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Music interview: Kaiser Chiefs

Kaiser Chiefs

Kaiser Chiefs

NICK ‘Peanut’ Baines is in good humour for a man who has just spent the last 10 minutes chasing around a hotel in search of a telephone on which to do this interview.

The Kaiser Chiefs are in Donegal for the first of two festival dates in the Republic of Ireland but it seems the phone in his room is out of order. After much to-ing and fro-ing an alternative is found.

“We’ve just got here overnight from Ibiza,” he says of the Leeds band’s busy schedule. “This is normal for us. A different time in a different country every day.”

All this activity comes on the back of Souvenir, a compilation of Kaisers’ singles from 2004 to 2012. It seems the process of compiling the album evoked some nostalgia amongst band members.

“I think it did,” admits Peanut, the band’s 34-year-old keyboard player, “because we did a little thing on our Facebook page. I’m a bit of a photographer and I’ve documented loads of things we’ve done so I did this album of each year. Since 2004 there are 20,000 photos. A lot of them I meant to process but never did. I thought I would go back and try to make an album of 30 or 40 pictures of each year.

“I can look at one and know instantly where we were, what gig it was, who we met. The sheer number of events, instances, opportunities come flooding back. It was an interesting time.”

The five members of the Kaiser Chiefs go back a long way back. “We’ve all known each other for varying degrees of time,” says Peanut.

“Me and Simon [Rix, the bass player] have know each other for 23 years [from their days at St Mary’s RC School in Menston]. We’ve been together in the Kaiser Chiefs for nearly nine years. Before that we were Parva [an indie band who released one album].

“I have specific memories of tours that we did. In 2005 alone we did 165 shows in one year. And that did not include various award shows, acoustic sessions. That was a hell of a year.

“At the start of 2005 we had just finished the album [Employment], nobody knew what was to come. It was released in January. Our first engagement of the year was a gig at Joseph’s Well for victims of the [Asian] tsunami. That was normal fare for us – we did a support gig there the year before.”

Era

The release of this collection does feel like the end of one era and the start of another, agrees Peanut. “Not by intention but I think it makes you look back at a collection of songs. It does feel like an era – there were bands like us, Bloc Party and The Killers. Things have changed a bit. Music has lost that rock ’n’ roll, guitar edge at the moment, but that comes in peaks and troughs. There’ll be a new generation of angry young kids. It’s something to look forward to.

“At the same time, for us, it does underline that last piece of work. It begs the question, ‘What next?’ People are curious. Had we not done this we would not be thinking that. It’s making us, as a band, think differently. Maybe it’s time to take another step. You always try to push yourself.”

In June 2011 the Kaisers took the bold step of releasing their last studio album, The Future is Medieval, on the internet, offering fans the chance to assemble their own tracklisting from a choice of 20 songs. After creating their own artwork, fans could then sell on the album. “I think it went good,” says Peanut a year on. “It takes time to reflect on these things. It was our attempt at doing something different, showing guitar music can still have excitement about the way it’s released. The music in it was different to our previous efforts. The two things combined were a bit of a shock to people.

“But musically, as a band, we have to move on from these things. If we knocked out substandard versions of Ruby the criticism would be greater for that than for what we did. We needed a reason to come back and release a record. Just releasing a normal CD with 11 or 12 tracks would have undermined the time we had off. We wanted to be involved in something bigger.”

Though Souvenir includes two new songs written by drummer Nick Hodgson – Listen To Your Head and On The Run – the prospect of another full-blown album seems some way off. “Seeing through the festival season is our immediate aim,” says Peanut.

Planned

Arguably the most important engagement looming for the band is Leeds Festival. “Having a festival in your home town is [a big date in the Kaisers’ calendar],” agrees Peanut. “It’s one of the biggest ones in the UK and Europe. When we took a break in 2009 we finished at Leeds – we purposefully planned that.

“People from all over the place come to Leeds Festival but it’s still something when you play there, it feels like we are playing to our people, plus backstage there’s always somebody you meet that you know.”

Although work commitments have inevitably drawn the the five band members away from West Yorkshire for long spells, this city remains close to their hearts. “We do spend time in Leeds, though not together,” says Peanut. “When we are here we’re catching up with family. Last time I came up to Leeds my cellar flooded. That’s the kind of things I do – or fixing tiles on the roof.

“But we’re not like a band that formed in Leeds – some bands meet at university – it’s always been home. It always will be our identity. It’s what makes the Kaiser Chiefs us. No matter where in the country bits of us live, it’s always remained with us. It’s home.”

Supporters

As avid Leeds United supporters, they’ve been following the rumoured takeover at Elland Road with interest. Having been frustrated by the club’s ambition in recent times, Peanut’s certainly optimistic that better days are just around the corner. “The news that somebody has been granted a fit and proper test gives you hope,” he says. “Too many rumours got out – it didn’t help what was happening. To see a small sign is an encouraging thing. I don’t believe Leeds belong in the Championship. They need to get out of there.”

With any luck, United will be promoted in 2013 – around the time of the opening of the new Leeds Arena. That the Kaisers topped a recent poll of acts that the public would like to see open the venue is evidently a source of pride for Peanut. “Of course, especially when you think that people were voting for Bowie and people like that,” he says. “It means a lot to still be recognised in your home town.”

They have yet to be formally invited, but, he laughs, “We’re looking forward to the phone call when it comes. Once there’s more of a roof and doors and windows maybe that will be more the time to make the call.”

Leeds Festival runs at Bramham Park, Leeds from August 24-26. Weekend tickets £197.50, adult day tickets £85. www.leedsfestival.com

 

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