Having previously written music inspired by velociraptors, internet surveillance and Vlad the Impaler, and named their band after a member of the Manson Family, Kasabian have done something really unexpected as they prepare to release their sixth album: they’ve come up with what they say is their first ever love song.
Put Your Life On It closes the Leicester quartet’s new album, released next month, which is called For Crying Out Loud. It’s a strumming, slow-building singalong, a bit glam rock, a bit Hey Jude, with a chorus that gets bigger and bigger. “I wanna say I love you/Won’t let you down,” sings Tom Meighan, over and over. If previously you have thought Kasabian’s music was a bit ridiculous, a bit messy, songs for footie fans to spill their pints to, just try and resist this one.
“The Sex Pistols never had a love song, so I suppose I always thought I wanted to stay away from that,” explains guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno, 36, who married his long-term girlfriend Amy White last July. “Then I just wrote this song about my wife. And rather than hold back and think: ‘I can’t say that!’ I said it exactly how it is. I can already see people react to it when we play it live.”
Frontman Meighan, 36, who often comes across less as Pizzorno’s bandmate and more his biggest fan, is characteristically effusive about it. “It’s a massive anthem, isn’t it? It makes your hair stand up. I’m on the edge of crying, basically, it’s that powerful,” he tells me. “It’s so simple, but sometimes simple songs are the best, aren’t they?”
“Simple” has been the buzzword throughout the process this time around. Pizzorno has been the sole writer since forming the band with his schoolfriends in the late Nineties (bassist Chris Edwards and drummer Ian Matthews, a later addition, complete the line-up) and these days makes the music in the home studio he calls The Sergery on the outskirts of Leicester. He took a year to write the songs on Kasabian’s last album, 48:13, so this time set himself the challenge of writing everything in six weeks.
“You might think: ‘I’m an artist. You can’t tell me when and where I can be creative,’ but I got really excited about trying to do it so quickly,” he says. “I also put restrictions on other things. I took this sort of Motown approach: the first eight bars have to draw you in, the chorus has to come in the right place, everything has to be beautifully crafted. I didn’t allow my psychedelic section, where the song goes off on a completely different tangent to freak people out. I wasn’t allowed to use my usual tricks so there was no production, no loops, no electronics. I just wrote on piano and acoustic guitar.”
The result is more of a classic rock and roll sound compared to 48:13’s oddball romping. The danceable grooves of songs such as the new single, You’re in Love With a Psycho, and the eight-minute centrepiece, Are You Looking for Action?, were inspired by Blondie, ESG and Talking Heads rather than the Nineties rave and Britpop on which the band were raised. Meighan is particularly thrilled by the end result: “Screw the interludes and all the breakdowns. It’s Sergio at his best, just writing great songs with great melodies. I love that he’s gone back to our roots: massive rock and roll pop songs. The songs are joyous, do you know what I mean? They’re like a celebration.”
Kasabian had good reason to celebrate when the work on this album began. In June 2014, just after 48:13 was released, they joined the exclusive club of Glastonbury Pyramid Stage headliners. “That was like completing Mario World, or getting to the end boss on Double Dragon,” says Pizzorno. “Coming off stage after that, rather than feeling, ‘Ah, we’ve done it now,’ I sort of felt, ‘We’ve done it, and now I can do anything.’ Nothing’s daunting any more.”
They toured the world in 2015, then Pizzorno had his six week writing rush at the beginning of 2016 and came up with 10 of the new album’s 12 songs. There was no resting on laurels. “You wake up in the morning, no matter how many great songs you’ve written, and you go: ‘Today’s the day I’m gonna write that tune.’ You always need one more,” he says.
The summer months were triumphant: a surprise appearance playing four songs at the champions’ parade of their soaring hometown football club, Leicester City, followed a fortnight later by two giant gigs in Leicester’s King Power Stadium. “That was off the scale. We will never, ever, see that again in our lifetime,” says Meighan. Then Pizzorno got married and spent three months “being human for a bit” with his wife and their two sons, aged six and three. After that, the last two songs came to him and the band started recording the music that’s almost with us.
For Meighan, however, 2016 was far less celebratory. In his first magazine cover interview for the new campaign, he broke down in tears, alluded to a lifestyle of damaging excess and revealed that he is no longer living with his girlfriend and their young daughter. The revelation was all over the tabloids. He fails to show up to our scheduled face-to-face chat, leaving quiet, affable Pizzorno to talk to me alone in posh central London members’ club Home House. But a few days later he comes to the phone on time and sounding chipper. “I don’t want to go into detail about it. Of course I didn’t have a great year, of course it was difficult, but I found myself, and found a way to love myself again and be happy,” he says, talking as usual at 100 miles an hour, narrating his turning over of sausages on the grill while he’s speaking.
“I had to look at my demons and kill them off otherwise it could have led down a very dark path. But I had good support around me, friends and family who care about me. So I’m back now, mate. It’s one of those things in life, you just have to get on with it, don’t you? ANYWAY,” he says, loudly emphasising the word to enforce a change of subject, “I’m alive now, and feeling very good basically.”
I know from past experience that Meighan is a tricky interviewee at the best of times, with probably the shortest attention span of any adult I’ve ever met. “Ask him about crisps,” is Pizzorno’s suggestion for ensuring a longer conversation. “He’s an afficionado.” The singer is clearly anxious that his personal problems don’t become the story when Kasabian are back with their best music in some time.
“We’ve gone through bad times, gone through everything, and we’re a proper family, our band,” he says. “We’ve been through so much together and nothing’s cracked. We’ve grown up together, we’re all parents now, and everyone’s in a good place. It’s a lovely thing.”
April 18-20, O2 Forum Kentish Town, NW5 (0844 847 2405, o2forumkentishtown.co.uk)
For Crying Out Loud is released on April 28 on Columbia.