Ricky Wilson and co discuss the past, present and future of the indie scene
Andrew Trendell
15:58 1st April 2014

"We wouldn't sound the same," shrugs Ricky Wilson, bluntly considering how Kaiser Chiefs would fare if they rose to fame in 2014 and not in the indie guitar golden era of 2005. "Music has a huge amount of luck and timing involved in it - we didn't plan on hitting the ground running as fast as we did but we jut did."

They were indeed halcyon days for the guitar band. The Strokes and The Libertines had kicked the door down, while Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Bloc Party and Arctic Monkeys were charging through it. Fate had a plan for the music scene, and that plan involved Kaiser Chiefs becoming a household name and selling 2million copies of their debut album, Employment. 

It laid the groundwork for the band evolving the floppy-fringed indie maniacs of 2005 into the guilt-free mainstream affair they are today, soundtracking just about everything and coaching on The Voice - but they would be the first to admit that it was all a matter of being in the right place at the right time. 

"When we got the first Franz Ferdinand white label through when we were doing clubs in Leeds, it was another Strokes moment," remembers Wilson. "That's exactly where we were as a band at that moment. 'Where are they playing - next week. Can we support them?' It was our second gig. Franz Ferdinand really aren't credited enough for kickstarting that whole period. It started with them and ended with Arctic Monkeys."


Kaiser Chiefs live at The Scala, 2014. Photo: Gigwise/Richard Gray

Bassist Simon Rix remembers: "NME's Tim Jonze came to review us and gave us Single Of The Week before we had anything going for us. If we tried that again today, it would probably be a lot harder. The thing with new bands is we're lucky because we can make a book, we've got a decent back catalogue and people want to come and see us, that's our job and we do that every day. How do new bands get that step up now, where they don't need jobs and can tour the country? I don't know how, it must be really tough."

But it was indeed a lot easier for a young guitar band to 'make it' back then - in a time where it wasn't unusual for the Top 10 to be swamped with young guitar upstarts, before going on to sell albums by the million. Of course, the cyclical and trending winds of change were blowing in the right direction for the Kaisers - they landed perfectly in the cross section between the new wave of the indie disco and the hungover anthemics of Britpop.

They couldn't have been better placed - and they soon found themselves on the NME Awards Tour, opening for Futureheads, Bloc Party and The Killers. Not a bad line-up, eh? Especially when you go on to consider what each of those bands has gone on to achieve, but the Kaisers place no mysticism in explaining why all of their peers have not only survived - but thrived. 

"It's different for each band," says Rix. "I've said this before, but we've all had different paths because we've got different people in. Kele from Bloc Party couldn't do what Ricky does on The Voice, he hasn't got the right personality. They've done something else and he's done his solo thing. Everyone has a different path. That's great. It has to be one of the best bills ever - especially at that moment."

Ricky chips in: "That bill was incredible. I would love for that to happen again, and that will be the moment when things really come kicking back.

"People keep talking about guitar music, you know, 'is it dead, is it in the swamp hibernating?'" he smiles, paraphrasing Alex Turner's already infamous BRIT Awards speech. "The fact is that when there is another NME tour with a line-up that strong that all go on to do something much bigger and better, that's when it's back and it won't be until that happens. It's not dependent on us or Franz or Arctic Monkeys, it's dependent on the people that you've never heard of yet. You'll know when it happens."


Kaiser Chiefs live back in 2005. Photo: WENN

So fast forward to 2014 - who are indie rock's new royalty? We put it it to Wilson and Rix that it might indeed be the likes of Wild Beasts, The Horrors, Metronomy and Bombay Bicycle Club - all releasing their fourth albums and on the verge of headlining festivals and becoming truly 'established'.

"So few bands make that transition from 'great band that people like' to 'headliner'," says Rix. "There's only really Arctic Monkeys, then everyone else that you see is people like Green Day, Foo Fighters, Coldplay  - who are all much older. Green Day have been headlining festivals since like 1995. "

Ricky muses: "It's great that the bands you've just mentioned there can bypass the charts. The charts aren't important. You don't have to be in the Top Five of the singles chart to headline a festival anymore. Ten years ago, you probably did. Now, the people that love it really love it and I mean that in a really positive way. It's a different world and British music has never been more successful. It's just that the British music that's travelling doesn't have a guitar strapped round it's neck."

They may not be bothered about the charts, but that hasn't stopped Kaiser Chiefs - who are currently at No.1 in the midweek charts with fifth album Education, Education, Education and War - boosted in no small part by Wilson's raised profile appearing as a coach on The Voice (which was precisely the point, he admits). But critics too are also hearing the renewed energy of the band following the departure of former chief songwriter and drummer, Nick Hodgson - hailing it as the band's best material in some years. 

"Without dips in popularity, no genre can survive forever," says Wilson, relating indie to the life of his own band. "If a genre just got bigger and bigger then it would just fall off the end and be gone forever. You need peaks and troughs. It's the troughs that inspire the peaks, and it's the peaks that make you try harder because you realise you don't want to go back to a trough.

"Guitar and alternative music has to come in waves or else it would just implode."

Implosion seems a long way off yet, both for indie music, and the Kaiser Chiefs. 

Kaiser Chiefs new album Education, Education, Education and War is out now. 

As well as being confirmed for V Festival and T In The Park, Kaiser Chiefs will also be performing at the opening of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Thursday July 3. Visit Gigwise Gig Tickets for more information.

Below: 19 exclusive photos of Kaiser Chiefs at The Scala, London

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