ONE of this century’s biggest British bands — Keane — returned to their roots with their fourth album Strangeland which secured acclaim and the top of the charts on its release earlier this year.
Mail reporter JAMES BRINDLE caught up with the band’s songwriter and pianist Tim Rice-Oxley to talk about their successful return and their upcoming live dates.
CHANGE is not always a good thing and that is something Keane found after their third album received a rather indifferent response.
Perfect Symmetry still pulled in the punters though hitting the top spot in the UK album charts and the top 10 in the US.
However it failed to have the longevity of previous efforts, particularly their incredibly popular debut Hopes and Fears which helped them become one of the UK’s biggest international bands, and some questioned their more experimental approach.
The slightly under-the-radar release of their fourth studio album Strangeland earlier this year was therefore a big moment for the band and it has proved an undeniable success and seen them welcomed back into the fold with open arms.
The brains behind Keane, Tim Rice- Oxley, told the Mail that the band have been re-invigorated by the response from critics and fans to their fourth record.
“It is always difficult to admit that,” he said. “We were very proud of our third record but I don’t know what makes the difference but this album seems to have gone over really well and seems to have touched a nerve and people seem to have really engaged with the songs emotionally.
“There is no amount of marketing and trickery that can make people feel a certain way about music. You’ve just got to try to write songs that people fall in love with and it’s felt like that.
“We always love touring to be honest but it is really nice when even before the album came out we were playing, especially (single) Sovereign Light Cafe and people were singing along to it even before we had recorded it.
“Silenced By The Night is also a really good sing-a-long song and people were hearing it for the first time and were singing by the second chorus.
“In a way that is really what pop music is about — it’s easy to forget that and start feeling you need to write eightminute epics about modern angst rather than songs that will just let people lose their worries for a night and sing-a-long wildly and have that connection between a band and an audience who are actually paying for the tickets and the music.”
After Keane stormed on to the scene back in 2004 they have had to cope with some critical mockery at their piano-led sound and on album two and three seemed to try to show they had more in their canon.
Rice-Oxley, however, said they never really felt any outside pressure to show they were no onetrick ponies.
He said: “There was never any outside pressure — that has stayed the same. It was just what we wanted to do.
Having grown up loving bands like The Beatles and U2 that have successfully reinvented themselves that was just what we thought a band should do.
“We have tried to do that all the way through really — just follow our own instincts about what music we wanted to make at a particular moment in time.
“I hope it always varies and we don’t get stuck in a rut but it is very tempting, especially after an album like Hopes and Fears to think ‘yeah that worked’ and just do that for another 10 years and buy an island in the Caribbean.
“We still love making new music and we still love touring and we are very lucky that people still want to hear our music.”
What has never been in doubt throughout the band’s career so far is the almost unparelled loyalty of their fans.
Keane fans are some of the most passionate and devoted around and Rice-Oxley admitted it was hugely flattering for the band.
He said: “I don’t really know why it is — I like to think it’s because we’re a good band. We certainly do cherish our fans a lot and do our best to make them feel like we appreciate them because we do and we always have.
“There must be something more to it than that — I think maybe because it’s clear that we are not trying to make a product we are just making music from our hearts.
“It becomes apparent over the years which bands are doing that and which bands aren’t. I guess people fall in love with the experience of coming to watch us play and I think that is incredibly flattering.
“I love Bruce Springsteen and going to see him play is incredibly uplifting but I don’t want to see him 30 times a year. It requires a level of dedication to see a band on every date of their tour and I think it is amazing.”
What Rice-Oxley also found flattering, despite the snobbish reaction of some of Keane’s peers to similar use, was the fact their most cherished hit Somewhere Only We Know was used on the hit US show Glee.
He said: “I didn’t mind at all and I actually found it very flattering. I just find it so baffling when people want to use any of our songs for anything.
“I can’t understand when people get their knickers in a twist about it. I can understand if their music is being used to sell something they don’t agree with but for a TV show or something it’s nice.
“I don’t have a problem with Glee at all — people can be snobs.”
Somewhere Only We Know was the band’s breakthrough hit and despite success with follow-up’s such as Everybody’s Changing, Bedshaped, Is It Any Wonder etc it remains the band’s signature hit.
I asked Rice-Oxley, as its composer, whether that was a frustration.
“I don’t find it frustrating,” he said. “It would be nice to keep having songs like that all the time just from purely a point of view of nurturing my own ego!
“I mean is it really 10 years since I wrote a song like that? There are different kinds of songs and also the singles on this record already feel like big sing-a-longs.
“I’m not saying they are going to end up on Glee or on underwear adverts but it is nice to feel there are times that people are still connecting on a big scale.”
The band kick off a major arena tour next month having played to thousands of fans over the summer on the festival circuit.
Rice-Oxley said being able to play such large venues and to so many fans is something they will never take for granted.
“It is a very surreal experience playing to thousands of people,” he said. “It never gets any less exciting — not for us anyway, especially when people are singing along and we never take it for granted.
“We did a tour of smaller venues earlier in the year just before the album came out and that was fun but it is really nice to again feel that people have embraced the record and embraced the music and we can play bigger venues.
“You can’t always assume that you are always going to be big and always going to be playing venues like the 02 Arena and stuff so we feel very, very lucky.”
Keane perform at Nottingham’s Capital FM Arena on November 28. Visit www.keanemusic.com for details.