Keane Press Conference, O2 Arena, London (13/02/2009)

Chris Miller | Monday, 16 February 2009

Keane Press Conference, O2 Arena, London (13/02/2009)

Keane have come a long way in four short years since 2005's Hopes and Fears. Originally billed as Coldplay imitators, the band have arguably matched their success, without the burden of an attention-seeking front man. They've gradually evolved their sound around a vast musical ensemble, including the majority of the keyboard/synthesizer catalogue, drums, guitars and of course lead singer Tom Chaplin’s vocal gift.

Media-wise, Keane are somewhat disdained by their posh reputation and of course Tom’s highly-documented drug and alcohol addiction, which caused a rift in these three public schoolboy’s lifelong bond. With some concerns about Tom’s larynx after last night’s performance, the press’s worst fears are confirmed as only Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes wander in just over twenty minutes late. Whether he feared a media backlash or really did just need to regain his voice was not clear as the two sat down to face the star-struck pack.

Predictably the first poser to the enthusiastic Hughes and the slightly-less Rice-Oxley was about the show last night and how their first night at the epic arena went.

"Very good,’s an amazing place to play," nodded Oxley.

Hughes elaborated: "In arenas you get to break out the smoke and lights. We’ve made some videos to play and show on those massive screens, which is good for people at the back."

You somewhat get the feeling they weren’t expecting that question or, at least, perhaps hadn’t fallen in love with the ‘Millennium Dome’ as much as the Labour Party had.

"I find it really liberating dancing in front of a small crowd," Tim adds, reminiscing over past small performances.

"Do you think 'Better Than This' can be seen as an anthem for people to live their lives and better their dreams?" is the next poser from the floor. TRO is set into a stunned silence, if Tom did duck out for scrutiny reasons, he needn’t have worried.

"Err... well it’s a song about wanting to rearrange our cultural priorities, a lot of the songs on this record are about our love for humanity. I think our idea of what constitutes great achievement is being gradually twisted by the media and the cult of fame."

The band’s next question revolves around the fourth member of the Keane team, Jesse Quin, as Richard muses over their prolonged friendship with him. It really is high time someone asked something challenging.

"Tim, you worked with Gwen Stefani on ‘The Sweet Escape’, what’s next for Keane after this record and are there any solo projects planned?" I ask, hoping for something newsworthy.

"No, at the moment we’re looking at touring until the end of the year and haven’t really thought about it. It’s flattering and distracting the amount of offers I get. Working with Gwen is about as good as it gets in terms of pop stars, the only way to go would be down after that, but you never know."

It was worth a shot, even if the conversation did swiftly move back to the fascinating subject of Jesse Quin.

Keane’s success is not just limited to these shores. A successful European tour aside, the band are heading to Latin America – where as Tim says is "like being The Beatles."

Richard seems as baffled by it all as perhaps the average man on the street would be: "You show up at airports, like Rio, and we had to get rushed into the bus – it’s very flattering. Half of our website traffic comes from South America and it’s such a fun thing to play for these people."
And it seems the disease of Perfect Symmetry being ‘really different’ is spreading. Although, the disc features classically vibrant Keane tunes, laced with the usual keyboard magic and epic vocals – some just can’t see the evolution. Tim outlines the changes:

"It’s definitely different, but that’s because we didn’t write it caring what people would think. We had more fun making the record than ever before. You almost forget that anyone is ever going to hear it."

Richard went on to mention some tales of enlightenment: "Being in Berlin was very inspiring. Being in one bar was like being in Cabaret without the attractive women."

"There’s quite a lot of ABBA on the record if you scratch beneath the surface," Tim continues. "We were into a lot of different things when we were making it. At one point we had our sights set on making a hip-hop record..." Cue the laughter as Rice-Oxley looks to the sky...

And Tom's pretty intent on the band producing material in the future with a focus on the strength of individual tracks rather than the 45-minute LP: "My opinion is that the album is doomed. It’s a real shame but if you feel the need to defend the 45-minute LP, you will get left behind. It’s a huge achievement to write a great pop song, just as it’s disappointing when you have an album with only two good tracks on it.”

Surprisingly, though, Oxley thinks the digital age of music has its benefits, despite the fact that not all mp3s are acquired legally: "I don’t think it’s very good for bands in the long term but it’s something that we’ve benefitted from," TRO begins rather unexpectedly. "Essentially they are music-lovers and that's got to be a good thing. There are some bands that are afraid to change in order to still sell as many records as the one before – but we don’t need to do that."

So Keane, or what we saw of them, seem rather positive about the future. Having evolved musically and survived emotional toils they don’t seem particularly focused for now on one direction. Love them or hate them, it would appear they will be around for a while yet.