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— by James Montgomery

It's no secret that the British press can be a tad bit, well, hyperbolic.

It seems like there isn't a week that goes by without some new group of grubby, maladjusted youngsters being declared "the band that will save your life." And while sometimes the hype is right on (see Oasis, Blur, Pulp), more often than not it is decidedly unwarranted (um, the Coral, the Cooper Temple Clause, Kula Shaker).

And with that knowledge firmly implanted in their scruffy little heads, the Kooks — four lads from the seaside town of Brighton, England — shuffle onto the scene, ripe with hype and burdened with expectations. Will they rise to the occasion or will they be just another flaming wreck on the entertainment super-hypeway?

Neither, actually. As it turns out, the Kooks are just trying to use their newfound clout to get into some sweet parties.

"I don't pay much attention to the media," frontman Luke Pritchard said. "I mean, I think if you do, you can just go insane. The whole thing is really just nonexistent bullsh--, anyway. We're just doing the band stuff, and no one walks down the road and says they recognize us. I suppose the only good to come of it might be when I want to go out to a club, they might put me on the guest list or whatever. But that very rarely happens, actually."

We suspect Pritchard is just being modest. After all, since it was released in January, the Kooks' debut album, Inside In/Inside Out, has spawned five hit singles and is already certified triple-platinum in the U.K. (with sales in the neighbourhood of 900,000 copies). All of which is pretty stellar for a group that started primarily as a way for Pritchard and drummer Paul Garred to wear interesting hats.

"Me and Luke went shopping one day — we had this vision on how we wanted the band to look and stuff — so we bought some clothes and these hats," Garred laughed. "So we went in to get a gig, we don't have a demo, and this guy told us, 'Well, you can't get a gig if you don't have a demo, but I like your hats, so I'm going to give you a gig.' Of course, as it turns out, we couldn't fulfill the gig, because we were making a demo that week."

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It ended up working out for the best. Pritchard and Garred added guitarist Hugh Harris and bassist Max Rafferty to the mix, and they got their demo in the hands of the very same guy who booked their first show. He then flipped it to a friend of his, who became the Kooks' manager. And within two years, they had a deal with Virgin Records.

"Everything sort of rolled off like that, and we've been totally unconscious," Garred said. "We didn't realize what was going on. We were in this whirlwind, and it hasn't really stopped. It's been amazing, playing these massive gigs, and the crowd sing back every word. That's a feeling all of its own."

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This week, Inside In finally made its way to our shores. And with its heady mix of rambling, shambling rock and undeniably Anglo erudition, there's a good chance the Kooks could become the next Oasis. Then again, they could just as easily be the next Travis. Who's to know?

"Everything has happened so suddenly, so it's been a bit of a shock," Pritchard said. "And to us it's kind of funny, because we wanted to have a steady buildup, but obviously that wasn't meant to be. And now, with the States coming up, we're going to have to see what happens there. But we're just going to deal with it, keep making great records. Honestly though, the whole thing has been a total head f---."


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   Photo: Colin Lane


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