It’s a small but classy touch that Kooks acolytes might not even notice at first: the large-print words “thank you” adorning the booklet of the British quartet’s ebullient comeback recording “Junk of the Heart.”
But the heartfelt message is directed straight at them.
“It sounds a bit corny saying it out loud, but the fans have been so there for us through this whole time, when we were going through hell,” says frontman-songwriter Luke Pritchard. “And we truly do appreciate it so much. To still come back to the U.S. and sell out venues is really cool.”
That hell was all too real. After only two albums (2006’s “Inside In/Inside Out” and “Konk” in 2008), the picked-to-click Kooks — who play The City on Tuesday — suddenly found themselves derailing like their short-circuited UK peers Razorlight.
“We were on similar trajectories,” says Pritchard, who grew so dissatisfied with their direction he ditched an entire Jim-Abyss-produced session the group had tracked in New York. After which, he says, “My confidence was probably at an all-time low. I was quite freaked out by the whole thing and really questioning myself as a songwriter, and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do.”
It didn’t help that drummer Paul Garred had been sidelined by nerve problems in his arm, or that the Kooks 2010 tour without him had left them feeling disoriented, less than whole.
But Pritchard arrived at carillon-pealing, new mod-flavored anthems such as “Rosie,” “Eskimo Kiss” and the sunny lead single “Junk of the Heart (Happy)” by disconnecting from showbiz and facing his depression alone.
“I definitely went back to the drawing board, and I ended up finding a lot of joy — and creative energy — just being on my own, writing with a laptop,” he says. “I discovered a whole new way of composing.”
Pleased with his nascent recordings, Pritchard forwarded them to Garred and guitarist-keyboardist Hugh Harris, who added their parts.
Then producer Tony Hoffer, hired to flesh out the ideas, wound up getting deeply involved.
“Like the song ‘Rosie’ just came from me and Tony sitting down and creating a percussion loop on our computers, which is something The Kooks had never done before,” Pritchard says. “So it was a completely different kind of creative process.”
Pritchard is also thankful for a new outlook-brightening girlfriend, gorgeous model/musician Suki Alice, featured in the “Junk” cover photo. The couple even plans to record together soon.
“I’m really proud of this album,” he says. “We’ve rediscovered the soul of the band again, and that was a very hard thing to do.”
IF YOU GO
Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: (415) 371-5500, www.livenation.com