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Keane

Keane

Rock group

While the British band Keane has endured inevitable comparisons to the piano-driven pop of fellow Englishman band Coldplay, after the release of two outstanding albums they were able to flourish with a style completely their own. Originally a four-piece, it was after Keane lost their guitarist that the band truly found their confident identity as a trio. With drums, piano, and lead singer Tom Chaplin's soaring vocals, Keane's guitarless wistful pop has captured fans around the world. Their 2004 debut, Hopes and Fears, sold over five million copies and was a number one record in the United Kingdom. Upon the release of their debut, Rolling Stone's Bud Scoppa wrote that the record "contains more hooks than most pop groups manage in their careers; the album brims with unabashedly grand, sun-breaking-through-the-cloud gestures."

Vocalist Chaplin, drummer Richard Hughes, and pianist/songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley grew up childhood friends in the small town of Battle, in Sussex, England. Instead of studying while attending university, they formed a loose band in 1997 with guitarist Dominic Scott and played cover songs of their favorite British bands at local pubs. In 1999, after studying art history at Edinburgh University, Chaplin quit school to move to London where Hughes and Rice-Oxley were attending the University of London. Rice-Oxley began to write original material, and in 2000 Keane released their first single, "Call Me What You Like," followed up by "Wolf at the Door" the following year.

Climbing up the music business ladder wasn't going as quickly or as smoothly as Keane hoped it would after their first two singles gained a buzz around London. In 2001 Scott quit the band, leaving Keane to reorganize their sound. With Chaplin's soaring vocal capability and unassailable stage presence and Rice-Oxley's gift at the piano, Keane began to explore a piano-driven style of breezy pop music that didn't need guitars. "It's kind of a happy accident and how things evolved naturally," Chaplin told Jeff Partain of Virgin Mega Magazine about the downsized band. "We see ourselves as a rock band, almost like a guitar band without the guitar." In 2003 independent UK label Fierce Panda released single "Everybody's Changing." The track was named "Single of the Week" by Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq and sold out its initial 500 copies. That fall Keane signed to Island Records in the United Kingdom and Interscope in the United States, to release their fourth single, "This Is the Last Time."

Topped the UK Charts

For their full-length album debut, Keane hired Andy Green to co-produce the album. With Chaplin on the microphone, Hughes on drums, and Rice-Oxley on bass and piano, the group recorded outside of London at Helioscentric Studios. Though the album had been finished for some time, it wasn't until May of 2004 that Keane introduced Hopes and Fears, a record that eventually sold over five million copies and topped the UK charts for weeks. MTV.com's Alyssa Rashbaum called the album "a series of sweeping, epic odes." The anthemic and moving track "Somewhere Only We Know" may have taken some time to become a radio staple, but over time it became Keane's signature tune. Oxley-Rice talked about the band's appeal in an interview with Free Williamsburg's Alexander Laurence. "All the songs are incredibly personal songs. All our songs are honest and exposing our hearts to the elements. We are saying what we feel and not holding anything back," he explained. "That is important. If you are not being honest, how do you expect people to respond? They are all about how people communicate or fail to communicate."

For Hopes and Fears, Keane toured the United Kingdom and the United States numerous times before American audiences were truly hooked. By 2005 the band had done four UK tours and five American tours, not to mention a stint opening for U2 and playing at the London Live 8 show. The band received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and won two Brit Awards, for Best Breakthrough Act and Best Album.

With pieces of songs written over the past few years and demos recorded here and there, in October of 2005 Keane returned to the studio to produce their sophomore album. In a matter of months, recording started and finished at both the Magic Shop in New York and Helioscentric in England. There were a number of times when personal relationships within the band were strained. The members even considered quitting, before realizing they should quickly get back into the studio and turn their frustration into music. "In making this record we tried to confront all our worst fears, to ruthlessly scrutinize ourselves, our relationship with each other, with other people, and with the world at large, and to make a journey into the darkest places we could find," the band stated on their official website.

In June of 2006 Keane issued Under the Iron Sea. The trio's sophomore record debuted at number four on the Billboard Top 200 album chart during its first week of release. For the album's first single the label released the heavier and more rock 'n' roll track "Is It Any Wonder?" Influenced by touring as a live rock band, Keane had made a more rock-based album that had a bit more crunch and bite. The band's usual fluidity was broken up by new sounds from electric piano and effects in the studio, but still no guitar. Billboard's Chuck Taylor wrote of the potency of the new record when he stated it was "an album to return to again and again, whose depth grows with every spin."

For the Record …

Members include: Tom Chaplin, vocals; Richard Hughes, drums; Tim Rice-Oxley, piano; Dominic Scott (left group, 2001), guitar.

Group formed in East Battle, Sussex, England, c. 1997; signed to Island Records, released Hopes and Fears, 2004; and Under the Iron Sea, 2006.

Awards: Brit Awards, Best Breakthrough Act, Best Album, for Hopes and Fears, 2005.

Addresses: Record company-Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Keane Official Website: http://www.keanemusic.com.

The album title, Under the Iron Sea, was a reflection of the emotional frustration the band members had endured. "We toured for a very, very long time and I think we didn't deal with it very well," Rice-Oxley admitted to Blender's Mike Errico. "Rather than talk about things and have them out with fistfights, we sort of did the opposite and just stopped talking about stuff and shut ourselves away. Tom's description of that is sort of shutting yourself under this iron sea. It's sort of an impenetrable barrier of noncommunication." From their beginnings as a regular guitar-based rock band, Keane have set their own footprint in this decade's Brit-pop war, and they intend to become stronger. "One of our ambitions is to write a classic, masterpiece of an album, like OK Computer or Revolver," Chaplin told Partain. "An album that no matter how many albums you buy, you continually pull off the shelves and come back to time and time again. That's the ultimate ambition."

Selected discography

Hopes and Fears, Interscope Records, 2004.

Under the Iron Sea, Interscope Records, 2006.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, June 20, 2006.

Rolling Stone, June 10, 2004.

Online

All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (August 5, 2007).

Blender,http://www.blender.com/guide/articles.aspx?id=1969 (August 5, 2007).

Free Williamsburg,http://www.freewilliamsburg.com/august_2004/keane.html (August 5, 2007).

"Just Because A Piano Can't Move Doesn't Mean Keane Don't," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1492966/20041022/keane.jhtml (August 5, 2007).

"Keane: America's Next Sweethearts," Virgin Mega Magazine,http://www.virginmegamagazine.com/default.asp?aid=C66 (August 5, 2007).

Keane Official Website, http://www.keanemusic.com (August 5, 2007).

—Shannon McCarthy

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