SXSW 2012: Can Kasabian conquer America?

This is not America. This is Kasabian playing a packed show in Leeds. Kasabian play the much smaller Theatre of the Living Arts on March 21.

Tom Meighan arrives with a bodyguard in a black SUV with tinted windows. The Kasabian singer is a superstar in his home country, but in Austin, Texas, at the SXSW Music Conference, he is afforded the luxury of anonymity.

Plopping down on a couch in the lobby of the Radisson Hotel, he wonders aloud if American popular music will ever experience another British invasion.

“This obsession about breaking in America isn’t really happening anymore for English bands,” he says, scratching his unshaven neck. “It’s kind of gone, isn’t it?”

But not for Kasabian. With their September-released “Velociraptor!”, the band is touring the U.S. for the first time in five years.

“You can get carried away with the arenas back in England,” he says. “Here, it feels like we’re 21 again, starting over.”

A lot about Kasabian feels like starting over. “Velociraptor!” is a cleaner sound than the band’s Brit-pop past, filled with funky grooves and fun lyrics.

Meighan says “Let’s Roll Like We Used To” is about when he and Kasabian co-founder Sergio Pizzorno “used to smoke jazz cigarettes and wander through the fields,” while the song “Rewired” is “about being naughty in a hotel room.”

“We’ll always keep reinventing ourselves,” says Meighan. “Our next album, I said to Serge, we’ll probably put eight songs on it and every song will be two minutes long, and it will be a whole electronic album with no guitars. I don’t know.”

Monkey brain brainstorm

One of the first indications that “Velociraptor!” doesn’t take itself seriously is toward the end of the second song, “Days Are Forgotten,” where Meighan talks about chewing a monkey brain. What?
   
“‘Chewing a monkey brain’ comes from ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’ He says, ‘chilled monkey brain,’ not ‘chew.’ I always had an obsession with making my own words. The only person who got it was my brother, because I used to say it as a kid.”


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