Often it can be difficult to discern genuine passion from fad. British piano rock trio Keane knows this firsthand. Since their arrival onto the forefront of the U.K. music scene, band members have been forced to thwart criticisms that they’re no more than Radiohead and Coldplay copycats attempting fill a void created by their fellow niche-mate’s production/performance lull. But Keane said the chart-topping success of its debut Hope and Fears results from listeners’ intimate connections to the record’s personal nature.
“People say such great things about what the songs mean to them,” piano/songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley said. “In England critics feel it compulsory to be very cynical. But I think (in America) critics are just people who are really into music. And they’re finding something to relate to in our songs. It’s refreshing that it’s not just some sort of fashion thing. It’s not just a new trend.”
Despite criticisms in their native country, Keane’s evocative blend of soaring piano, vocals and drums brought Hopes and Fears to a status as one of the year’s breakout albums, beating out even veteran Morrissey for the U.K.’s top chart spot. After its American release last May, the synth-tinged ballads “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Everybody’s Changing” enjoyed substantial airplay on MTV.
“In America we’ve been just overwhelmed with the response,” Oxley told The Hatchet last week just before filming “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in Los Angeles.
The band, whose members have known one another since they were growing up, has encountered criticisms before. Keane actually takes its name after one of the few people who encouraged the guys in their “crazy plans to be a rock band. To everyone it seemed like the stupidest idea in the world. And when our parents were saying ‘get over it’ I remember Cherry Keane was really into it,” said Oxley.
With a soft-spoken, thick accent, Oxley described songwriting as kind of cathartic process.” The whole point of being in a band is to exercise things that are going on inside you,” he said. “I think music gives you an excuse to do that. Really we’re all very shy people. Yet when we get on stage or when we’re recording songs, we suddenly feel that we can say all the things we ought to say.”
Keane was in town last weekend at the HFSmas Nutcracker, one of several holiday shows that tie up its North American tour. Oxley said the band will get back in the studio after Christmas to “start messing around with some ideas. I think as we move into the new record, we’re really trying to develop sonically. We don’t want to make a record that’s just more of the same. I don’t know exactly how that will manifest itself, but I think it will be a little weirder (laughs). We’re very proud of the first record, but it’s really just a first step,” he continued. “We really feel like we can make great music, it’s just a question of continually pushing ourselves.”