Source - Billboard.com
Date - 28-Jun-2004
Author - Jason MacNeil
Original article - http://www.billboard.com/bb/feature/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000553460


The U.K.'s Next Great 'Hope'

Last fall, British trio Keane was the beneficiary of a great treat. American band Rooney, which was supporting Travis on its North American tour, couldn't make the Toronto show on Halloween. Called upon at the last minute to fill in for a one-off show, Keane nailed its performance before an attentive, sold-out crowd.

"It was a fantastic night for us," pianist Tim Rice-Oxley admits. "It led to us doing a tour with Travis in the U.K. as well. So, we learned a lot from them and a lot of good things came to us from that night."

So good, in fact, that Morrissey closed his recent performance at London's Meltdown Festival by reportedly saying, "If there's anyone with the surname Keane, they better leave the building now." The statement referred to the band's debut album, "Hopes and Fears," which kept his own "You Are the Quarry" from debuting at No. 1 on the U.K. album chart.

Pianist Rice-Oxley, drummer Richard Hughes, lead singer Tom Chaplin and guitarist Dominic Scott formed Keane in 1997 in East Sussex. Taking their name from Cherry Keane, an elderly lady who encouraged the boys to follow their rock star dreams, the childhood friends were signed to small but renowned independent British label Fierce Panda in late 2002, eventually releasing two singles.

But in order to step forward, Keane endured a subtraction when Scott left the band. "We certainly talked about whether we needed a guitarist," Rice-Oxley says. "We tried electronic stuff but actually in the end we just realized we were really happy with just the three of us. Getting someone else would have been weird. We realized that we were happiest making the music the way we are now. The guitarist leaving turned out to be the best thing that could've happened."

Rice-Oxley also says the writing process became much simpler once Scott departed. "We find it easier to write songs and translate them into a recording or performance that we were really happy with, whereas I think we had problems with that when we were a guitar band," he says. "Things just never had the sort of magic 'X' factor and now everything just feels much more natural and instinctive."

"Hopes and Fears" was released internationally in May via Universal-Island, on the heels of the hit singles "Somewhere Only We Know" (No. 3) and "Everybody's Changing" (No. 4). The set is off to a strong start in North America, a development that Rice-Oxley says is especially rewarding.

"It's not like the build up we've had in the U.K.," he says. "We're playing relatively small clubs but they've all been either sold-out or nearly full. It's kind of surreal. It makes you think that people are getting into it because of the music. They're not getting all the U.K. papers but [instead] they're hearing it on the radio and judging it on the music."

The set kicks off with "Somewhere Only We Know," a song Rice-Oxley says came from hammering away on the piano. "I was thinking of something like David Bowie's 'Heroes,' which you drive along to a really rocking beat," he says. "I really like the bridge and it's great fun to play live. It was one of the first things we recorded for the album."

As easy as that song was to complete, others proved tougher, including "On A Day Like Today" (found on the British edition album) and "Your Eyes Open." Rice-Oxley says the latter song initially resembled something Kylie Minogue might attempt.

"It was one of those pumping out songs which would've been a bit weird on the album, so we kept working on ways of translating it into something we were comfortable with," he says. "It was a bit tricky but it has a sort of early U2 vibe. We just kept it really simple and it turned out to be one of the ones we loved the most. The ones you have to work harder at are always the most rewarding."

The album's name comes from "Snowed Under," an import-only B-side. "It's just a nice way of summing up what you think about in your life," Rice-Oxley says of the title. "Eventually everything you do is made up of hopes and fears. And that balance between hopes and fears and the fusion between the two we really liked."

Keane wraps up a round of North American dates June 24 before heading back east for several European festivals. A return to North America is scheduled for September. Meanwhile, Rice-Oxley says he's compiling songs for the next album already, but is trying to find time to refine them.

"I want to make sure that we've got a lot of songs to choose from and that we're not left with 12 songs: 'Here they are, take it or leave it,'" he says. "It happens with a lot of bands, that difficult second album. I think that we want to make sure that it's going to be as good as or better than the first one."