The multi-award-winning Kaiser Chiefs are out on the road once more this month. “I’m pretty excited about it,” says singer Ricky Wilson. “We haven’t done it in a long time have we?” Drummer Vijay Mistry considers this for a moment. “Not for a long time, no,” “Do you think we’re still up for it? Cause, you know, sometimes you think “can we still do it?” asks Wilson. “You do…” agrees Mistry.
With their trademark dry wit, sardonic social commentary and catalogue of uncompromising stadium rock bangers, Kaiser Chiefs remain one of the country’s most exciting live prospects. Formed in Leeds in 2000, the boys have scored a Mercury nomination for their iconic debut album, Employment, and went on to win three BRIT awards, an Ivor Novello award for Album of the Year, and tidily sold over 8 million albums worldwide. And accompanying the tour is the release of new single How 2 Dance on Fri 4 Nov.
It’s been over three years since the release of Wilson and Mistry, along with Simon Rix on bass, Andrew ‘Whitey’ White on guitar and keyboardist Nick ‘Peanut’ Baines’ seventh album, the critically acclaimed Duck. Obviously, it’s been a little difficult to get a proper tour together recently. Despite the absence, the band are certain of putting on a good show. “I can remember once, we played at a little place in Manchester,” says Wilson. “It was before Education, Education, Education & War came out – and we hadn’t done a show in a while and I can remember being in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and thinking to myself ‘Is it gonna happen? Is it still in there? Is it still, like, in my ability to do this?’ And then you walk out on stage and it all comes back to you.” Mistry instantly contradicts this by claiming he still needs some preparation before a show. “I have to do some training. I have to do some prep.”
“What does the training involve?” asks Wilson. “Well, you start off small, so you gotta do finger exercises,” replies the drummer. “I like to pick up a remote controller, and then turn the channels on the telly… that gets the fingers moving! Then eight or nine months later, you can do one song… And then you just keep building!”
It’s this kind of training regime which has enabled Kaiser Chiefs to make their mark as heroes in the British music scene, with absolutely no sign of them slowing down. The band have released seven studio albums to date including chart toppers, ‘Yours Truly, Angry Mob’ and ‘Education, Education, Education & War’ plus their much-praised 2019 and top 3 album ‘Duck’.
Fellow Yorkshire-types, The Sherlocks, are opening each night, after becoming one of the most talked about live bands in the UK. Selling out tours across the nation, they have also achieved chart success with two UK Top 10 albums. Glaswegian trio The Fratellis are also joining them on the tour, following a rollercoaster 2021 which saw them unleash a new album alongside a barrage of singles and collaborations. This was rounded off by winning the prestigious King Tut’s Songwriting Award at the Scottish Music Awards. They’ll perform songs from their new album, Half Drunk Under a Full Moon as well as fan-favourites and indie anthems such as Chelsea Dagger.
Mistry and Wilson say they’ve been aware of the bands since they both started, and are looking forwards to seeing them play up close. “Yeah, it’s nice,” adds Mistry. “You generally bond in catering…” Wilson claims the Kaiser Chiefs are actually a timid bunch of guys. “We’re like squirrels! We need to be brought out of ourselves.” “The only time you see us is when we come out to gather our nuts!” chips in Mistry.
When the subject of appropriate stage-wear comes up, the pair both try to claim the other is their fashion inspiration. “I think we’re getting baggier,” ponders Wilson. Mistry agrees: “Eventually we’ll end up like 1970’s Elton, with two pianos facing each other.” “It’ll be like Billy Joel and Elton John,” shouts Wilson. “…Duelling Pianos… Duelling Outfits?” He continues by saying he always liked school uniform, because you didn’t have to worry about it. It made you know that you’re now going to work. Mistry concurs, saying: “I think it’s good, cos if you’re thinking about what you’re wearing every day, that’s crazy. I once made the mistake of wearing exceptionally baggy trousers. And after the first beat, the beater for the kick drum got stuck up the trouser leg! So I had to play the first song side-footed!”
Wilson has a go at suggesting his percussionist friend usually performs wearing bicycle shorts. “I have vowed never to wear shorts on stage,” argues Mistry. “I just don’t like the way they look!” Wilson still won’t have this. “When you get to that stage where there’s more material in your gloves than there are on your body, you know you’re a professional drummer,” he offers.
They’re a rock band, so by default are supposed to act like they don’t really care, ponders Wilson. “But then you go and see someone like Kylie, who has like 15 outfit changes, and to be honest, I’m a little bit jealous! Literally outfit-wise, you have one shot for us! However, the moment that Vijay wears shorts and short fingerless gloves, and I have an outfit change, is when it’s gone too far!”
Like any bunch of bright lads, the Kaiser Chiefs learned to invent different ways to entertain themselves while waiting around. The pair have just been playing a competition where one would name a TV character and others guess the TV show. “It’s a just a game Whitey invented today,” says Wilson. “It’s not a game we always play!” “It’s an incredible skill you realise that you end up having,” interjects Mistry. “Because you spend so much time on tour buses and in dressing rooms, that everyone’s been able to immediately just be like…” He clicks his fingers. “’Right… This game!’”
“Well, it depends…” nods Wilson. “It depends on what’s to hand. I mean, sometimes they involve props. Whitey – it’s usually Whitey…” He breaks into an impression of the band’s guitarist. “That teabag through that hole?” Mistry breaks in: “But you never play it again. I always remember once, you told me – this is nothing to do with games – but you told me once that Whitey did an impression of someone once, that was so perfect, that he vowed never to do it ever again and to this day he never has.”
While there’s no problem finding impromptu fun backstage, deciding what to play out front must be a bigger deal. The last decade has blessed Kaiser Chiefs with a deep back catalogue. This includes multiple Top 10 singles, like the infamous number one hit Ruby, and crowd-pleasing anthems like Oh My God, I Predict A Riot, Everyday I Love You Less and Less and Never Miss A Beat. So how do they determine the perfect selection of songs? “Simon always does the setlist,” says Wilson. “I usually do the set design. But I don’t have to do that every day – that’s the difference between me and Simon.” Mistry suggests the band’s bassist might
obsess about it a bit much. “I think his thing in life is to find the perfect setlist. He needs some more songs though…”
“It’s funny cos we have a setlist, and then he’ll make the smallest change which will be greeted by the biggest upset from various band members,” says Wilson with a big laugh. “At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter – but we make it really matter on the day. And if I’m not happy with the change then I’ll deliberately make it an awful show… No, I won’t, I’ve never done that!” “He’s in charge of all of us to an extent really as well,” adds Mistry. “The only reason we’re here today is because he organised it for us.”
Kaiser Chiefs play London’s The O2 on Sat 5 Nov and Brighton Centre on Mon 14 Nov. Their single, How 2 Dance, is released on Fri 4 Nov 2022.