Even as their music shifts towards stranger corners, they remain a fearsome beast in concert. At the O2 they’re trying out a new light show that will change according to the responses of the audience. “The more energy and movement there is, the more the lights will change,” Pizzorno explains. “What we’re trying to achieve is that really euphoric, amazing feeling you get from the big dance acts.”
Meeting them at Monmouth’s Rockfield Studios, the legendary countryside escape where Bohemian Rhapsody and The Stone Roses’ Second Coming took shape, an imminent arena tour doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of their minds. Founding trio Pizzorno, Tom Meighan and Chris Edwards (old schoolfriends of 30) are crouched on the floor of the rec room, trying and failing to load Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 on the PS3. Meanwhile, drummer Ian Matthews (a later addition to the band who’s a decade older than the others) is the only one focusing on the real reason they’re here, working on setting up his brand new kit in the room in which they’re meant to be rehearsing.
Singer Meighan hasn’t the patience to wait for every cymbal to be just so, declaring that, having only just arrived in Wales from Leicester, he wants to be driven 130 miles to the Marshall Amps headquarters in Milton Keynes, to take a tour of the factory.
The man is hyperactivity personified. Wriggling in his chair, he sends sentences rushing off in eight different directions at once. And he finds it impossible to see anyone passing out of the corner of his eye without hailing them for a rapid-fire exchange. “I had a heart attack in 2006 and it’s all his fault,” laughs head roadie Rick as he disappears between gigantic black boxes. “There’s only one thing Tom could ever have been and that’s a rock ‘n’ roll star,” the comparatively slothful Pizzorno tells me later.
Since they formed in 2004, Kasabian have fired out three double-platinum albums in a row with a fourth, this year’s magnificently-titled Velociraptor!, well on the way to repeating that success.
“We’ve nailed ’em mate,” says Meighan of the new songs that will be aired for the first time on this tour. As it’s Pizzorno who writes everything, when the singer has such praise for the music it sounds like admiration for his best mate’s talent rather than cockiness. “We’ve got these big marching songs, like a stampede of rhinos coming at you,” he enthuses. “People get this glory feeling from our gigs.”
Because of that dynamic – wayward manimal out front singing, level-headed partner off to one side writing the songs and playing guitar – it’s easy to see why comparisons with Oasis are so often drawn. Indeed, the bands were hell-raising partners in crime on tour together in Kasabian’s early days. But when I bring up the O-word, both Meighan and Pizzorno prefer to liken themselves to The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend instead.
When I tell Meighan that I don’t think Kasabian have ever sounded anything like Oasis, he immediately stands up and shakes me by the hand. “Thank you! That means a lot, mate. I think we’re still a pretty left-field band. I don’t know how it’s got that big really.”
In fact, it’s a bit of a stretch, but if Kasabian are following any other group’s template for success it’s Radiohead’s way of keeping a huge fanbase while getting weirder all the time.
Clodhopping lad-rockers wouldn’t start an album, as Kasabian have just done, with a crashing gong, a mariachi horn and a series of low moans.
Velociraptor! goes on to feature eastern strings and psychedelic droning on Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm), bubbling techno on I Hear Voices, a woozy hymn to absinthe on La Fée Verte and a retro-styled ballad called Goodbye Kiss. “It’s like a Roy Orbison song,” says Meighan.
“I don’t want us to have a sound or a way that anyone expects us to be,” adds Pizzorno. “Since the start it’s been very hard to pin us down. I’d hate to make an old song mark two – that depresses the f**k out of me.”
Crucially though, and unlike Radiohead, they still throw in a few monumental battle cries to stand alongside past hits such as Club Foot, LSF, Empire and Fire. Now they have Days are Forgotten, which begins with familiar crashing hip hop beats, a raw guitar riff and a vocal that resembles Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. The song Velociraptor! also revels in its dumbness, with Meighan yelling: “Velocirap-tah! He’s gonna find yah! He’s gonna kill yah! He’s gonna eat yah!”
“I’ve always been fascinated by reptile names, like boa constrictor,” rambles Meighan. “Imagine being in a band called The Stegosauruses, you know what I’m saying?”
I don’t fully know what he is saying, I have to admit, but the banter is a joy. Although Kasabian insist that their days of slagging off other bands is over, that hunger to be the last beast left in rock is clearly visible. Pizzorno looks unimpressed when I tell him that Chris Martin wrote Yellow in the exact Rockfield studio courtyard spot we’re standing. The only time he really bristles is when I suggest that their danceable anthems would be an ideal fit for the second-on-the-bill slot at the Stone Roses reunion shows next summer.
“Do you think we’d honestly support The Stone Roses? No. No. That the big festival headliners have been Pulp and Blur lately shows the number of great bands that are left,” he adds, knowing full well that his is one of them. It may be a quiet time for rock ‘n’ roll right now, but Kasabian will be shouting all the way to the top.