The announcement of a new solo project from a member of a beloved band is always a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, you have the prospect of an exciting new batch of music; on the other, the implicit undercurrent that all is not well within their day job. For Kasabian’s chief songwriter and shaggy-haired vibe-master Serge Pizzorno, however, the urge to make something under his own moniker was born from far less complicated, untroubled times: his band had decided to give themselves a 12-month break after 15 years in the game. Serge, ever the creative tinkerer, didn’t much like the sound of a big holiday.
“We decided after the last few gigs that we were gonna have that time off and not do any shows, and I wasn’t gonna start making the [next] album until later on in the year. It was definitely the right thing for us to do, and it’s only a year - most bands usually take quite a while to knock out albums and go on tour so it didn’t seem like that much of a luxury - but I thought, I don’t know if I’m gonna just be able to not do anything…” he begins, chatting down the phone from his sunny Leicester garden, where he’s just woken up from a mid-afternoon outdoor snooze. “So then I thought, there’s a nice bit of time and I can just experiment and make a record and then I’ll be in a better place coming back to Kasabian with a completely new head on. If you get yourself artistically stuck then everything feels a bit stuck and I didn’t want to [become like that], so it was the perfect slot.”
To completely allay any fears of the band’s future, he confirms that work on Kasabian’s eighth has already begun and that it’s “started from a whole different place than [he] thought”. Bedding down at his home studio The Sergery (natch), and allowing all the playful eccentricities of his personality to have their time in the sun has clearly had the rejuvenating effect he’d hoped and you can see why: from the excitable way the musician enthuses about the anything-goes approach he took to writing the album, to the glitter-smeared image that first emerged alongside first single ‘Favourites’, The S.L.P (named after his initials) is all about freedom, fun and letting your most creative side out to play.
"It's really important for me to just put out positivity."
Formed around three orchestral tracks entitled 'Meanwhile...' that open, close and centre the album, the rest of the forthcoming self-titled LP sees Serge painting a “self portrait” of his tastes and whims, without the pressure of public expectation and the massive Kasabian machine. “It's things I've always wanted to try. When you get to a certain level, there are singles and things that you inevitably have to worry about to make a record, but I didn't have to do any of that,” he explains. “[Kasabian have] managed to navigate our own path and, in our odd little way, become a huge thing, but still no-one really knows what we're gonna do next which I'm really proud of. But in terms of the size of something like that, it is what it is and it's beautiful, but I had this opportunity...” He pauses. “It was important for me to have another place I can go, and now it exists and that's really exciting. I've made something where I can just be like, I fancy going over there for a bit and living in that world, and that's a place where I can express other ideas and be something completely different. And that's so nice as an artist because I am in the band that I love, but there are other bits [of me] that are quite interesting too.”
If Serge's songwriting for Kasabian has always been that bit weirder, that bit more prone to surprise and/or ridiculousness than most guitar bands of their stature, then here is the place where all those flourishes begin to make sense. “Stylistically, there's the Italian orchestration and film score thing, and this sort of French disco thing, and an Afrobeat thing, and this Nigerian 70s thing, which are all music styles that I've loved,” he begins of 'The S.L.P''s tastes; across the conversation, he also cites Mac Miller, the wildcard “maverick” persona of Tyler, the Creator and David Byrne's recent, game-changing live show as key influences. It's the kind of wide-ranging, uncensored approach that's always sat beneath Kasabian's big, festival-baiting bangers; now, however, it's been allowed to come further to the fore.
Indeed the whole ethos of The S.L.P is one, he states, of openness and good vibes. Musically, Serge describes the album as “sophisticated psychedelia”. “[The tracks] will still throw you out of joint and they're still odd, but there's a certain blissed-out feel to them. They're less aggressive, I suppose,” he nods. Lyrically, meanwhile, he's preaching that same path. “It's really important for me to just put out positivity,” he nods. “It's so easy not to, and it's a shame there's this horrible default button of hate that everyone seems to have, especially on social media: it's a fucking mean place. There's definitely a different way, and I just want to put out good vibes, I really do.”
"I am in the band that I love, but there are other bits [of me] that are quite interesting too."
Aforementioned lead single 'Favourites' encapsulates many of these ideas. A playful, twitchy musing on the perils of concocting an online persona, it has the twinkle-eyed spirit of classic Serge, but with some notable new additions – particularly in the form of a guest spot from London rapper Little Simz. “I showed her the track and sent a lovely email, and that might have made her think OK, [this] might be something good...” he grins of their collaboration. Surprise-released last month alongside that glitter-adorned portrait, it immediately set-up the project as something completely separate from what he'd done before. “It's playful and silly, but it's still quite a powerful image,” he says of the shot. “There's something in distilling that playfulness but it also looking like an art gallery, where there's a side that's also quite slick.”
Though Serge is remaining cagey about when The S.L.P will get the live treatment, there's a similar level of thought and attention going in to every element, “from the full stops on the logo to the shoelaces I wear,” he asserts. “It's so important to me that I'm in this great band with my best mates, and I can't be in a better band in my opinion. But this will never be that, so live it';ll look nothing like it does when I'm with the band. If you were taking a photograph from the front of the stage, and you put them side by side, you couldn't get the two mixed up. I can't compete with [Kasabian] and that's what's really exciting and empowering, because you kind of have to reinvent it all.”
With his best pals on board (“Tom text me today saying he can't get the single out of his head. I'm so lucky because I know how these things can pan out, but the boys have been so supportive,” he gushes), Serge has wound up with a second project that both feeds back into his main outlet and delights on its own merit. No wonder the perma-positive songwriter is sounding even more chipper than usual. “[Making this album] has jogged my memory about the artistic nature of making something from nothing,” he enthuses. “And that it can be whatever it wants, and that's beautiful.”
As featured in the June 2019 issue of DIY, out now.