Cementing their title as one of the biggest bands in the world, Kasabian have returned in 2014 with a new record and a headline slot at the mother of all festivals, Glastonbury. Following in the footsteps of its predecessors, ‘48:13’ has seen huge success, peaking at the top spot in the UK album chart. But being so experienced in the profession, it’s just another day at the office for the foursome. To discuss their position in music today, we had a chat with lead singer, Tom Meighan, about album titles, crowd surfing and live shows.
Hi Tom! Where in the world are you right now?
I’m in Leicester.
Brilliant. How is it today?
[Laughs] It’s sunny actually; it’s not raining, which makes a change.
So Kasabian are back with a brand new album after three years. With three consecutive UK number one albums before ‘48:13’, is there any pressure when you release an album now?
No, we’re not bothered. Y’know, I’m 33; I’ve got a kid. We’ve done all the pressure. The pressure was when we were younger. All we do is make music. For some reason it works and that’s why we’re still around. More than anything, we enjoy writing the albums now. The first one’s your baby and you’re not used to it. The second one you feel a bit hot if it doesn’t succeed compared to the first one. It’s been a blast, so we don’t really think about it anymore. We just keep making music.
You’ve said previously that the album is stripped right back and you had the confidence to lay yourselves bare. Why was now the right time to do something different?
We were at a crossroads, that natural transition of changing, and just looking for a different style. I think it’s good that we change because bands need to change. You can’t stay on one thing and be happy with that. We went to Electronica and Hip-Hop drums and listened to a lot of influences that gave us a different approach this time.
You came back with a bang this year, releasing ‘Eez-eh’ and then cementing your return with a headline slot at Glastonbury. Was it all you expected it to be?
It was incredible. I said to the band, “By the time you blink, it will be a piece of history” and it’s been and gone. It was wonderful, a really defining moment in our lives, and it’s evolved with us as well. Amazing.
You’re touring nationally in Australia, do you think you’ll get any down time whilst you’re here?
Not really, just in and out basically! [Laughs] I think we’ve got one day off in Sydney and that’s it. That’s really sad.
Oh no! Well, we see you crowd surfing in the video to ‘Bumblebeee’, so what’s the wildest thing you have actually done on tour?
I can’t tell you! [Laughs] I’m not allowed to tell you that!
Have you been a regular crowd surfer?
No. Never. I’m not into that [Laughs]
You have so many great anthemic hits including ‘Club Foot’, ‘Cut Off’, and ‘Fire’ which, with all their catchy riffs and hooks, make them so much fun to listen to whether on record or live, and this is evident in new single ‘Bumblebeee’. What’s your process for each song? Do you aim for them to be huge live tracks?
I don’t know whether we’re that kind of band. The songs just happened. We don’t have a plan, it’s just what happens in the studio and we have to transform it live. We don’t mean to do it, we just have that big atmospheric feeling, and we’ve got some good tunes now. It gets harder to do set list, but that’s great.
Speaking of your ample amount of hits – what’s your personal favourite?
They’re all great in their own way. I like doing the new ones because it’s all new and nice, you show people across the world for the first time. With the old songs, we’ve kind of revamped them, refreshed them – you’ve got to do that.
You can’t play the same set over and over.
Nah, you can’t. You’d be like a machine, a robot.
What was it that you wanted to put across with ‘48:13’?
We just wanted to make our mark, stamp our feet on the ground, which we have done now.
Why did you choose the length of the album as the title?
It’s simple. We’ve always done bloody silly titles for our albums like ‘West Ryder’ and ‘Velociraptor!’ and I had to keep explaining it to people! I wanted to call the record ‘Volume Five’, but ’48:13’ came in and I thought “Great, that sounds fantastic.”
As you’ll be non-stop touring for the next few months – what will you guys request on your rider?
Loaves of bread. Cheese. Ham. Vodka. Gin. Whiskey. Sambuca. The same old shit – Skittles. M&Ms.
As well as playing in Australia, you’ll be playing back in your native UK towards the end of the year – what do you like about performing on home turf?
It’s just nice, we’re so used to it. We try to make our shows as good as we can and we put a lot of thought into it. Playing home is amazing, but we love taking it to another country – it’s more of a challenge.
Do you get the same interaction everywhere you go?
Everywhere’s different but so far it’s been groundbreaking. Superb.
When you’re not playing, recording or rehearsing what kind of music do you like to listen to?
I’m listening to Jagwa Ma at the minute. They’re an amazing band. I listen to all sorts; I was brought up on Motown so Stevie Wonder, James Brown… But it switches around, like I love Jack White’s new record.
The Japanese edition has two bonus tracks, Gelfling and Beanz, but the title is always 48:13, it can’t be changed ;) xx
the AU interview: Tom Meighan of Kasabian (Leicester) on critics, “48:18” & the two biggest shows of his career.
The Leicester four-piece are going to be back in the country for a run of shows this August with new album 49:18 raring to go.
49:18, Kasabian’s fifth studio record…
… the electronic elements which have been fleshed out on 49:18 could be seen…
I guess they mean 48:13?
Kasabian have had a long running love affair with their Australian fans. Maybe it’s the shared innate raucous behaviour that both share when it comes to getting loose at a rock and roll show. Perhaps it’s a shared and well-respected ethos of not giving a fuck about the hard stuff. Regardless, it’s evident that whenever the band has been through the country, festival or headline tour, the people have responded. And responded well. The Leicester four-piece are going to be back in the country for a run of shows this August with new album 48:13 raring to go.
"I’ve just been being a dad!" Lead vocalist Tom Meighan laughs, noting their recent time off the road. “It’s one hell of a job, she’s a lovely little thing. It’s endless fun. She’s turned two, it’s a fun age, definitely.”
Kasabian have been enjoying positive time in the spotlight recently, with huge sets at Glastonbury and the now famed Victoria Park homecoming gig they played the weekend before the Worthy Farm festival. Smashing a new stage production out of the ballpark in the face of critics who’ve taken the new album and eaten it up, Meighan reflects on the last few months and how they’re anticipating returning to Australia.
"It’s all good at the moment!" he says. "We’re looking forward to it because we’ve got this new album to play and promote. It’s nice to do it in other countries, you know? That’s why you tour, isn’t it? To play your music across the world and try and reach as many people as you can."
"We’re on a real high at the minute and everything’s been going really well. The record’s been great, Glastonbury was amazing and the Leicestershire was fantastic. We’re on a high and everything’s going great, man. I can’t wait to come to Australia and play our stuff; we love touring Australia anyway and I love the fans. I love the Aussies."
48:13, Kasabian’s fifth studio record, has divided fans and critics possibly moreso than 2011’s Velociraptor! record. Though it can be said that the electronic elements which have been fleshed out on 48:13 could be seen peeking through the previous album’s material, this is definitely an album which either made you love Kasabian as a band, or cast them off. Meighan agrees and in usual manner, he relishes the reaction.
"Exactly, we don’t give a shit!" he laughs. "We don’t give a fuck. When we put "Eez-Eh" out, everyone shat on it, everyone was like, ‘Wow, what are they doing?’ and we weren’t fucking bothered! I love it, we made a pink record and there was this post like…what do you call it…a ‘lad rock, boisterous’ and we’re like, ‘Fuck you, it’s pink. How’s that feel?’. We fucking flipped it, so everyone panicked. I like that. Once they’re used to it, they’re in."
As to whether Meighan and the band felt this change in creative direction coming through noticeably in the studio and when that point came, he reflects on the album making process as one that stuck out.
"We kind of felt it in the studio," he remembers. "This [record] was the one that was going to make us, you know? Really make us and turn everyone’s heads. You get that feeling, I can’t describe it. We knew this one would take us to another level. It’s just fate, you know? It just happens. All we do is make music, put it out there and see what happens. Funnily enough, we’ve been alright. I just think we just went for it.”
"We’ve never cared what anyone thought, we never gave a fuck. We just went for the jugular; we knew this was going to be an experimental record and that people were going to be angry about it, confused. There would be a lot of happy people, our fans who love it, but that there would also be a lot of people who’d hate it. It angers people because we’re experimenting as well, people don’t like it. They try and bracket us and keep us in one place and people get really frustrated by it. The bigger you get, the more people are going to hate you and we’ve a massive fan base now, so people don’t like it! We proved everyone wrong and people just don’t like it one bit. That’s what I love even more. We’re either loved or hated; I don’t want to be a band in the middle, you know?"
Though the band is only early into this album tour cycle, Kasabian have obviously raised the bar for themselves in recent months with the album’s release and the way they’ve worked the material for live crowds. Of course, their body of work is now one which features many festival-friendly and headline-smash hits, but there’s seeming to be more of a flowing vibe with the new show that, while evident in previous shows they’ve done, always seemed slightly jagged. At least, to this fan.
"We work hard at getting it right live," Meighan notes. "We put hours into rehearsals, but it also comes naturally too. It flows lovely. When we put these songs down, we have to work on them…but we’ve done a lot of gigs now, man, we’ve done about 25 shows or something like that so far. We’re well-oiled!"
"We’ve only been on tour for two months," he continues. "I think it’s just all about going around all parts of the world and playing our new songs and promoting it, that’s the agenda right now. The weirdest thing is, two of the biggest shows of our career have been at the beginning of the tour, which is fucking mental. It’s weird. It’s set us up, we’ve got to another fucking level now! We’re in a real good place."
With the Australian tour bringing the boys Down Under for just over a week, the ball isn’t going to stop rolling for Kasabian for the rest of 2014. Meighan wouldn’t have it any other way and is well aware of the amount of attention currently focused on the band. Whether it’s a critic waiting for the first public fuck up or a new single becoming the next “Vlad The Impaler” or “Clubfoot”, Meighan and the rest of Kasabian can’t be touched, with their current disposition showcasing a band at the top of their game.
"I think we’ve hit a peak point now," Meighan comments. "We’re just comfortable with what we are now and what we’re doing, it’s fantastic. With those two huge shows, I said to the boys, ‘Before you blink, they’ll be gone’, you know what I mean? We went out there, conquered it and won it. The whole thing just feels fantastic, you know?"
"It’s absolutely unbelievable. We needed that bit of down time, just to get our heads around it, you know? I feel like we’ve turned a corner now, the band has. Everything we’ve been doing at the moment, it just feels right. I love the fact that we have changed, I like that. We’ve changed our style; we’ve not gone drastically off the fucking scale, but we’ve gone electronic and I think it’s the best record we’ve done, without a doubt.”
Kasabian star defends streaming
British rocker Serge Pizzorno has penned a passionate article defending the changing ways consumers listen to albums, insisting technology is not killing music.
The Kasabian guitarist was asked by editors at Q magazine to contribute his thoughts on online streaming services and the inclusion of downloads in the UK pop charts.
He wrote a feature insisting the changing way fans listen to music is a good thing but warned they are missing out on hearing entire records because downloading and streaming encourages the user to skip tracks too quickly.
Pizzorno writes, “You just have to accept that this is how it is now. There’s no point in fighting it… It annoys the new generation of music listeners, because they’ve moved on and this is the way people get music. You have to embrace it.
"Streaming being part of the charts is a good thing. It’s a better indication of how kids listen to music now… I do think streaming shortens people’s attention spans, though. Everything is ridiculously quick in our culture in general. No one has any time for anything. You have your email, your text, your Twitter, your Facebook, and your Instagram and, bang, you’ve got five things that you’ve got to flick between. It’s just meltdown…
"In the 10 years since our first record, music has changed more than it did in the previous 50. Especially with iTunes, when everyone agreed you were allowed to just take one song off the album. But I can’t stand it. I have to complete the album. I don’t know how you can live like that. People who’ve got two Ramones songs or two Stooges songs. It’s like, ‘Just f**king buy the album.’ It’s unbelievable. You’re missing all the best bits."