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on Tue, 20 Dec 2016
Interview by Lauren Foster
Kaiser Chiefs formed in Leeds in 2000 and have since established themselves as one of the leading bands of their generation. They've produced a succession of classic album releases including Employment, Yours Truly, Angry Mob and Education, Education, Education & War, to name a few.
Fronted by the charismatic Ricky Wilson, their trademark indie rock sound has delivered a string of anthemic hits such as Oh My God, I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less And Less, Ruby and Never Miss A Beat.
We caught up with band member Simon Rix ahead of their show at Birmingham's Barclaycard Arena.
Firstly, what can your Birmingham audience expect from your show at Barclaycard Arena?
Because the UK has our biggest fanbase in the world, it’s always one of our favourite tours. We can bring the most production, lights, fire, lasers, video screens and stuff to it. Every Kaiser Chiefs gig, even in the tiniest club with no production, we want to make sure everyone has a brilliant night. That’s our mission - to give everyone the best night.
Your new album, Stay Together, has more pop and electro influences compared to, for example, your debut album, Employment. Why the change in direction?
I think when we started working on the album, one of the things we wanted to do was make an album with a bit more groove. Ricky wanted to write a bit more about relationships and love, subjects we’ve avoided as a band because it’s tricky talking about them in front of four of your mates. Musically we wanted to make people dance a bit and groove a bit, in a Talking Heads sort of way. Then we found a guy called Brian Higgins who also wanted to do all of those things, so he became the sixth member of the band. Brian’s background is much more pop than ours. He’s traditionally a keyboard player, so obviously he was going to bring those things out of us. I do feel like, even when we wrote I Predict A Riot and Ruby, we were coming more from the place of a band in a dirty rehearsal room in Leeds, playing loud guitars, than maybe we are now. But I do still feel like we tried to write pop songs because we wanted to compete with the biggest names around at the time. I think that’s the same now; we want to write big songs - songs that can be heard on the radio by loads and loads of people, songs that you can hear in the Barclaycard Arena. I think there’s still a lot of Kaiser Chiefs DNA in the songs.
Sixteen years and six albums after you started out, Kaiser Chiefs are still very much in the limelight. Why do you think that is?
Because we’ve changed and moved with the times. We’re not trying to make a Frank Ocean or a Kanye record. I still think we’re making records that we’re expected to make, but we’re also aware that things change and music is different. Streaming is massive now, but even when our last album came out, it wasn’t something we’d even thought about. But now, obviously, it’s really, really important, and by the time we do another album in another few years’ time, there’ll be something else, another new way of listening to music. I always feel like good songs will conquer everything. People do ask us how we’ve stayed together for so long, and I think it’s because we’re friends and we make each other laugh, no matter what’s happening in our world.
Do you all generally have the same opinions, musically, when producing new material?
Me and my girlfriend don’t agree all the time. In the band I’ve got another four girlfriends, and they’re all men, so it makes it tricky. We agree on a surprising amount of stuff considering it’s been 16 years of making decisions, but there are definitely differences of opinion. On this record, we had a couple of co-writes on there and Brian, the producer, was really involved from day one. I think that was us saying that, after 16 years, you sometimes have to listen to other people, see what their opinion is and go with that. Maybe it won’t work, but you can just try something else the next time round. I think that’s the really good thing about our career - we’ve now got to a stage where we can do what we want.
Did you always want to pursue a career in music?
The five of us always thought we were going to do it, so any jobs we had were jobs to support being in a band. Me and Peanut were civil servants for a bit, but we didn’t really like it very much. We always wanted to be in a band. I’ve been in bands since I was about 11, and my dad was in a band too. It’s a crazy idea because it can backfire massively, but even though we all went to university, we all still felt like music was number one.
What advice would you give to young bands and artists who are looking to follow in your footsteps?
Keep going! If you love music and music is your passion, you can have a career in music. You might be singing on a cruise ship or doing workshops or music therapy - there are loads of amazing careers in music. We’ve been lucky enough to do what we do, which is great.
What’s the most memorable performance of your career?
The first Glastonbury we ever played, in 2005, was a bit of a moment. The album had come out in March and we’d been away in America, so we hadn’t really realised that Employment was big. Then we played Glastonbury and everyone sang all the words to the songs back to us! Elland Road in Leeds, that was a great final homecoming celebration. Last year, we played the Maracanã, the World Cup stadium, which was a really amazing gig. The second we went on, it started raining, and the second we came off, it stopped - but nobody cared, because it was Brazil, so it was hot.
Support acts Ngod and Spring King will be joining you on tour. How did that come about?
We’ve done gigs with Spring King before. We really liked and got on with them, and they’ve really worked with our audience. You can get some of your favourite bands to support and it just doesn’t work out. Our fans really like Spring King, and we like them as people and we like their music. We’ve known Ngod a long, long time. We saw them recently and they were great - plus, it’s always good to support the local music scene. We could do with a couple of girls, though. After we announced it, we realised it was all men, so I do apologise about that.
And finally, your upcoming Stay Together tour is your first arena tour in two years. What are you looking forward to the most about being back on tour?
Doing the arena gigs is always great; it’s an opportunity to put on a big show. Throughout a lot of our career, I think everyone’s seen us as a great warm-up band. We’ve done a lot of early-evening festival slots on the main stage, which is always good, but we’re at the point in our career where we really feel like we want to have a big show, with great lights and screens. So that’s what we’re looking forward to the most, putting on a really big show for everybody.
Kaiser Chiefs perform at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham, on Saturday 25 February.