Keane comes full circle
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Now Magazine
If it feels like Keane’s career has come full circle on its fourth long player Strangeland (Cherrytree/Interscope), that’s because the British rockers refused to put time constraints on the recording process. Just prior to the new project, primary songwriter/keyboard player Tim Rice-Oxley built his own studio precisely so the band wouldn’t be rushed this time through or anytime in the future, which just so happens to be a parallel method (minus the self-owned set-up) when the band recorded its multi-platinum debut Hopes and Fears in 2004.
“With Hopes and Fears, we had our whole life to write it based on our experiences up until that point,” explains drummer Richard Hughes by phone from a tour stop in Copenhagen. “[With Strangeland], Tim wanted as much time as he needed to write songs and he wrote 100 different ideas that wound up in about 50 songs. He sent them through to us and we narrowed them down to 20, and with the studio in his house, we didn’t have any pressure. We worked from last January through September on the songs getting ready to actually record from September onward, and once we started recording, it was really fun and smooth sailing.”
The top dozen tracks made their way onto the final project, which besides boasting elements from the band’s swelling piano pop beginnings also includes plenty of introspective songwriting a la 2006’s Under the Iron Sea and the danceable (but equally emotive) Perfect Symmetry. “Our second record was pretty dark and was a reaction to the claustrophobia and the crazy life that came with success,” continues Hughes. “[Our third record] carried through looking into the confusion we were living in, along with the multiple wars going around the world and wondering ‘how did we get to that point globally?’ With this record, we’re turning back inward and it’s probably our most personal record yet.”
Several cases in point include “Sea Fog,” a reflection about life’s darker and more depressing sides, along with “Day Will Come” and “The Starting Line,” two anthems of road block resolution. “Sovereign Light Café” flashes back to the youthful days of bike riding to a sea front restaurant followed by a day of hoping to pick up girls on the beach, while “You Are Young” was inspired by Rice-Oxley’s recent trip to Glastonbury Festival, where he stood simply as a fellow fan in the audience to discover life has plenty of potential at any age.
“A lot of bands write with broad strokes where the good and bad are oversimplified, but we’re not pretending life’s that simple, though there are still some very positive songs,” notices Hughes of an album outlined in grey areas. “Strangeland is basically the idea that life turns out different than you would imagine and sometimes it takes a pretty weird ride. Nevertheless, we’ve learned to realize that can be a very positive experience, whether you’re expecting it or not. When you’re a kid, maybe you think by the time you’re an adult you’ll have everything sorted, but even though it doesn’t turn out that way, the point is to have fun along the way and do something positive and live a life of decency and grace. [Strangeland] is the thought of looking back on the ride we’ve had with the band and looking forward to more of these crazy adventures and traveling around the world.”
In support of the project, Keane’s loading up its luggage for a world tour, including a summer run throughout America. Though the club and theatre-sized venues might not be as large as the arenas the group plays oversees, Stateside fans are still in for a generous spread between the band’s entire career thus far.
“Our new record is really fun to play and it’s pretty accessible, even to the point where those who haven’t heard it yet enjoy it the first time out,” assures Hughes. “We’re not going to do a Radiohead and refuse to play ‘Creep.’ We know people want to hear certain songs and it’s been great [to have hits] because that’s given us the chance to be in the States. It’s something we always look forward to because we love nothing more than being in a tour bus and going from place to place for a few weeks. It’s really one of things we dream about and it feels like we have a pretty loyal following over there. We’ve only played five full on electric shows so far and they’ve gone really well, but we can’t wait to get out there.”
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