Serge Pizzorno: “Kasabian’s trajectory is exactly where it’s always been, and always will be” (2024)

2014, 2016 and 2024 – three standout years in the history of Leicester City Football Club. They mark, respectively, promotion, their miraculous 5000/1 Premier League triumph two years later and promotion once again this year: a resurgence to the top-flight after their shock relegation in 2023. Last season’s Championship title race went down to the wire – but The Foxes got the job done, much to the relief of superfan and Kasabian frontman Serge Pizzorno. “I’ve got one eye on the gig going, ‘f*cking hell, please make that happen for us’,” he jokes, describing the tension during the run-in.

He’s referring to the band’s homecoming at Victoria Park this Saturday (July 6), ten years since they first graced the 50,000-capacity venue in 2014 – and eight since their King Power Stadium shows, which were brought forward at the last minute to celebrate Leicester City’s Premier League title. 2014, 2016, and 2024 – trophies and Kasabian homecoming gigs, it would appear, go hand in hand.

This Victoria Park show will serve as another belated promotion party, though Pizzorno suggests fellow Leicester fans go “next level”. While they currently chant Player of the Season Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall’s name to the tune of ‘Wonderwall’, he’s trying to push Kasabian’s dancey, “irresponsible” new anthem ‘Call’ as a replacement – an idea, he points out, which has been personally approved by the player’s mother. The lyrics could go “I love it when you call / Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall”. “I might get him to introduce it [on stage], or something,” Pizzorno teases (though the player’s apparently imminent transfer to Chelsea may complicate things).

The fortunes of Leicester City and Kasabian are somewhat of a mirror image. From the heights of Premier League success and headlining Glastonbury to unexpected relegation and the forced sacking of former singer Tom Meighan, both club and band have found themselves on the brink in recent years. “We had no idea what was gonna happen next,” recalls Pizzorno, as Kasabian 2.0 tested the waters with Academy shows and 2022’s experimental album ‘The Alchemist’s Euphoria’, which helped ease them back towards arenas. Now, Victoria Park signals that Kasabian are not only back at the top, but reconquering the site of one of their greatest triumphs from their peak.

“Art, for me, is relaxation – I panic when I’m not doing it”

“This is like a second time around the board – no one gets that,” explains Pizzorno, speaking to NME in The Sergery, his magnificent, tucked-away Leicester studio, which is surrounded by a noisy flock of sheep. “You might be relevant in the decade you come out, you’re lucky if you are in the second. Man, if you get in the third decade, then you’re into some mad national treasure sh*t. Not that I’m saying that…” Recently, his mother pulled out an old copy of NME from their breakout period in the early 2000s. “It’s mad to see, the bands that we came out with – and they were f*cking big at the time – and now, boom. They’re gone.”

When Kasabian first headlined Victoria Park in 2014, the streets were alive with a carnival atmosphere, Pizzorno recalls. “You feel like you’ve snuck onto somewhere you know you shouldn’t be, right in the centre of town.” The bars ran out of booze by 12.30pm, resorting to selling cans from Asda and Sainsbury’s. The atmosphere in the city centre was electric. But Pizzorno remembers it in the shadow of their Glastonbury headline slot the following week, which had weighed on the band.

“You know what, I didn’t take [the Victoria Park show] in,” he admits. “When you’re in the middle of the storm… it was really, really important that we headlined Glastonbury. It was f*cking everything. I’ll tell you now, I’d have been devoed if we [hadn’t].” As their return to Victoria Park approaches, does a future return to the summit of major UK festivals seem feasible for Pizzorno? “Genuinely, those things don’t excite me,” he answers calmly. “Because it’s happened, I’m sure that it has an effect on the way I talk about it now. What excites me is going out there, not knowing what the f*ck is gonna happen at a show,” he continues. “Going from Travis Scott to Lou Reed to Iggy Pop, using all these influences and trying to then put my own spin on it.”

“‘Happenings’ is a pop record, in a way – it’s just big song after big song. I wanted to make the point, then leave as fast as possible”

Of course, by the time you read this, you know that Kasabian made a glorious return to Glastonbury last week, playing a packed-out secret set at Woodsies on Saturday. What better way to herald the arrival of their colourful eighth album, ‘Happenings’? It’s worth remembering that six of their previous records have topped the charts, a staggering feat which puts them on par with Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys (“It would be f*cking cool if we got seven,” pronounces Pizzorno).

Clocking in at 28 minutes, this “future rock ‘n’ roll” album is a deliberately sharp burst of concise anthems, modelled off early Ramones records. “Usually, I tend to react to the last album, and I went through it surgically (wahey) so that every eight bars, it hits,” Pizzorno explains. “It’s a pop record, in a way – it’s just big song after big song. I wanted to make the point, then leave as fast as possible.”

Serge Pizzorno: “Kasabian’s trajectory is exactly where it’s always been, and always will be” (1)

Whilst there’s hints of vintage Kasabian on the “crunchy, Seattle-like” track ‘Passengers’, the futuristic album leans heavily on psychedelic influences, from the groovy ‘Italian Horror’ to the swashbuckling journey of ‘Hell Of It.’ “One thing I’ve always tried to do is keep that childlike innocence of play, and the art of not giving a f*ck – although I do, more than anything in the world,” Pizzorno tells us.

“With ‘Hell Of It’, I was thinking about Timbaland and all that early noughties hip-hop, N.E.R.D. – and then it goes into Funkadelic. I always really enjoyed songs that flip on their heads. You’re in a club, you can hear something going on, and you open the door. I feel like that’s the window into where we’re going to.”

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In Pizzorno’s eyes, there are clearly no limits on how far Kasabian’s sound can stretch. He doesn’t mind the somewhat outdated ‘rock band’ tag – it only motivates him to defy expectations even further. Some have viewed their recent genre-bending as an attempt to conceal Pizzorno’s experimental solo venture, The S.L.P., beneath the Kasabian brand. He sets the record straight: “The S.L.P. is Kasabian – I’ve written every f*cking song. People are gonna say The Smile sound like Radiohead, because Thom Yorke’s the singer. The Smile don’t sound like Radiohead to me… [just like] The S.L.P. and Kasabian, I can hear nuances, differences. But ‘Club Foot’ was made exactly the same as ‘Hell Of It’, I made ‘Underdog’ exactly how I made ‘Darkest Lullaby’. Kasabian’s trajectory is exactly where it’s always been, and always will be.”

“What excites me is going out there, not knowing what the f*ck is gonna happen at a show”

Twenty years on from their seminal self-titled debut, Pizzorno still finds himself buzzing with creativity, just like the teenager mucking about in his bedroom with an Atari sampler. “Art, for me, is relaxation – I panic when I’m not doing it,” he explains. “The reason why I stayed [in Leicester] is because this is where I like to write, I work well at home. In the same way that Kendrick Lamar has Compton, I feel like I’m making music for this place.” He smirks, and takes a careful pause before conceding the cliché. “There’s definitely the underdog element to it, too.”

Kasabian’s underdog story is old news to many, but it’ll be told for generations to come, their legacy already sealed as Leicester’s greatest musical success story. “You have to accept, if you are putting stuff out, it comes with a price… you’re gonna get criticised. That’s the deal, you shake hands with that,” Pizzorno concludes. “But if it’s just about the process, then man, it’s the greatest thing. Art changed my life. If the legacy of this is that no matter where you’re from, you can write that film or make that tune – then f*ck, I’ve done my job.”

Kasabian’s ‘Happenings’ is out July 5 via Columbia. The band headline Victoria Park in Leicester on July 6

Serge Pizzorno: “Kasabian’s trajectory is exactly where it’s always been, and always will be” (2024)

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