Kaiser Chiefs - Biography
By Scott Feemster
The Kaiser Chiefs are among a new generation of British bands that are combining many of the best elements from the many waves of British rock music over the years. Combining some Kinks-style pop smarts with Jam-style power, and definitely taking influence from the '90's Brit-pop crowd like Blur and Oasis, the Kaiser Chiefs are not only one of the U.K.'s currently most popular bands, but are poised to have a career that could carry on for many years to come.
The seeds for the band were planted when drummer Nick Hodgson, keyboardist Nick “Peanut” Baines, and bassist Simon Rix met and became friends in primary school near the northern English city of Leeds. Later on, both Baines and Rix left the area to attend college, and Hodgson remained in the Leeds area where he made friends with guitarist Andrew White and vocalist Ricky Wilson. Soon the three formed the band Runston Parva, and after that band failed to do much, renamed themselves Parva after Baines and Rix returned to the area and joined the group. Parva had some limited success and where signed to the small Beggars Banquet offshoot label Mantra, and released an album and few singles before the label folded. Rather than breaking up, the group decided then was a good time to re-tool their sound, and decided to change their name as well to the Kaiser Chiefs, named after a South African soccer team that one of the bands favorite Leeds-area players, Lucas Radebe, had played for.
Taking influence and inspiration from many of the post-punk and new wave bands of the late '70's and early '80's, the group released their first single “Oh My God” in 2004 on the independent Drowned In Sound label. Initially the single didn't do too much, but word began to spread about the band's energetic live shows, and when the single was re-released in 2005, it became a Top Ten hit in the U.K. The re-release was followed soon after by the release of the group's debut album, Employment (B-Unique/Universal) in March of 2005, and the band became a quick success in the U.K, while also picking up some glowing reviews in Europe and the United States. The band capitalized on their almost instant stardom by touring extensively, and the result was the album reaching as high as #2 on the British charts, being certified platinum five times over, and the group being nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize, an award for the best album of the previous year in the U.K. and Ireland. Besides “Oh My God”, the group also scored other hit singles with the songs “I Predict A Riot”, “Everyday I Love You Less And Less”, and “Modern Way”.
For the band's follow-up album, the group took more inspiration from harder rock and more American bands. The result, the 2007 album Yours Truly, Angry Mob (B-Unique/Universal), was a harder and lyrically darker album than the band's debut, but the album was another success for them in the U.K., with the lead single, “Ruby”, going to #1 on the singles chart. The group toured in the U.K. and worldwide in support of the album, and released two more singles, “Everything Is Average Nowadays”, and “The Angry Mob”, which both charted in the U.K. Though the band has been a runaway success in their native United Kingdom, it may be that very British-ness that has held them back from bigger success in other countries. (This could be comparable to the amount of success Oasis has enjoyed in their own country versus the rest of the world.)
The Kaiser Chiefs returned in 2008 with their third album, Off With Their Heads (B-Unique/Universal), which received favorable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, and climbed to as high as #2 on the British album charts. Noted dance producer Mark Ronson produced the album, and gave the band a more dance-rock kick than they had previously had. Guests on the album included singer Lilly Allen, ( who had previously performed a version of the Chiefs song “Oh My God” on Ronson's album Version), British rapper Sway, and strings and arrangement from composer David Arnold. The group have been again touring extensively in support of the album, with dates that take them well into 2009.