I think that’s something that may be getting lost in the modern world of production and different approaches. Which is absolutely fine - I have nothing against that - but first just play and get good at being a band, and pick some cool clothes. Don’t be afraid to get freaky. It's an extension of who you are. I think that when you're in a band, it's always exciting to see people dressing a certain way, or just expressing themselves. Just be confident and go out there and smash it.
When I think of Nottingham, I picture my dad in the mid-seventies trying to get to the UK and find a better life
You’ve touched on it a little bit, but how do you think the industry has changed since you started out?
I think there’s less mystery out there with artists and bands. Now you can see what people are doing pretty much day-to-day, because people feel the need to document everything immediately. When I was growing up, I remember really obsessing over an artist or band or wanting to know things but not really being able to find out. Maybe there was an article in a magazine or little things here or there, and it was really special. And the sense of mystery meant that you'd have to fill in the gaps yourself. But these days it's a little bit more nebulous. People aren't really selling records. It’s the way music is consumed, I think.
I find myself listening less and less to albums in their entirety - more just a couple of tracks from an album here and there, then I'll switch to another band. Sometimes I don't even know what I want to listen to. And I will literally scroll and be like, ‘Give me some inspiration,’ which isn't ideal. It's great to have the option but at the same time, you should put on a record because you want to put it on, not because someone is telling you to put it on. It’s definitely changed but you just have to embrace it. I guess this is where we are.
I read that Prince is a big influence of yours, and I think it's something you can really hear on the records since you joined the band. So what is it about Prince that really inspires you?
He's so pure, and one of the greatest performers of all time. He could really play the guitar, and he could even play drums, keys, sing, produce, he just did it all. When you see him live, which I was so fortunate to be able to do a few times back in the day, you could just tell that he really cared about the performance and about real musicians playing and performing, and the levels throughout the set. He really knew how to shape his set and bring the crowd with him, and as a performer I can't think of many others that did it like that. He's one of the baddest. I can't stress how much I adore him. Sometimes, I'll put like a clip on and I'll be in tears, just because he does it all so well.
I completely agree. So, tough question: if you had to pick just one Prince album to listen to for the rest of time, which one would it be?
I mean, I love Purple Rain, but I’m going to say Sign of the Times. Today, I'm going to say Sign of the Times.
Fair shout. So on to Meadowlands. What have The Kooks got in store for us?
Well, we're still celebrating the fifteen-year anniversary of Inside In/Inside Out [the band’s landmark 2006 debut]. So I think we're going to be doing a lot from that record. It’s been great fun. There are just such great tunes to play, a couple of really punky, high energy songs. And then we're going to be playing two or three of the new ones and introducing them. It will be a mixture of old and new, but no doubt it'll be a lot of fun.
Finally, to get people ready for Meadowlands, what's your best bit of festival-going advice?
Just don't plan too much. Float around. I'm not really keen on schedules and planning. I like to stumble across things. Do your thing and stay loose... oh, and stay safe!
Check out the full Meadowlands line up and grab your tickets via Eventim