By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British band The Kooks wrap up the current U.S. leg of their tour this week, setting their sights beyond their first three records and aiming to score a major hit in America with new music to come.
The indie rock group plays the historic Fillmore in San Francisco on Tuesday in support of their third album "Junk of the Heart," then head back to Great Britain.
Their latest single, "How'd You Like That," hit U.S. airwaves last week, and the band has made the rounds of clubs and other venues and last month appeared on popular late-night talk program, "The Late Show with David Letterman."
Yet, even as they depart from this round of touring, the Kooks want more from the United States.
"I have a fire in my belly to write the best songs, and I still love doing it," lead singer Luke Pritchard told Reuters at a tour stop last week in Los Angeles.
"I hope we have a tune that connects really big here in the U.S., and I want to work with some American musicians and have collaborations happening," he said.
"Junk of the Heart" is the four-piece band's third album, following their 2006 debut "Inside In/Inside Out," from which singles such as "Naive" and "Ooh La" gained worldwide play. Their sophomore record, 2008's "Konk," delivered hits such as "Shine On."
Pritchard likened the first three albums to a sort of "growing up" phase for the band and said that while still on their musical journey, "I feel like we've ended a chapter with a trilogy of records."
"For me, ('Junk of the Heart') was a quite personal record," he said of the album he wrote during the course of a relationship. "Any kind of emotion that you feel strongly, you write good music. This album was about being happy."
EXPLORING NEW SOUNDS
Working with producer Tony Hoffer, Pritchard and the band stepped away from their trademark "double-track" vocals and the "bounce" effect created by drums. Instead, they explored new genres with dance-inspired tracks like "Is It Me," "Runaway" and "Rosie" and a strings score on "Time Above The Earth."
Pritchard cited singer Beck, dance-punk act LCD Soundsystem, and the French duo Air as influences. "We wanted to make a record that was more psychedelic and had more textures to it than a hard rock album," he said.
The frontman described "Konk" as "just meat and veg," with the band amping up the pop rock that made them a success with their debut release "Inside In/Inside Out."
"The electronic thing (on 'Junk of the Heart') was just a natural progression as we wanted it to be more produced," said the lead singer.
While the raw energy of the first two albums struck a chord with critics, the reception to the "Junk of the Heart" has been mixed, at best.
James Lachno at British newspaper The Independent rated the album two out of five stars, criticizing Pritchard's "reedy voice" and "trite lyrics about lust and fame."
Music publication NME gave "Junk of the Heart" a four out of ten rating, with reviewer Hamish MacBain saying "there's just an unavoidable sense here of a band who aren't quite sure what their purpose is anymore."
Pritchard is quick to react. "The critics in the UK are (upset) because they didn't rate our record, and we still became big. They didn't have a hand in our success, we've never needed them," he said. "The Kooks will have its day, we will have our moment."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by)