The evocative and powerful lyrics written from the heart by Tim Rice-Oxley have been the catalyst for reuniting one of Britain’s most successful bands after a gap of over five years.
Much to the dismay of their many fans all over the world, Keane split up in 2013, at the height of their fame, bowing out with what appeared to be their grand finale with a show in Berlin. At this point, none of them knew if they would ever make music together again.
Earlier this year, however, when singer Tom Chaplin, bassist Jesse Quin and drummer Richard Hughes heard Tim’s new and incredibly personal songs, they were immediately drawn to the superb sounds and lyrics, and the four decided the time was right for Keane to be revived.
The new tracks have been recorded over the past few months in the studio at Tim’s home near Polegate which has become a base for the band who now looks set to hit the heights again.
Their talents and enthusiasm are undiminished, but maturity has given an added dimension to their new album, Cause and Effect, due to be released in September on Island Records.
“It felt like it would be a crime if those songs didn’t see the light of day,” explains Jesse. “And we realised that we are much better as a unit than separately.
“We have matured emotionally, and we all now have kids, which means you are singing from the same song sheet.”
Keane was formed by childhood best friends Tim, Jesse, Tom and Richard while they were still at school.
“We’d known each other since birth, and all four of us had grown up with music in our lives,” says Jesse. “The two vital elements of Keane were Tom’s voice and Tim’s songwriting, a great marriage of their talents.
“It was like knowing in life what your dreams are and what you hope to achieve. I remember dreaming about getting an electric guitar – I sometimes feel a bit guilty because I now have boxes of them!”
Keane became one of Britain’s best-loved bands, achieving mainstream international stardom. They sold 13 million records worldwide, released four studio albums, an EP and a Best Of, won two BRIT Awards and an Ivor Novello, and their debut album, Hopes and Fears, entered the list of the 40 best-selling albums in the UK of all time.
The band also toured 30 countries, performing everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Taipei, from Wembley Stadium to Saturday Night Live.
“We had a tremendous dynamic and interacted with each other so well, all of us playing to our strengths,” recalls Jesse. “We had real respect for the boundaries between our different roles, and we were brilliant at encouraging and supporting
“You have a lot of responsibility to the others in terms of earning and just the way you’re living, so the break-up was a tough time for all of us. But it just felt like time for rest and Tom said he wanted a break and was ready to write his music and make a solo album.”
Tom went on to release two successful solo albums but missed his old songwriter sparring partner Tim. He also had married and become a father and one day found himself in therapy, thinking about Keane and Tim.
“I found myself wondering how I had come to let this very enigmatic and important relationship in my life drift,” Tom says.
So he reached out to Tim, and they made plans to meet up. Tim revealed that he had found his life falling apart and from the ashes, he had written an album’s worth of incredibly personal songs fuelled by humour as well as pain.
He played them to Tom, then to Rich and Jesse, and all three were immediately drawn to them.
Tim had always written emotional songs, but these were different, more profound, written from the gut and the heartbreak, telling a story of love and lust and messing it all up. The guys had little idea of what had been going on in their friend’s life, and how far things had come.
“Hopes and Fears was a break-up album too, but it was about a break-up when I was 19,” Tim explains. “It’s a bit different when you’re older, and you’ve got kids – your whole little world shifts on its axis.”
It became apparent that what these songs were lacking was a specific vocalist.
“I wasn’t even thinking about it in terms of a new Keane record,” explains Tom. “I just wanted to sing those songs for my friend, born out of love.”
The others were worried and did express initial reservations.
“I remember listening and thinking some of this is gonna be tough,” Jesse admits. “I looked at it in its last guise but realised I’d love to do it, though only if it could be fun and wasn’t going to ruin our family lives.”
“I wrote a note on one of them,” adds Rich, “saying, I don’t know if we can put this out there, it’s too much.”
Tom, however, absolutely believed that they should. “I thought it was the most personal, most vulnerable set of songs that I’d ever heard – but I was very drawn to that because that’s where the good stuff is,” he says.
“I had always been terrified of exposing parts of my private life myself, and I think I got very burned by the first time I went into rehab for drugs when that news got out. Not feeling I could give my version of the truth.
“But my experience of the last few years, and of making my solo record, has shown me that the more open and vulnerable you are, the more interesting things get.”
And so the band reconvened, all four of them excited to realise they could make something powerful together, something new. By February they were holed up in Tim’s studio which contains at least 17 keyboards, a rescue dog running in and out and frontman Tom Chaplin singing the haunting line ‘You tell a lie, I’ll tell one too, it makes it easier to do’, from a new song with the deceptively innocent title Put the Radio On.
“I think we realised that we’re more than the sum of our parts,” says Richard. Adds Tim: “We’re not the kind of band that broke up 20 years ago and is getting back together for one last tour or the money – we’re not some heritage act. We’ve got a lot of great music in us.”
The band has already been delighting the crowds at festivals this summer for the first time since 2013, including the Isle of Wight, BST Hyde Park with Robbie Williams, Cornbury and Glastonbury, and they embark on a UK tour in September.
They are also looking ahead to a tour in the United States.
“The mix for the album is done, and we’re now back into the world of playing live,” says Jesse. “To start with, we played a couple of small club shows with just 300-400 people in the audience, and that went well. We did a little gig in Battle for a local charity just for a bit of fun.
“It’s nice to be out there again, and it’s terrific to get back into that rhythm – it’s like not a day has passed since we first got together but without so much pressure on ourselves as in the past. The tour is pretty much sold out which is very pleasing.
“It’s heartwarming to see how people have been reacting to the news we’ve reunited – great to know how passionate they are about the band.”
Keane is especially looking forward to playing Brighton in October.
“We all still have a solid connection with Sussex,” says Jesse. “Both Tim and Tom are very much part of their local communities, Tom near Rye and Tim in his lovely place near Polegate. I live in Suffolk now where I’ve opened an arts centre, and Richard lives in London, but it was great for us all to spend a lot of time back in Sussex to record the album. I still wear my Alfriston village shop t-shirt, and Sussex still feels like home for all