These should be nothing but good times for England's the Kooks. The boisterous boys from Brighton have a second album called Konk (named after the studio owned by their Britpop predecessor, Ray Davies of the Kinks) set for release in April, anticipation is rabid in their homeland, and even here in the States, where they enjoy pockets of devoted fans, they recently played to capacity crowds in Los Angeles and New York.
But the fun has been considerably dampened recently by the news last month that Kooks' longtime bassist Max Rafferty had left the band for the second time.
To be more precise, Rafferty was fired, and according to normally carefree frontman Luke Pritchard, this time, it's for good.
"I'd love to work with him again someday, but for now it's a permanent thing — we need to keep going," Pritchard told MTV News on Thursday, in his first on-the-record remarks about Rafferty's departure from the band on January 29.
Drug use by Rafferty has been widely rumored to be at the root of the split, and in deference to his bandmate, Pritchard would not comment specifically on those allegations, saying only, "It got really hard, and he needs to do what he needs to do. In my opinion he's going through a lot in his life, and being in a band doesn't help that kind of stuff."
Rafferty first took a months-long sabbatical from the Kooks in 2006 for "health reasons." He returned in 2007 to what Pritchard called a "honeymoon period," but before long, old problems crept up. "It's sad, man, but it's been going on a long time," he explained, and with a new album on the way and a long tour ahead of them, the band made a tough call.
"You know, I haven't really been this honest about it yet, but the thing is, I don't think [Rafferty] could have done the touring," said an emotional Pritchard. "I don't think he could have physically done it. So we were all sitting around one day, and we all care so much about him, and it was like, 'Well, he's gonna get angry and it's gonna be horrible, but at the same time, I think it would be better to happen now than in a few months when you're on the road and things get crazy."
On a brighter note, the Kooks are gearing up for Konk (due April 15), a more muscular record than their debut Inside In/ Inside Out, with some harder-edged tracks alongside vintage Kooksian singalongs. The band is soldiering on with fill-in bassist Dan Logan (also from Brighton). They just shot a video in Brooklyn, New York, for the album's first single, "Always Where I Need to Be."
And with the tough times hopefully behind them, they're looking forward to returning to America this summer. "Yeah, man, we're really excited," Pritchard said. "Honestly, especially with the way things are right now, I just want to think about music. Fun. Music. Shows. Love. I don't want to think about the other sh--."