Thank you: Tim and Richard for taking the time to answer these questions, and Jennifer for making all of this possible. It was great having the opportunity to do this interview.
Answers from Richard:
This might have been asked before, but what does “Keane” mean and how did you come up with the name?
Actually, that's the first time it's been asked, weirdly. We made an anagram of the initials of each of our first murder victims (I only knew the first name of mine, hence only 5 letters in KEANE).
People often compare you to other piano-rock bands, such as Coldplay, The Fray, etc. What do you make of that and do you ever compare yourselves to those bands?
Do they? I don't find they do so much anymore - we've got three pretty varied albums out now, and people really don't know what to expect next. Comparisons are an inevitable part of describing music, but I think we're making it harder and harder for people to pigeon-hole us.
I completely fell in love with your music when I saw the video of “Somewhere Only We Know” so that was a pretty good choice for a single! How do you choose your singles?
We normally pick the songs we think will sound best coming out of a car stereo - it's an important test for us, almost a ritual, that whenever we finish a record, we go and sit in a car and listen to it.
Was it hard to get your name and music heard in North America?
We just toured and toured and toured - it's a huge country, but getting on a bus and driving around playing your songs is living the dream for a band.
What would you say has been your biggest influence to date?
Bands that keep challenging themselves, and aim high - the Beatles; Radiohead; Bowie.
Many of your fans that love Hope and Fears have expressed that none of your albums will be able to top your debut. How do you respond to such a claim?
Have they? Honestly? Or is that just a cheeky question? I think we already have - the new album is the best thing we've done, and we are hugely proud of it.
Do you in any way feel pressured to always keep on recording, whether it’s to please fans or abide to a contract, or does it feel natural after you’re done touring?
We record new songs because we are excited about it - we've been doing a lot of recording while we're on the road, because we feel inspired, and it's a fun thing to do. The fact that fans like hearing obscure songs or b-sides is a bonus, but we've been recording music together for about 20 years - long before we ever had a single fan (who wasn't related to us) or a record deal. I remember Tom sent a demo tape to EMI records when we were about 13, and we got a reply on this really fancy headed stationery... thanks, keep it up, but no thanks! Well, we did, and I think we will for a long time to come.
Answers from Tim:
What was it like working with Gwen Stefani? How is her songwriting style and approach to songwriting different from yours?
I loved working with her. She’s an incredibly hard worker and very passionate about her music. She’s also a great singer and lyric-writer, which I don’t think she gets enough credit for. The way it worked was that we spoke on the phone and she was saying she wanted to write something that was like Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper, or Eyes Without A Face by Billy Idol. Something with a bit of drama I guess. Anyway, we wrote a couple of songs in LA which were great – she wrote some really moving lyrics about being away from Kingston all the time – and then I sent her another one when I got home, which became Early Winter. She had some lyrical ideas for that too. She’s all about taking the lead from someone else’s vibe and then turning it into something that unmistakeably hers – it’s a real gift.
What did you guys do before you started making music? When did you become full time musicians and how did that feel?
Well, we’ve known each other our whole lives so we’ve spent many hours doing everything from playing soccer together in the countryside when we were kids through to sweating away in incredibly menial jobs in order to pay for a rehearsal room and hiring a van to go and play gigs. We were able to work on music full time after we got a publishing advance in 2002. That was a big breakthrough and it gave us time to write more songs and go and play more shows and build up a fanbase. It was an amazing feeling to be able to do that after trying for so long to get a break. It’s the best job in the world.
Every album includes songs that you guys consider to be your best, but which album would you say is your best effort to date?
Definitely Perfect Symmetry. I love the energy of the music, and also I feel the lyrics are by far the best I’ve written. I really slaved over them and I feel like I managed to say a lot of things that are quite unusual for pop music. It’s also a much more outward-looking record lyrically, which was a nice breakthrough after the claustrophobia of Under The Iron Sea.
Music is often a support tool for many people. We seem to find comfort in other people’s lyrics and music. In fact, one of our staffers, Jeremy, wanted me to pass along this message, “No questions. Just say thanks for writing ‘Crystal Ball’ from Under the Iron Sea. Though it's a little dark lyrically, I seemed to find comfort and hope in it during a time when I needed it the most.” I can relate to those comments as Hopes and Fears is one of those special albums that has made a lasting impact and I know I am not alone in that statement. How does it feel like to hear such comments from people and to know that you are affecting millions of them out there?
It’s a really amazing feeling, the best thing you could ever hope for as a musician. We hear some truly amazing stories about how our songs have helped people through terrible times – people in war zones, people who’ve lost loved ones, really deep things. It makes you realise that when you put a song out there it becomes much more than you ever thought it could be – it belongs to everyone to do with as they wish.
What would you say has been most rewarding about this whole experience?
I think that thing I describe above about how the songs affect other people is really powerful. On a personal level, I think it gives you a sense of purpose. Everyone is looking for some meaning in life, looking for their place in the world. When people respond to our music with so much genuine passion, it makes me feel I have something useful to give the world, a part to play.
Lastly, you have released three successful full lengths and are known around the world – what would you say is next in store for you?
I need to get on and write some more songs, find some new things to say and hopefully a new sonic palette. We’re really enjoying playing live at the moment – it feels like our music is at its best when thousands of people are singing it with us. I think that might affect the sound of the next album, but I’m not sure how exactly!
In the meantime we’re hoping to release a mini-album later this year, with a ramshackle collection of new songs and curiosities that we’ve been working on. Two of the tracks are a collaboration with K’Naan, who’s a brilliant rapper from Somalia by way of Canada and LA. Again, we’re just trying to do new and unexpected things, and learn new stuff all the time. It’s all about having fun – if making the music is exciting for us, I believe it will be exciting to listen to.
I found that a really interesting read! Thanks a lot, Lueda.
Richard didn't like the question with Hopes and Fears being a fan favourite. Also, Tim said he thinks Perfect Symmetry is their best album, both lyrically and musically but I strongly disagree on both counts. I think the new album is a massive fizzer compared to the previous two and lyrically, I think Under the Iron Sea to be the best. They're a solid band though and I still look forward to where they go next.