Kasabian just love being on tour
Kasabian have had an epiphany. Despite selling nearly two million records to date, their latest single Fire reaching number three and being invited to tour with good friends Oasis, the band have only just realised they’re huge.
‘It’s weird, man,’ begins front man Tom Meighan, with puppy-dog enthusiasm.
‘We were doing Jools Holland the other week and we were the biggest band on it.
‘Before, we’ve been on with big names, Smokey Robinson, Jarvis Cocker and people. We were looking at the list for this one, and those names aren’t there – we’re the biggest band. It’s funny,’ he says, chuckling, pleased with himself. ‘About time.’
The tour and TV appearances are all to promote the band’s number one album, the cryptically-titled West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
‘It was a real hospital in Wakefield. Serge (guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno] saw it on a documentary and thought it was a cool name and that was about it,’ Tom explains.
While that might be a simple explanation, the reason the album is so titled has deeper roots.
This third release from the Leicester quartet is a homage to the psychedelic albums of the ’60s, albums with ludicrous titles and equally preposterous contents.
‘That’s it, brother,’ asserts 28-year-old Tom. ‘All those mad records, like The Rolling Stones’ Their Satanic Majesties Request, or Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake by The Small Faces. None of the titles really make sense, and that’s what we wanted, in a way, but to make it modern and for the 21st-century.’
They previewed the album with a four-day free download of the track Vlad The Impaler. A weird viking tale with a video starring Noel Fielding, it achieved more downloads in 24 hours than Kings of Leon did in a week.
West Ryder’s sleeve continues the tip of the hat to psychedelia too, with the Kasabian boys getting out the dressing-up box. Tom looks particularly dapper in a Nelson-esque military costume.
‘It’s like an English heritage psychedelia front cover, but it’s pretty evil-looking too. That’s what we wanted, that was our concept,’ he says, pausing. ‘That, and to make it really, really good.’
A swaggering frontman from the simian school of Liam Gallagher and Ian Brown, Tom’s never been short of confidence, even when, as he admits, the band weren’t all that.
Originally known as Saracuse, the band renamed themselves after Linda Kasabian – a member of Charles Manson’s murderous 60s cult The Family. She later gave evidence to prosecute Manson in the infamous Tate-LaBianca trial.
Now, with their best, most ambitious album receiving the praise it deserves, Tom’s positively brimming with emotion.
Thankfully, his cocksure streak doesn’t manifest itself as arrogance – he’s too likeable for that. Instead, it’s his boundless enthusiasm that comes to the fore.
‘I’m so excited at the moment,’ he says. ‘As well as confused, on edge, you know, all these emotions came up before the album came out. I wasn’t sleeping properly, neither was Serge.
‘I don’t know if other bands get that pattern, but I just can’t switch off, it’s bizarre. I go to bed for about two hours, but I can’t sleep. I’m just waiting for things to happen. It’s what we’re like when we’re on tour as well,’ he says.
Tom, Serge, Chris Edwards and Ian Matthews have been away from the public eye for around a year, although nine months of that was spent recording what would become West Ryder and they unveiled some of the new material at a Teenage Cancer Trust Albert Hall gig in March.
After getting to a point with the album, ‘about 70 per cent done’, Kasabian decamped to San Francisco to seek out the services of renowned producer Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura, highly acclaimed for his work with Beck, Gorillaz, DJ Shadow and various hip hop artists including Busta Rhymes and Kool Keith.
‘He’s not a natural choice, I guess,’ admits Tom, ‘but Serge has wanted to work with him for a while. It was amazing to get him, and to have another pair of ears on the album, to guide us through. He’s brought out the big beats and the album sounds amazing.’
Being out on America’s West Coast clearly suited Tom. Having only been there while touring before, he says it was good to be in one place for a length of time, and feels the city energised his singing.
‘You don’t get more psychedelic than Haight-Ashbury,’ he says, referring to the district of San Francisco synonymous with 1967’s so-called Summer Of Love and fledgling hippy scene.
‘I think being there improved my singing 100 per cent, gave me more of an edge. Dan’s studio is underneath his house, which was lovely. I escaped for four weeks or so.
Back in Britain, there’s going to be no escaping Kasabian over the coming months. With the tour, which kicked-off in their hometown at the end of May, a nine-date support slot with Oasis on their summer mega-shows and six festival appearances, they’ll have played to 1,000,000 fans by the end of the summer.
It’s a gruelling few months for the band. Factor in their reputation for hard-living while on the road, and the prospect would make all but the hardiest of folk wince.
Tom, however, can’t wait.
‘I climb the walls when I’m off,’ he says. ‘I’ve started painting – I’ve had a portrait of Brian Jones on the go for ages, but I haven’t finished it – and I catch up with friends when we’re not busy, but I miss touring.
‘Having time to yourself is great, don’t get me wrong, but there comes a point when I have to get back on the road and start playing rock shows again.’
When the name Oasis is mentioned, Tom has nothing but praise for the band most see as Kasabian’s spiritual predecessors. He’s quick to scotch musical comparisons, saying any similarities are more down to shared values and beliefs than any influences or sound.
Like the Gallagher brothers’ relationship being central to Oasis’ story, the brotherly bond between Tom and Serge, who first met in Leysland High School when they were 12 or 13 and still live in Leicester about a mile away from each other, is equally important to Kasabian’s success, if less fractious.
‘We met years ago and were in the same class in school, but I properly got to know him when we were 17. We’re pretty close, man, and we fall out a bit now and again, a few scrapes here and there, but it’s all good,’ explains Tom.
‘I think I annoy him a lot more than he annoys me. Us lead singers are a rare bunch, but that’s how it is, and I love it.’
Kasabian’s sold-out tour comes to two local venues. On Thursday, July 2, they’ll be appearing at Southampton Guildhall. Then, on Monday 6, the band come to Portsmouth for a show at the Guildhall.