Gig preview: Kaiser Chiefs at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Kaiser Chiefs. Picture: Danny North
Kaiser Chiefs. Picture: Danny North
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It’s mid-morning in Belo Horizonte and Kaiser Chiefs are at a hotel awaiting the final gig of their South American tour with US rock group the Foo Fighters.

Bass player Simon Rix admits he hasn’t yet had chance to explore one of Brazil’s most fervent of football cities but happily reports that the tour has been “fantastic”.

“We’ve done Chile – Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo and Rio in the Maracana and we’re here. Brazilian fans are stereotypically brilliant and loud and all that sort of thing. It’s been a really, really great tour.”

The Kaisers’ association with Dave Grohl & co goes back a decade – “We first toured with them in 2005, Australia and America” – and they’ve met intermittently at festivals and “one-off bits and pieces”.

Before Christmas they joined the Foo Fighters in South Africa; to the Kaisers’ delight one show in Johannesburg was at the FNB Stadium, home to football club Kaizers Chiefs, in whose honour the band were named.

“They’re nice guys,” Rix says, of the Foo Fighters, observing “we’re sort of similar, band-wise”.

“People in England might think differently but we’re both bands who get on stage and get the audience involved and run around and it’s about energy and signing along so I think we complement each other pretty well.”

This month Kaiser Chiefs embark on a headline tour of their own that has been preceded by a new single, Falling Awake. Explaining its standalone status, Rix says: “I think when the album – Education, Education, Education & War – came out last year we said in interviews that we had other songs but they didn’t fit. It wasn’t that they weren’t good enough, they didn’t fit on the album.

“If I heard a band saying it I’d think it was just an excuse – because if it’s a good song you put it on the record – but that album was all about fighting our way out of a corner and it was about that process where we started the band again, kind of, without Nick [Hodgson, the Kaisers’ drummer and principal songwriter who left in 2012].

“But Falling Awake, we all knew it was a good song but it just didn’t fit in with the themes of the album at all. It was a totally different vibe – it is sort of about a girl and love and stuff, so it just didn’t seem like the right song to put on that record so we just left it and it wasn’t even finished, it was just on the scrap heap.”

It was thanks to the album’s producer, Ben Allen, that the song finally saw the light of day. “A year after the album he rang me up and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about Falling Awake, I think we should finish it and if you’re interested I’m going to make a demo of what I think we should do with it’,” says Rix.

A week later Allen sent back the track, having rearranged it from a “drifty, slow song” to a faster number featuring “a more pumping bassline”. The band liked it enough to record it with Allen in London last September. They decided to release it now as “something for us and for the fans, something new and exciting” to play on their UK tour.

A full follow-up to their Number One hit Education, Education, Education & War may be some way away – “I would hope for next year,” Rix says, “I don’t think there’s a particular rush, I don’t immediately it desperate for us to make another record” – but the Kaisers are thoroughly looking forward to their Valentine’s Day show at the First Direct Arena.

When the band first played a one-off gig there in 2013, Rix admits, “We didn’t really have a show, we just sort of went on and did what we’d been doing at the festivals, which was just play the songs, whereas this time we’ve really tried to make a show. We’re going to do a couple of things that we’ve never done before, we’re going to play the new song Falling Awake, we’ve got screens we’ve had a proper think about it and because it’s a proper tour we’ve designed it to be a show so I’m really looking forward to it. This time I think is going to be a great night.”

The Kaisers have a hectic schedule for the next few months. After the UK tour singer Ricky Wilson will be mentoring his team of contestants through the lives shows for the BBC One talent show The Voice, then the group are off to Canada and the USA. Yet, Rix seems agrees, this is exactly where the band wanted to be a year ago.

“If you look back to September 2012 which is when Nick did his last gig all the things thay have happened since then – making Education, Education, Education & War, the songs, it being Number One, touring, the festivals we did over the summer – I think Glastonbury was a really great moment for us – this tour with the Foo Fighters, everything, it’s just been great and I think the band’s rejuvenated properly.

“Going into 2013 when we had to make the last record and I was a little bit worried about it, I was like, ‘I’m not sure how we’re going to do this, I’m not sure what it’s going to sound like’, lots of questions and throughout that year we just answered those questions so this year I’m just confident in that we’ve got a busier schedule. There’s no promo – interviews and TV stuff really takes a lot of time when you’ve got a record coming out or it’s just come out, that’s what you’re doing all the time – whereas when it gets to the point like now, when it’s just do gigs and write songs, that’s the bit where we really love it and can be relaxed and be creative, so I’m looking forward to it and whenever there’s a gap we’ll be trying to write some notes.”

Kaiser Chiefs play at First Direct Arena on February 14. For tickets visit