Keane interview, 19th February 2004
INTERVIEW WITH KEANE, 19/02/04

Keane are one of the many new British bands to emerge on to the scene in 2004. They play beautiful and emotive ballads, and anyone who’s heard them or seen them live will know they’re much more than just the new Travis or Coldplay. Their debut single ‘Everybody’s Changing’ is now fetching astronomical amounts on Ebay, they’re selling out tours months in advance, and they’ve recently put pen to paper with a major label. Fame has certainly come quickly for the band, who have been making music since they formed in 1997. Jeremy Lloyd caught up with Richard Hughes, the band’s drummer, just before their recent gig at Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms.

Tom Chaplin, Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes all hail from a town called Battle in Sussex, a place not overly renowned for prodigious musical talent.

‘We went to school together, and Tom, who’s the singer, used to be looked after by an old lady called Cherry Keane. We thought it was a great name, and we had a gig and we needed a name, so we thought we’d use that. People got the name mixed up with Cherokee, so we decided to lose the first name and just go with Keane. It’s just a name, it means something to us.’

A lot has been made of the fact that the band don’t use guitars - ‘I find the fact that the guitar has taken over quite weird. The piano’s been around for hundreds of years in various forms and the guitar has been around a much shorter time so it’s quite strange that it dominates popular music to such an extent.’

‘In the current climate, you get bands like Ben Folds Five – they use piano an awful lot, Hope of The States have a piano live, Coldplay obviously. Piano is there, it’s just not the focus.’

‘Guitar has got to such a point where you get the three boys from Busted all doing the jump up in the air at the same time, and I certainly find that some of the people at our gigs are relieved that there isn’t someone jumping up at the start of the chorus doing the classic Pete Townshend move! It’s not a statement, and we’ll probably end up using guitars at some point. It’s just the way that works for us, we’ve just evolved into this way – we did actually have a lead guitarist, but he left the band.’

I asked Richard what he saw as the key moment for the band in getting signed. ‘One of the biggest moments was when we played an acoustic gig at Christmas just over a year ago. Simon Williams from Fierce Panda (Independent record label) came along, and immediately after the gig asked us if we wanted to put out a single.’

The band subsequently recorded their debut single, ‘Everybody’s Changing’ in early 2003. ‘That record, ‘Everybody’s Changing,’ got played by Steve Lamacq (Radio 1). This guy, whose show I’ve listened to for years, thought our song was good enough to be played on his show. That was a massive moment, that was hitting the big time for me. It’s a national radio station, so there were probably thousands of people listening to Keane for those three and a half minutes.’

Does it aggravate the band that they’ve been pigeonholed as the new Coldplay/Travis? ‘Not at all, we supported Travis in Toronto and I was out in the crowd enjoying the gig. They’re a great band, and I think Coldplay are a great band as well. Live, they both play really well, they both write songs that people can find they connect with, they’re emotional, they write their own songs and have good melodies - I have no problem with being compared with those bands.’

‘Until people know what Keane are like, they’re going to say we’re the next Coldplay. Coldplay are no longer the next Radiohead, and Radiohead are no longer the next U2. That’s what they were until they got established.’

‘If you hate Coldplay and think we sound like them, give us a listen because we don’t actually!’

It has certainly been a sudden rise to fame for the band - they recently secured a top 5 chart position with single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ and have had to add an extra London gig to their forthcoming tour due to demand. ‘It’s about a year since Steve Lamacq played ‘Everybody’s Changing,’ so it is a surprise because we’ve spent a long time doing this. But then in a way, it’s not a surprise because we’ve always thought that all we needed to do was get our music out for people to listen to and that they would like it.’

‘It is pretty amazing, in October we supported Longview at this place in Sheffield, which was half full for them, and we went back just now and packed it out. We played at King Tuts the other night, and it was sold out. The last time we went here it was half full. Progress is kind of tangible at the moment, so it’s great.’

Keane’s songs often contain personal lyrics that people can easily to relate to. ‘A lot of the lyrics are about communication. There’s a lot about our lives, the three of us – we’re close friends and we’ve grown up together. Our lives have always been intertwined, especially the last few years trying to get somewhere with music.’

‘Everybody’s Changing’ is a song about something I think a lot of people will experience, which is when people’s lives start going different ways and you’re sitting there, thinking my friends are doing this, what I am I doing? What do I do with my life? I think things like that are quite common to people and are probably more important than a lot of things that people write songs about. I mean, we haven’t written any songs about politics. I think things like your friends, communication and love affect peoples lives more on a daily basis than who’s in charge of the budget!’

The band are not content on success in Britain alone, they have other countries on their mind. ‘We will be releasing our album at the same time in America, and we’re going to go out there and do a tour and see if anyone comes! We’ve been out there once before and got a great reception, on a little support tour with Rooney.’

‘We’ve been to Europe doing some support dates with Starsailor and we’re going to Japan as well to do a festival out there.’

‘We just want to play to as many people as we can. We spent a long time getting to this point where we can make a record and have support from a record company to go out and play gigs.'

'We think that when we play live, people will get the songs.’ Well judging by the jubilant crowd reaction they received at the Rescue Rooms, people are certainly ‘getting’ the songs. With album, ‘Hopes And Fears’ scheduled for a May release, their beautiful melodies will be echoing far and wide for many months to come. Coldplay, Travis, Starsailor, Keane…it would seem so.

More info: www.keanemusic.com

Single ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ out now. Album ‘Hopes And Fears’ out May 10 on Island.

Jeremy Lloyd