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Kaiser Chiefs

Sometimes the greatest success stories sprout from the tiniest of ambitions. When Kaiser Chiefs formed up in not-so-sunny Leeds, England around the summer of 2003, their aim was not to conquer stadiums and change the world. Instead, these five oddballs began plotting a rather more modest plan.

In the shadowy corners of clubs and venues across the city Ricky Wilson (lead vocals, owner of stylish blue and orange suit), Andrew "Whitey" White (guitar), Simon Rix (bass), Nick "Peanut" Baines (keyboards and modeller of impressive pork-pie hats) and Nick Hodgson (drums and vocals) decided to form a band that would harness the awesome capability of being able to, erm, blag an early slot at their hometown Leeds Festival. Impressive, eh? They achieved it without breaking sweat, naturally, but with it came a whole lot more. 18 months down the line and the boys have gate-crashed the UK singles charts, laid waste to huge crowds as far away as Moscow, played triumphant support slots with Franz Ferdinand, made waves at US radio and signed to Universal Records.

Kaisers' story actually begins some time before they'd decided to name themselves after a successful South African football team. School friends Simon, Peanut and Nick had been playing together in various bands since the age of 15 before spying art school graduate and restless-ball-of-energy, Ricky singing with a Rolling Stones tribute band. Initially Ricky refused their invitation to join the ranks, but eventually he relented. "I don't know why," laughs Nick. "We didn't have any songs at the time."

Of course, being at the core of the UK's most vibrant local music scene made the band realize they had to raise their game musically. And so, after a particularly heated crisis meeting, they agreed that if they were ever to secure that Leeds Festival spot, they had to start afresh. They rapidly went about changing everything, which meant a new name ("It was the only one suggested that we didn't all hate") and ditching all their old songs.

"It was like seeing the light," says Ricky. "We'd been trying so hard to fit in that we'd lost sight of what we were best at not fitting in." "Not fitting in," it seems, involved crafting world-beating pop songs about looter-filled city streets at closing time and relationships-gone-wonky. Songs that could only have been written by observing the peculiarities of life in Northern England, and songs that sparkled with the sound of Madness and The Kinks to Roxy Music and Blur.

Says Ricky, "We stopped singing about working on a railroad and going to high school proms and starting writing about being broke."

It struck a chord. First self-financed single, on UK indie label DrownedinSound, "Oh My God" made number 66 in the British charts despite the fact it was a limited release. The follow-up, "I Predict A Riot" (their first proper release after signing to another UK indie, B-Unique) shot straight to the fringes of the UK Top 20. With all this going on, it's hardly surprising that they were picked to open the NME Awards Tour 2005: a slot that's previously helped set bands like Coldplay and Franz on their way to stardom.

Stateside, LA's KROQ and Indie 103 had caught wind. How, exactly? It's still somewhat of a happy mystery... Kaiser Chiefs swiftly became the unassuming subjects of a US label bidding war within 3 months of trying to find a home in the UK. (After all, they did accomplish their goal of playing the Leeds festival. Oh, and Reading.) Universal won said war. Did we mention that all their demos and previously recorded releases were all produced in Nick's bedroom?

Right now, everybody wants a piece of Kaiser Chiefs. Celebrated producer Stephen Street (The Smiths/Morrissey, Blur, The Cranberries) was so bowled over he offered his services for their debut album, Employment. A barrage of bouncing art-pop brilliance, it's scheduled to soundtrack 2005 from the minute it hits stereos this coming spring. But with all these achievements behind their belts already, and acclaim oozing from the media on both sides of the Atlantic, what could be next for the Kaisers?

"I won't stop until I've got an apartment in every major city in the world," reckons Ricky. "New York. Helsinki. And Harrogate. Also, I want all my ex-girlfriends to recognize me on television. But above all, I want to get a new filling for my tooth."

Ask 'em again in 12 months and you can bet it'll be time to start making even loftier plans.

-- By Tim Jonze - Courtesy of Universal Records

--- from the official Kaiser Chiefs website

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