Kasabian is practically a household name among alternative rock fans in Britain. Hailing from Leicester (located just outside Birmingham), the band’s 2004 self-titled debut record sold more than a million copies at home and spawned four top 20 singles.
Since then, each successive studio release has entered the U.K. charts at No. 1. The four-piece has also won a Brit Award and routinely headlines the country’s biggest music festivals (including Reading and Leeds this past August).
Here in the States, the Tom Meighan-fronted band maintains a large cult following for its brash, electronic and dance-infused rock music that has often taken stylistic cues from the likes of Primal Scream and Happy Mondays.
The solid sixth album For Crying Out Loud, Kasabian’s first in three years, finds multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/producer/principal songwriter Serge Pizzorno getting more personal than usual. Meighan has said singing the Loud lyrics saved his life after an especially dark period.
There are sonic nods to LCD Soundsystem (“Are You Looking for Action?”), Prodigy (“Ill Ray-The King,” whose music video stars Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey), Ramones-meets-late ‘60s-Stones (the racing, distorted standout “Bless This Acid House”), The Beatles (closing, campfire-type singalong “Bet Your Life on It”) and Spaghetti Western soundtracks (“The Party Never Ends”), not to mention some of the musicians’ usual humor (a surrealistic “You’re in Love with a Psycho”).
We recently caught up with Pizzorno to get an update on all things Kasabian following its brief North American tour of theaters.
Rock Cellar: You’ve admitted to being more excited about performing live lately. Why?
Serge Pizzorno: The creation, the process of making albums is my favorite thing. The performance side is always secondary. I figured, ‘you’re on stage more than you are in the studio.’ So, I just try to find a way of embracing it and making it interesting for me. Every night, I [attempt] some moves.
What kind of response have you gotten from fans about For Crying Out Loud?
Serge Pizzorno: It’s a shame more people don’t know about us, which is funny, because around the world, we’re massive. Here, no one’s heard any of the music. People that come to the shows feel blessed that they get to see us in such small venues. I like playing those little venues, by the way. They’re a lot of fun. Reminds you of when you start out. It’s not such a bad thing for bands to feel like that.
You handled the production reigns again, instead of having someone like Dan the Automator at the controls. At this point in your career, do you feel you have a firm handle on how Kasabian should sound?
Serge Pizzorno: To be honest, I have a clear vision and feel someone else would get in the way. I have an idea of exactly what I want. It’s not always worth it [to have a producer]. But moving forward, I definitely think I’ll work with someone on the next album.
Do you find it easier to work on the album in your home studio, where you can put ideas down at your leisure?
Serge Pizzorno: Exactly, and every album the bedroom gets a little bigger, which is fun. I feel most comfortable at home, but to create, I have to sort of go to the Himalayas and find a hut somewhere.
A couple songs were inspired by 1970s rockers like The Stooges and Ramones. Have you come to appreciate them more as you get older?
Serge Pizzorno: You know what? I’ve always been into them and loved their energy. As you get older, I suppose you realize that on the face of it, bands get a bad rap for being dumb or simple. You learn more about how clever and difficult it is.
People see them as straightforward things, but it’s like, ‘you’re missing the point.’ Those bands are supremely intelligent. The music press sold them short because they were so clever. The bands knew exactly what they were doing. Every decision they made was considered and chosen because that’s what they wanted to put out. I buzzed off that.
I thought, ‘let’s go down this road for that album.’
I’ll bet a lot of people were surprised by “Put Your Life on It,” the unabashed love song that closes the album.
Serge Pizzorno: I think people that have followed us from the first record can see the overview of the journey we’ve gone on, like, ‘Ah, it’s that album.’ We’ve made a stoner album, an alcohol album, the concept record. I look at the legacy bands leave behind. You see a career band make albums to supply the demand for hits and radio. Then there are other bands that leave a tale of their life. I think one’s kind of accepted there’s less experimentation and more straightforward melody and structure [here]. Next time will be completely different. I’m already starting to see what the next one is going to be like.
You’ve done projects with Noel Fielding of British comedy troupe The Mighty Boosh and you tend to leaven some Kasabian lyrics, such as on “Comeback Kid” and “Wasted,” with a bit of humor. Is adopting that tone more important than ever in these rancorous times?
Serge Pizzorno: In a way. I like songs that have comedy and I’m obsessed with standup. I’ve always loved lyricists that could make me laugh. In my head, I see the school bully or some big dude that’s trying to put you down. Growing up where I’m from, there were always some – what do you call them – jocks – in America? Kids like me that were into [painter] Basquiat and [poet] Dylan Thomas always got a bit of abuse. [‘Comeback Kid’] is about the idea of tearing that dude down and going, ‘I’m going to end you and put you in a bin bag.’
The 8 ½ minute long party jam “Are You Ready for Action?” really stands apart from everything else on the album. What is the story behind it?
Serge Pizzorno: Originally, I had a 3 ½ minute maximum for all the songs. At the end, I felt it should be like a Roxy Music song or those old Dub tapes back in the day, where they’d take a pop song and make an [extended effort] out of it. I got well into that and thought, ‘Everything else is so tight and considered and direct. To complete the album, we need a moment where you get taken away.’ In that context, it works because that musical break is really sweet.
You’re not involved with social media, but the band does have an official Instagram account. Who runs it?
Serge Pizzorno: We have a girl that deals with the photos, but all the content is directly from us. We could have been at the forefront of it, but we’re from a generation where the mystique of a band was normal. I really don’t want anyone to know anything. You don’t know anything about stars from the past. You know the myth, but you don’t really know anything about them. I don’t like what people have to give away of themselves to gain followers. It doesn’t interest me.
What’s ahead for the band after the current world tour?
Serge Pizzorno: I’ll probably go back into the studio and make more music.
Stream For Crying Out Loud below, via Spotify or Apple Music: