Kaiser Chiefs

The Kaiser Chiefs had just wrapped up sound check before a recent private party in London, and frontman Ricky Wilson was looking forward to meeting a celebrity who’d just been in the news.

“It’s a party with a load of celebrities we’re playing for,” Wilson told Pollstar. “I just really want to meet Jude Law! And now, Sienna is pregnant with his baby! The plot thickens.”

Wilson gets starstruck. But considering he and his band had played just a few weeks earlier before an estimated 1 million at Philadelphia’s July 2nd Live 8 extravaganza, he might want to consider getting used to people becoming starstruck around him.

Quirky indie rockers Kaiser Chiefs will likely get their chance to find out what that’s like this fall when they open a tour with Weezer and Foo Fighters, after their appearance at the Austin City Limits Festival in September.

“It’s going to be hilarious!” Wilson said, laughing. “I talked to Mr. Grohl about it the other day when we were in Japan and we’re just so excited. I think it’s going to be the most fun tour anyone’s ever going to see.”

Yes, he calls Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl “Mister.”

“It’s a really good bill. Mr. Grohl’s excited about it. I’m not trying to blow my own trumpet but I think Kaiser Chiefs, Foo Fighters, and Weezer all do kind of the same thing; we’re all very entertaining bands,” Wilson said. And they’ve done a lot of entertaining this year.

The quintet opened some of U2’s European stadium shows and appeared at most of the major summer festivals including Glastonbury, Leeds and Reading. The Kaisers were also personally invited by Sir Bob Geldof to appear as U.K. “ambassadors” at the Live 8 concert.

“People ask me about the day and I can’t remember much; I was gobsmacked about the whole thing,” Wilson recounted. “In front of a million people it gets so big you can barely comprehend, you can’t even get nervous. I get nervous playing in front of 20 people, but playing in front of a million was like I couldn’t even feel anything. I’m numb still.”

But the visibility has paid off. The band is the odds-on favorite among British bettors to win the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Prize for its debut album, Employment, with hit singles “I Predict a Riot,” “Everyday I Love You Less and Less” and more to come.

The nomination puts the group in the same company as Coldplay, Bloc Party, M.I.A., and The Go! Team.

“It is pretty much an honor,” Wilson said of the nomination. “It’s an award based on musical merit and the content of your album rather than best photo shoot or whatever. It’s actually about what we’ve achieved. We’re the favorite, which usually means we’re not going to win. But we want the favorites to win!”

Whether or not they win the Mercury Prize, it’s been a whirlwind ride for the band, which comprises Wilson on vocals, guitarist Andrew “Whitey” White, bassist Simon Rix, keyboardist Nick “Peanut” Baines and drummer Nick Hodgson

Kaiser Chiefs

all childhood friends.

The team around Kaiser Chiefs came about organically as well, according to Wilson. One friend, who was a writer, offered to act as the band’s publicist without pay until a little money started coming in.

Another friend introduced the band to an acquaintance at D-unique, a tiny Leeds label that first signed Kaiser Chiefs and enabled the group to record in a studio instead of Hodgson’s bedroom. When the group outgrew its label, it got an assist from Universal Music for distribution.

The band’s U.K. manager sent out demos and Helter Skelter’s Paul Bolton jumped on the bandwagon. His American counterpart, Matt Hickey at High Road Touring, is Kaiser Chiefs’ North American agent.

“They contacted me and sent me a couple of songs that wound up being their first couple of singles in the U.K.,” Hickey told Pollstar. “I heard them and just reacted to them. They had a sound that was unlike anything I’d ever heard.

“After the first single came out in the U.K., they thought about making a trip to the U.S. when Universal contacted them about putting the record out here.”

The Kaisers are adamant about doing things their own way, despite having won the hearts of major labels, agents and managers

and were insistent about putting together a team that let the band do its own thing.

“Even though we’ve got these big guns behind us, it comes down to the five people in the band and the three people at the record company,” Wilson said. “We’ve always got control of what we do and even if these guys at the top behind these big desks in the corner office don’t like what we’re doing, they can’t make us do anything else.”

Whatever Kaiser Chiefs is doing, it’s working. After a successful U.S. tour this summer, the band is back in Europe before returning stateside for the ACL Festival and hitting the trail with Foo Fighters and Weezer kicking off September 27th in San Diego.

“Mr. Grohl, I think I can call him Dave now, we get on,” Wilson said of the upcoming tour

and the chance to meet more celebrities. “But I like meeting people like Richard Gere … now, that was cool. And Juliette Lewis. She was lovely … .”