Keane as mustard –
but boy has their determination paid off!
Feature: Emma Whitelaw
IT SEEMS there is no end to the whirlwind success of melodic Britpop band, Keane.
Their brilliant debut, Hopes and Fears, took out the coveted Album of The Year at the Q magazine awards in London this year, they’ve just played a string of sell-out dates around the UK and they’ve recently taken part in Bob Geldof’s brainchild, Band Aid III.
After a live performance of their new single, This Is The Last Time, and a sneak preview of Nothing In Your Way singer, Tom Chapman, pianist, Tim Oxley-Rice and drummer, Richard Hughes talk about the hard work behind the rise and rise of Keane, one of the UK’s hottest bands to date.
When asked about the influence behind their latest song, Nothing in Your Way, Oxley-Rice explained: "It is Eminem. If you took away the melody and the bass it could be a straight rip off of Lose Yourself..."
The lads from Sussex have a good laugh, then Chapman elaborates: "It’s a very simple song, it’s, you know, this flowery pop that’s going on is very direct and it’s certainly the direction in which we might go now.
"Each record we make and each song that we work on, we’ll just make it very simple and direct and I think that’s important to pop. It’s a good old rock song as well and I think that we’re aware of wanting to be a proper rock band and we should pursue that side of it as well."
It’s obvious that Keane are the darlings of Britpop but how about breaking into the US market?
"I think, um I dunno, I’m sure some people sort of charm their way around you know but we just really went there and played.
"We tried to do little acoustic sets just take the piano and play our music to these people and do that rather than go in and make the Chief Executive feel special.
“The thing is, that I mean, I don’t know, I spose it sounds quite corporate but actually most people that work at big radio stations around the world are obviously music fans so if you can just go there and play your music, then that’s really good and that’s what we’ve been trying to do.
"We do exactly the same thing over there as we do over here, just try and play our music to people and say hello really.
"It’s been fun and it’s amazing really you get there and it’s like being in a film, you know. We were driving through the desert in Arizona, you know, it’s just amazing!
"It’s like where there were cowboys in a film, it’s just like that. You know its fun! It's not work I mean, digging up holes is work. This isn’t work you know."
But success isn’t all fun and games; it is a whole lotta hard work too! Tom explains the band’s truly inspirational work ethic.
"Basically, the band’s that ‘do well’, or whatever you want to call it, are the bands that are really good and work hard and try to get better all the time and play the good gigs basically.
"It’s only the really, really good bands, who really apply themselves to be good bands, I think that will get anywhere.
"Obviously, we are very determined to be a band that keeps getting better and better. We’re not expecting to be the biggest band in the world, or in America, or whatever at this stage."
When asked about the effects of their catapult to fame, Tom went on to say: "I don’t know whether we’d think too hard about that; obviously, we’ve always wanted to be a band inspired by other bands or artists who write really good songs, really good pop songs but also something that actually has a bit of depth in it as well.
"So I think we’ve always been like that it’s probably just in our make up and the way that we are. We are something like that and that’s the sort of band that we want to be.
"I guess it’s just been a great year for us in every respect. It’s wonderful that lots of people have come out and got our record and we’ve obviously had the commercial success, but that’s not so important.
"I think the only, well the good thing about that is we get the chance to make another record which is what we’re in it for really. We love making music and having the chance to and it’s just great for us that finally after years of trying that something has really happened for us!”
But what about the ‘difficult second album’? Have thoughts turned to tackling that one yet?
Hughes explains the band have no intention of rushing things – after all you can’t rush perfection!
"I think we’d feel pressure anyway but we put a lot of pressure on ourselves.
"Basically, what we’ve learned to do is to sort of trust our instincts and we’re going to try and trust our instincts again, but, yeah, I think we’ve put the most pressure on us than anyone else really.
"Obviously, we’re aware that there’s pressure, you know, you only have to read music magazines and people talking about how difficult it is to make a second record and how you have years to make the first one, then suddenly finding themselves in the studio with three months to produce the next one, or whatever, but it’s come to the stage where you’ve earned the right to continue doing things your own way and we’re trying to stay ahead of it.
"We’re not saying, well as soon as you say we’re going to release an album next year, record company people start looking at their diaries and thinking, 'okay, release date then, delivery then, recording then', and then suddenly you realise you should have started six months ago.
"So we’re not putting that sort of pressure on ourselves. We’re just trying to make a better record rather than just making a sequel.
"We wanna do things the way that feels right and if that takes a little while, then it takes a little while."
Main songwriter, Oxley-Rice, adds: "I think we’d like to be able to make a record that sounds sort of, how can I put it? Well from a songwriter's point of view, I think it would be great to have the songs that are so good that you could play them ten different ways and they still sound like a great song.
"So I think the first step is to try and come up with those songs and that definitely takes time.
"Out of every ten songs that I write, there’s probably one that will make it on to a release of some sort.
"So yeah that will take a while but we’re getting there.
"I think sonically we’re getting more broad, people keep asking if we’ll be adding guitars or orchestras whereas actually I think it would be great to have a song and just have the drums and the voice, and I don’t know the bass, or whatever, so it's very raw and very direct. Sort of low-fi.
"It would be great if we could just go to the studio and play something once or twice and have it.
"We actually worked on a couple of things recently in the studio and we basically played them out very, very quickly, and I think we actually ended up with three or four songs.
"We played very, very quickly and threw some ideas down, I think it's probably because of that they’re more exciting than anything we’ve ever done before. So in terms of the atmosphere it’s more raw.”
Having achieved tremendous success themselves in the Download charts, the lads explain their views on the recent upsurge in the popularity of MP3’s.
"We think it’s great really; anyone who is a music fan can only see it as a good thing.
"I mean, it’s a way of distributing and sharing and hearing music that has possibilities really that go far beyond what we’re used to CD’s etc.
"So I think it’s fantastic; I love the idea of being able to, if I hear a song, go online, buy it, download it but I think the central crux of the matter is whether you’re prepared to pay for that music or not.
"Personally, I think people should be prepared to pay for it and as long as people are then, that seems like a very good arrangement – much more music will be much more accessible to many more people, so bring it on!”
It’s all been somewhat of a dream for the piano-based band, but were they surprised by their success?
"I think we’re eternally fortunate," Tom says. "Especially after so long, you know, trying to get somewhere. So every time that something good has happened in the last six months or year, it’s been a surprise. A really great surprise that something we’ve just been very proud of - whether it was the first time we played on TV, or the day the record came out, the first time we were on the radio - all these things, they’ve always come as a bit of a surprise and they’ve taken a bit of getting used to.
"But in a way, without trying to sound arrogant, I can understand why the record’s gone really well, cause people are crying out for good songs and good tunes.
"You know, something which has some lyrical depth to it as well. Something that means something or says something.
"So I think in that sense I can probably see why it did so well, or why it’s doing so well. But it is always a bit of a surprise or a shock when something new happens and I think we just hope that for the rest of our musical lives that new things keep happening and we’ll always move forwards instead of standing still.”
At this stage, there seems to be no doubting that they will!