- Thu, 2009-10-29 14:26
Formed in 1995, the three piece with a piano as their lead instrument released their debut album Hopes and Fears in 2004. Topping the UK album charts upon it's release, the album went on to win a BRIT Award for best album and became the best selling record of 2004. Simialr chart success followed, with their second album Under The Iron Sea debuting at number one in 2006.
Tours of the globe, Glastonbury and a Live8 crowd of 250,000 became second nature to the three piece, media attention swirled amongst their everyday lives and eventually their third album Perfect Symmetry was released in 2008.
Now Keane release a deluxe edition of their eight times platinum debut, Hopes and Fears. I Like Music caught up with drummer Richard to chat about the early days of Keane, putting the debut together, the pressures of fame, their musical inspirations and what they have planned for the future.
"I Like Music because… it continues to move me. It can take me anywhere. You can talk about anything in music, it’s easier to put things in music, that’s what we’ve always done.” Richard, Keane
ILM: Hello! How are you?
Richard: Yes, very good thank you! I’m just watching an incredible video on our website that someone called Pedro Atiénzar has made for Can’t Stop Now from Hopes and Fears. We’re getting fans to make videos for songs that don’t have videos and this one is absolutely amazing! This guy has gone out and done his own black and white kind of film, it’s amazing! Far better than any of our videos!
ILM: Fantastic! Are you going to do anything with the videos once they’ve been submitted?
Richard: Well we’re running a bit of a competition, it hasn’t been going that long yet. I think in the end we’ll get a few of us together, look through tons of them, decide on a few, feature them online and send them some stuff!
ILM: It must be nice to see the product of your inspiration inspire someone else to do something creative?
Richard: Yeah, that’s one of the best things about music videos. You get to meet lots of crazy people with lots of crazy ideas! In a way you don’t want to tell them what the song’s about, you just want to wait and see what their brain comes out with as a response! Whether it’s a camera on a rollercoaster, like Kevin Godley did for us in Any Wonder, or a Jesus like figure drowning in the sea as Irvine Welsh did for Atlantic.
ILM: These videos have come in response to the deluxe edition of your debut album Hopes and Fears, which went on to become a huge album! Going right back to those first recording sessions, what was it like putting Hopes and Fears together? Did you feel as though you were putting together a record that would reach such grand heights?
Richard: To be honest, I don’t think it could be any further from that. I remember having a conversation with our A&R guy at Island records, he said he was really hoping that 300,000 copies of the record would be sold worldwide, and I basically told him he was insane! It really scared me! I remember thinking that if we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t be able to make a second album because the label would be disappointed. I had no idea what would happen to the record! I remember making the album, but after it was released we just got so busy! Even before the release we supported Travis, which was crazy, playing arenas and stuff! After the release we didn’t really get a chance to breathe until the tour for our second album came to an end...
ILM: What were those first Keane shows like? Playing those big arenas?
Richard: It was great! Somewhere Only We Know had been on the radio, Everywhere Is Changing had been on a fair bit too. It was amazing! The guys from Travis, all of their crew, everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming. I remember Fran bugging us for a copy of the record, he remains a friend of ours. It was nice being a support band too, we only had to play for half an hour! The whole thing was amazing, it was a glimpse of what could happen to us if everything went right.
ILM: What music were you listening to while you were making Hopes and Fears? What inspirations were floating around?
Richard: That’s a really good question....um... I think we were listening to a lot of the more classic sounding records, Bowie, U2, Paul Simon, Depeche Mode. Things we’d been listening to growing up. I remember listening to Flim by Aphex Twin quite a lot, that was sort of the inspiration for a song called Untitled 1. Back then we had a little van instead of a tour bus and it had a cassette deck, we discovered cheap cassette tapes at service stations! We used to pick up old pop records and quite big rock records. At the time it was just a complete whirlwind though, it’s hard to think back on specific things...
ILM: How has your music making process changed and developed since those early days?
Richard: It’s developed a lot over the three records. With the first, we really did just go into the studio and play down what we had been playing live, then we just embellished it using studio trickery and help from our producer. We just experimented and tried to get the sounds we wanted, using different pianos and things. The more we’ve gone on, the more collaborative it’s been. With the second record we were writing all the parts in the studio. That led us to realise that with the third record we needed to work out some of that before we went to the studio.
ILM: Did you feel a lot of pressure with the second album?
Richard: Yes, a lot of pressure. We just hadn’t had time to work on things properly. We went into the studio and were recording songs that we’d only half worked out. As a result, we’ve learnt that we need to collaborate more and spend more time on pre-production before hitting the studio, which is what we did with the third record.
ILM: How did you find the leap into the public limelight?
Richard: What I failed to realise early on was how much pressure it put on Tom, compared with how I was feeling. We went from playing the 100 Club, the Dublin Castle, tiny little places, to playing Live8, Glastonbury, stages that felt the size of a football pitch, in just two years! With Tim and I rooted to the spot, the responsibility to use the space was up to Tom. I’m not kidding myself, most people at most gigs watch the front man. It took me a while to realise the impact that had on Tom, it was mental! Going from 100 to 250,000 people! I could never do that! I’d be a hideously bad front man! It was a weird time, when you’re playing so many shows, constructive criticism can often lean towards the negative side.
ILM: Do you get recognised in the street?
Richard: Haha! No! As the drummer in the band, I swear I get recognised on the street in London once or twice a year! I think that’s why Tom lives in the country and I can still live in London! We really have opted out of the ‘media’ game recently, you won’t find us at the opening of every envelope or whatever. It’s not who we are.
ILM: What have been some of your biggest highlights in the Keane journey so far?
Richard: There have been so many! We toured with U2. Paul McCartney watched us from the side of the stage at live8 then shook my hand as I came off stage! As if things could get any crazier! Watching Morrissey from the side of the stage, then meeting him! Also, I’ve seen more of the planet than I ever dreamed I’d see. That’s been a huge privilege. We’ve done incredible shows all around the world, we’ve even been on Saturday Night Live! It’s just mental! It’s so far removed from growing up in a little town in South England. Also, we curated a night of shows for War Child, that was pretty special. The Pet Shop Boys came and played the Brixton one! We actually wrote letters to people. The Pet Shop Boys were the band that inspired Tim and I to get into music.
ILM: You can pin point them directly?
Richard: Yeah. Their cover of Always On My Mind was probably the cover that first inspired Tim’s reaction to music. That was the song that made his ears prick up, aged seven or whatever when it came out. Also, when we were rehearsing for this most recent record, Brian May popped by! Suddenly we were playing and it just ground to a halt, I looked up and Brian May was watching!
ILM: What are Keane’s future plans?
Richard: Next year we’re putting out a mini album with a couple of songs we did with a guy called K’Naan. This incredible, soulful, talented rapper from Canada via New York via Somalia. He’s an amazing talented man. After three days in the studio with him, we got together a few songs. I’m incredibly proud of them. It’s a really different side to Keane. The collaboration really worked. There’s a few more Keane tracks on there too, we’ll put that out around May 2010. Maybe we’ll do a few shows around it but we won’t hit the road or tour the world on the back of it! After that we’ll start thinking about the new record.
ILM: What can we expect from the new record? How will it sound?
Richard: I don’t know yet! We’ve been playing a new song recently called Sovereign Light Cafe, it has a Springsteen-y feel to it, it’s quite laid back too. It’s about the seafront in a town called Bexhill, a place Tim and I used to ride our bikes to when we were growing up. But really, in all honesty, I don’t know what the next record will sound like! We’re taking time to chill out and re-connect with the real world, once we’ve done that I’m sure we’ll be itching to get back into the studio!