Music interview: Kasabian expect ‘one hell of a night’ at Leeds Festival

Kasabian are to headline the Saturday bill at this year's Leeds Festival. Picture: Neil Bedford
Kasabian are to headline the Saturday bill at this year's Leeds Festival. Picture: Neil Bedford
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It’s five years since Kasabian headlined a Leeds Festival bill that included Florence and the Machine, The Vaccines and Enter Shikari.

Hence the excitement in the voice of Serge Pizzorno, the band’s guitarist and main songwriter, as he talks about the prospect of returning to Bramham Park for this year’s event.

“We came from the moshpit so I know what it feels like to be stood in front of that stage, in that crowd,” says the 36-year-old from Leicester. “That’s what we’re trying to bring in to the festival – we’re there for the moshpit – and it always is such an incredible atmosphere so the combination...it’s going to be one hell of a night.”

Having worked their way up the festival bill since their first appearance at Leeds – on the BBC Radio 1/NME Stage in 2005 – Kasabian feel they have built up a strong relationship with the city’s biggest music event.

Pizzorno explains: “It’s rooted in rock history – especially now when there’s festivals popping up everywhere, there’s a lot more pop vibes going on.

“What’s amazing about it is it’s embraced the dance scene as well. It’s thrown a few curveballs these last few years and I think it had to. I saw Chase & Status play it one year and they absolutely smashed it, the crowd that’s what they wanted.

Kasabian's latest album For Crying out Loud recently became their fifth record in a row to top the UK charts. Picture: Charlie Gray

Kasabian's latest album For Crying out Loud recently became their fifth record in a row to top the UK charts. Picture: Charlie Gray

“So I think what’s great is it has the tradition but it also looks to the future, which is so important. You have to move with the times or you’re just dinosaurs.”

Kasabian might have played at festivals all over the world but they evidently hold this corner of West Yorkshire in high esteem. “The Leeds crowds are always incredible,” Pizzorno enthuses. “The energy it’s ridiculous, it’s one of those things where you peek round the curtain – ‘Is anyone in?’ – yeah, you can just see it in their eyes. From the first moment they’re with you. That feeling when you play that first chord and you know that everyone’s onside then you just go. That’s when you both reach the pinnacle, it’s like ‘that was sonic, we’re in this together tonight, it’s going to go on and on and on until everyone goes Yes, best night of my life!’”

The band will be bound for Leeds Festival on the back of fifth consecutive UK Number One album. To singer Tom Meighan’s relief, For Crying Out Loud marked a return to guitars after the electronic experiments of 48.13.

“I never want to write for the sake of writing, I never want to service the machine,” reflects Pizzorno. “You can make albums just to make albums and play gigs. Everyone needs to earn a living but I only ever wanted to be inspired. I put everything into it when I’m making an album, every waking moment until it’s finished, if I’m not inspired by the thought of it then I can’t do it.

There are a couple of reflective moments, melancholy tunes, but the majority is a proper feel good futuristic guitar album and it’s just perfect for the summer.

Serge Pizzorno

“I just looked and saw my guitar in the corner of the room and said, ‘You know what? What excites me is you’ve got four or five weeks to write and at the end you’ve got an album’ and I was really excited by that, that sounds like a plan, so I’ll do that. So I got my guitar out and wrote tunes and weirdly they came really quick, three or four of them took literally ten minutes and the lyrics came while I was making them. It was a weird moment in time. So then I had this record and I thought ‘I’ve done it, I’ll have the summer off’. I had one of the most incredible summers ever and then at the end of it I just decided to graffiti all over the album, send it on a mad mission. Then I wrote a couple more songs towards the end of the year and then we had the finished album.

“It’s really special. It doesn’t feel like a band’s sixth album where you go ‘Ah, they’re just clocking in’. In many ways it feels like a debut record which is a really nice feeling.”

Kasabian debuted the album’s big anthem, Put Your Life On It, at the King Power Stadium after Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title win. Pizzorno says: “I’d written songs about my wife before but then we were getting married. I’ve addressed huge topics, trying to figure out what it all means, but I felt I don’t want to do that any more, at least for now, so I thought ‘I’ll write a love song. I won’t make it insane, I’ll make sure every line makes sense to everyone and when people hear it they’ll go Oh yeah, that’s how I feel’. I’ve got a feeling that could end the set which would be amazing. We have such huge crescendos at the end of our gigs so for a new song to maybe get into that spot would be quite something, especially using a choir live, it’s massive, it’s something that really works.”

Pizzorno recognises that some of the euphoria that the city felt in 2016 fed its way into For Crying Out Loud. “It wasn’t like I was thinking about it, like I’m going to harness this energy, it’s only on reflection coming to the end of making it I realised I was in a really good space. This record’s so positive. There are a couple of reflective moments, melancholy tunes, but the majority is a proper feel good futuristic guitar album and it’s just perfect for the summer.”

Kasabian play at Leeds Festival on Saturday August 28. For ticket details visit www.leedsfestival.com

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