Keane – Hopes and Fears – Interview


Hopes and Fears (Interscope)
An interview with keyboardist Tim Rice Oxley and drummer Richard Hughes
By Tim Den

As their success continues to stun their native country of Great Britain (deservedly so), the rest of the world seems to be hot on Keane‘s trail as well. While on their first-ever headlining tour of the U.S., the band played to a rabid crowd of 1000+ in Chicago. But not before I cornered two of their gentle, humble, and soft-spoken members for a few words.

Your debut, Hopes and Fears, is now triple platinum in the UK. What is life like these days for the three childhood friends who make up Keane? To all of a sudden be thrust into the spotlight with your debut album…
Tim: I think it means we get a disc each. (laughs)

Richard: It’s been insane, really. It has gone so far beyond what we dared to hope might happen. You realize things are going a bit mad when you play festivals and some really big crowds show up to see you. In a sense, numbers are just numbers, but when you get on stage at Glastonbury to 20,000 people, it’s pretty mind-blowing.

Some bands – especially in the American underground – have to spend years touring and releasing records before they reach such heights, if they ever do. How has it been to achieve all of this with your debut?
Richard: People seem to think we sort of emerged really quickly, but in fact, we’ve been a band for a long time. Our first show was in ’98. We were crap, and we’ve gone through some changes since then – we used to have a guitarist – but we’ve slogged away on the London pub circuit for a number of years. So there’s a bit of history there that maybe people aren’t aware of.

Tim: But obviously the UK touring circuit is on a much smaller scale than that of the U.S. We toured the UK for about a year. We’ve probably been to every village three times. Obviously, the band’s success has been pretty miraculous. It doesn’t happen to many British bands, especially not on this scale.

What you’re achieving is actually what was expected of Starsailor’s second album (Silence is Easy): World domination.
Richard: It’s still early for us in the rest of the world. I think we’ve maybe gone gold in Holland or Thailand or something. (laughs) We’re ahead in the UK, but we’ve been touring there for a long time, so naturally we would be. Now we’re trying to get to a lot of places and show people what we do.

Tim: The places that we’re playing outside of the UK we’re pretty much playing for the first time.

How has the American audience reacted to you? I heard the New York show sold out in like seven minutes?
(both laugh)

Richard: It’s scary.

Tim: It’s been really good. A lot of British bands make the mistake of thinking that since it takes three months to become a big band in Britain, it’s the same in the rest of the world. We’re not like that. We really believe in our songs and our music, therefore we believe that we have something to say in reaching out to people.

Richard: But at the same time, we realize that we have to be realistic, patient, and hard-working. We have to keep touring and play as many countries as we can. I mean, these shows on the American tour are like 1000 people every night, and that’s still unbelievable to us.

Tim: We’re great believers in NOT saying “yeah, we’ve broken America.” (laughs) Cuz next week, there’ll be another band to come along saying the same thing. So let’s enjoy what we’ve achieved, but keep working hard.

At the American shows, are you seeing a lot of people familiar with your music, or people coming just cuz of “the buzz” around the band?
Richard: A mixture. Every night, we’re outside the clubs signing albums, and there seem to be people who’ve been through the lyrics as well as people who were brought by their friends. Which, in my opinion, is the best way to discover music.

Tim: It’s a healthy mixture, and it’s the same in the UK. You have the hardcore fans who are really into you and know the words, and they might bring their friends who’ve heard one song on the radio. So for all those people, we have to remember that we’re not preaching to the converted. We have to prove to them that we don’t just have one good song, and that’s it.

Do all of you still live in Battle?
Richard: I’m still in Battle, the others are about half an hour away.

What has it been like at home?
Richard: Well, we’re never there! (chuckles)

Tim: We spend most of our time inside this bus.

Richard: It’s a small town, and the last time I was there, I went to post a letter and buy some toothpaste. I didn’t notice any difference. I didn’t notice anyone pointing at me or anything. We’re not into that whole “celebrity” thing. I think if I had turned up with a massive entourage, people would’ve just laughed.

Tim: People there have known us for 25 years. If we suddenly got all big headed, they probably wouldn’t take it.

Richard: I think people can see that we haven’t changed. I think Battle is pretty proud of us, and probably Sussex too. That whole area. People are excited to see something come from their neck of the woods. We try to play around there as much as we can, cuz they don’t get much live rock music. When we played Eastborn, which is a slightly bigger town down the road from us, one of their guys said that the town council said that there can’t be any music venues because no one wants them. Which is obviously not true, cuz we played to a sold-out, 800 crowd who were gasping for live music.

Do your parents come to your shows?
Tim: My parents have been to quite a few of our gigs. They’re very supportive.

Richard: Yeah, they’re really proud of us. They were coming when we were only playing to 200 people. They love it.

What do you think of the States, now that you’re touring through it?
Richard: I’m a fan. The landscapes are amazing. I enjoy the long drives, I love listening to different accents, playing in different towns. We were in Portland, OR, which I’d never even heard of before we got there, and it was great! We went for a big ol’ wonder.