Keane are an English rock band from Battle, East Sussex, formed in 1995. The band currently comprises Tom Chaplin (lead vocals, electric/acoustic guitar), Tim Rice-Oxley (piano, synthesisers, bass guitar, backing vocals), Richard Hughes (drums, percussion, backing vocals), and Jesse Quin (bass guitar, acoustic/electric guitar, backing vocals). Their original line-up included founder and guitarist Dominic Scott, who left in 2001.
Keane achieved mainstream, international success with the release of their debut album, Hopes and Fears, in 2004. Topping the UK charts, the album won the 2005 Brit Award for Best British Album and was the second best-selling British album of 2004. Their second album, Under the Iron Sea, released in 2006, topped the UK album charts and debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200. Their third album, Perfect Symmetry, was released in October 2008.
In May 2008, both Hopes and Fears (number 13) and Under the Iron Sea (number 8) were voted by readers of Q magazine as among the best British albums ever, with Keane, The Beatles, Oasis and Radiohead the only artists having two albums in the top 20. In 2009, Hopes and Fears was listed as the ninth best-selling album of the 2000s decade in the UK. Their EP, Night Train, was released in May 2010. Their fourth studio album, Strangeland, was released in May 2012, and again peaked at number one on the UK Albums Chart.
Keane are known for using a piano (or a synth) as the lead instrument instead of guitars, differentiating them from most other rock bands. The inclusion of a distorted piano effect in 2006 and various synthesisers were a common feature in their music which developed on the second and third albums. Keane have sold over 10 million records worldwide.
1995–99: Early years and formation
Tom Chaplin and Tim Rice-Oxley became friends when very young. Chaplin's father David was the headmaster of Vinehall School in Robertsbridge, East Sussex, (owned by Chaplin's family) for 25 years, the school all three attended until the age of 13. They later attended Tonbridge School in Kent, where Rice-Oxley met Dominic Scott; both of them discovered rapidly their liking for music. Richard Hughes, Keane's future drummer, also attended Tonbridge. Chaplin had also learned to play the flute but none of them considered music as a proper career at the time.
In 1995, while studying at University College London for a degree in classics, Rice-Oxley formed a rock band with Scott, and invited Hughes to play drums. The band, named "Lotus Eaters", started as a cover band, playing songs by the members' favourite bands, including U2, Oasis, and The Beatles, and rehearsing at home.
After listening to Rice-Oxley's piano playing during a weekend at Virginia Water, Surrey in 1997, Chris Martin invited him to join his newly formed band Coldplay. However, Rice-Oxley declined because he did not want to leave "The Lotus Eaters", stating, "I was seriously interested, but Keane were already operational and Coldplay's keyboard player idea was dropped." Because of Martin's offer, and although Hughes and Scott were originally opposed to it, Chaplin joined the band in 1997, taking Rice-Oxley's place as vocalist and adding himself as the acoustic guitarist. Chaplin's recruitment also marked a change of name from "The Lotus Eaters" to "Cherry Keane", after a friend of Chaplin's mother, whom Rice-Oxley and Chaplin knew when they were young. She took care of them and would tell them to go for their dreams. At her death from cancer, she had left money for Chaplin's family. Chaplin commented: "I used some of the money to see me through the harder times with the music." The name was shortened to Keane soon afterward.
Chaplin departed for South Africa in the summer of 1997 to work as a volunteer during his gap year. Chaplin's early experiences there would later be reflected in the band's position for the Make Poverty History campaign. Returning a year later, in July 1998, following a meeting with friend David Lloyd Seaman, Hughes' first words when the band picked up Chaplin at the airport were, "we've got a gig in ten days." With original material, Keane made their debut live appearance at the "Hope & Anchor" pub on 13 July 1998. In this same year, Chaplin went to Edinburgh University to study for a degree in art history. However, he later quit his degree and moved to London in order to pursue a full-time musical career with his friends. After their debut performance, the band went touring London's pub gig circuit throughout 1998 and 1999.
1999–2003: Early releases and Scott's departure
In late 1999, and without a record deal, Keane recorded their first promotional single, "Call Me What You Like". Released on CD format through Keane's own label, Zoomorphic, it was sold after live performances at the pubs where Keane used to play in early 2000. Only five hundred copies were printed. The track, however, can be found on the internet. The band have declared they are not against fans sharing tracks unreleased on CD, such as the "More Matey" and "Emily" demo tracks. Chaplin has commented "they most likely see those recordings as an interesting extra to get hold of and I don't see it causing any damage. If it was the album we have coming out leaked early, then I'd probably feel differently." The EP was reviewed by Bec Rodwell from eFestivals who listed "Closer Now" as the best song of the record.
Four months after the "Call Me What You Like" re-recording session in February 2001, their second single, "Wolf at the Door" was released. Only fifty hand-made copies are known to have been made, using unlabelled CD-Rs. Both singles are considered highly valuable collectors' items by fans. In particular, "Wolf at the Door" has been known to be sold for over £1000 on eBay.
Because of the limited success Keane had at this time, Scott decided to leave the group a month after this single was released in order to continue his studies at the LSE. Before this, in November 2000, Keane had been invited by record producer James Sanger to his recording studio at Les Essarts, France, where the band recorded a number of tracks from August to November 2001, including "Bedshaped" and "This Is the Last Time". It was during these sessions that the idea of using a piano as lead instrument began to emerge. Sanger received a shared credit for four songs that appeared on Keane's debut album Hopes and Fears, including the song "Sunshine", the only one composed there.
The remaining members of the band returned to England in November 2001. Soon after, they signed to BMG to publish their music, but at this time they did not have yet a recording contract. 2002 was a hard year for Keane. All recording or live performances were stopped and Scott's feeling of going nowhere was starting to tell on Rice-Oxley and Chaplin.
In December 2002, Keane returned to performing live. Luckily for the band, one gig at the Betsey Trotwood in London was attended by Simon Williams of Fierce Panda Records, the same man who had discovered Coldplay years previously. Williams offered to release the first commercial single by the band. This release would be "Everybody's Changing", which Steve Lamacq went on to name single of the week on Lamacq Live on 19 April 2003; the CD single was released on 12 May 2003.
As a result of the attention created by this release and because of the strong live reputation they had built up through constant UK touring, a bidding war for the band ensued between major record labels. The band decided to sign with Island Records in the summer of 2003. After first being attracted to the band by the considerable industry buzz then surrounding them and from hearing "Everybody's Changing" on the radio, the Island A&R, Ferdy Unger-Hamilton, told HitQuarters that he wanted to sign them after hearing the five songs "Everybody’s Changing", "This Is the Last Time", "She Has No Time", "Bend and Break" and "Somewhere Only We Know", saying that: "every one of them was brilliant ... they had a fantastic live show [but] even if I hadn't been able to see them live, I would have tried to sign them anyway." According to Unger-Hamilton, Keane chose to sign with Island because they got on well with the A&R and were convinced that he did not want to change them in any way.
The band released "This Is the Last Time" on Fierce Panda, in October 2003, as the final release on that label.
2004–05: Hopes and Fears
With the release of their first major single, Keane began to achieve recognition in the United Kingdom and the United States, where "This Is the Last Time" was released and remained as the only single sold there until "Crystal Ball" in late 2006.
In January 2004, Keane was named the band most likely to achieve success in the coming year in the BBC's Sound of 2004 poll; additionally, this year is popularly referred to as one of the best years for new British music.
A month later, Keane's first release on Island was "Somewhere Only We Know", which reached number three on the UK Singles Chart in February 2004. On 4 May, a re-release of "Everybody's Changing" followed and featured new cover and b-sides; it reached number four in the UK Singles Chart.
Keane's debut album, Hopes and Fears, was released on 10 May 2004 in the UK, just a day before the band started their first world tour. It debuted at number one on the UK Albums Chart and went on to become the second best-selling British album of the year. It has been certified 9x platinum in the UK.
The album has sold approximately five and a half million copies worldwide. In the UK, it stayed in the top 75 of the UK Albums Chart for 72 weeks, appearing again on its 115th week.
The band won two awards at the 2005 BRIT Awards in February; Best British album for Hopes and Fears and the British breakthrough act award, as voted for by listeners of BBC Radio 1, Keane won the award in front of bands like Muse or Franz Ferdinand. Three months after, Rice-Oxley received the Ivor Novello award for songwriter of the year.
As members of the Make Poverty History foundation, Keane performed "Somewhere Only We Know" and "Bedshaped" at the Live 8 concert, which took place in London on 2 July 2005. Keane are also patrons of War Child, and in September 2005, they recorded a cover version of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to the charity album Help: a Day in the Life. Previously, the band also had recorded a cover of the Walker Brothers' "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore", which was available as a download-only track from the War Child website. It was later released as a 7" single as a gift to members of the Keane e-mailing list.
During the year, the band achieved minor recognition in the U.S. from their extensive touring, which culminated with a series of gigs as the opening act for U2. The group were also nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best New Artist category along with Sugarland, John Legend, Ciara, and Fall Out Boy, but ultimately lost out to Legend.
2006–07: Under the Iron Sea
In April 2005, in the middle of the Hopes and Fears Tour, the band began recording their second album, Under the Iron Sea with producer Andy Green, who also worked with them previously on Hopes and Fears. The band later recruited Mark "Spike" Stent for mixing duties. Recording took place in Helioscentric Studios, Rye, East Sussex, where Hopes and Fears was recorded. Additional recording was done at The Magic Shop Studios in New York. The band revealed the title of the album on 14 March 2006 by posting a handwritten note on their official website.
The album's release was preceded by the release of "Atlantic", a download-only music video and the lead single "Is It Any Wonder?", which reached number three on the UK Singles Chart. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 2007. The album had a worldwide release in June 2006 and was at number 1 in the UK Albums Chart for the first two weeks of its release. As of 22 May 2007, it had sold more than 2,200,000 copies. The third single from the album was "Crystal Ball", which was released on 21 August 2006, and reached number 20 in the UK Singles Chart. The fourth single from the album was "Nothing in My Way", released on 30 October 2006, which received particular success on Mexican commercial radio, charting on Top 3 on 13 January 2007 and staying a month on that chart. The band released the single "The Night Sky" in aid of the charity War Child. The song is written from the perspective of a child about the war-torn devastation around them, and became available via War Child's official website on 22 October 2007 before going on general release on 29 October 2007. Jesse Quin played with Keane since the small tour of The Night Sky.
Even before the release of the album (in May 2006), Keane had started their second world tour that would promote the album. However, because of the extensive touring, on 22 August 2006, Chaplin announced he had admitted himself to a clinic for drinking and drug problems. This initially resulted in the cancellation of three gigs and postponement of their September US tour. The entire North American tour was later cancelled outright to allow continued treatment. As a result, the upcoming UK and European tours – scheduled for October and November 2006 – were considered to be liable for possible postponement depending on Chaplin's treatment. Chaplin then left the Priory Clinic in London on 6 October, although he continued to receive treatment. The tour reached for the first time South American countries (Argentina, Chile and Brazil) and saw the band's third visit to Mexico in late April with four dates, playing at the downtown zócalo in Mexico City, as well their first visit to Monterrey and Guadalajara. On 7 July 2007, Keane played at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, part of a series of gigs similar to Live 8, to highlight the threat of global warming. They performed "Somewhere Only We Know", "Is It Any Wonder?" and "Bedshaped". The Under the Iron Sea tour was brought to an end with performances in Oporto, Portugal, and at the Natural Music Festival in El Ejido, Spain, on 3 August and 4 respectively.
In early October, announced they were releasing a limited edition 9-CD set of every Keane live performance in the UK during October 2006 under the name Live 06.
2008–09: Perfect Symmetry
In a March 2007 video interview, Chaplin and Hughes spoke of wanting to take a more "organic" approach on album three, but played down suggestions about the use of guitars, referring to them as "a fun part of the live set" at present; however, the cover of "She Sells Sanctuary", became the first song recorded since "The Happy Soldier" (2001) to feature the instrument. Photographic updates to the Keane website also implied the use of guitars in the album's recording sessions. Jesse Quin joined the band since this album as permanent studio and live member. He plays the bass, percussion, guitar, synths and backing vocals. On 25 August 2008, Keane appeared as studio guests on BBC 6 Music with Steve Lamacq where three of the new songs from Perfect Symmetry were played for the first time: "Spiralling", "The Lovers Are Losing", and "Better Than This".
The album was released on 13, October 2008, and reached number one on the UK Albums Chart on 19 October. It also reached number 7 on the Billboard 200 chart. In December 2008, it was voted Best Album of the Year by the readers, listeners and visitors of Q Magazine, Q Radio and Qthemusic.com. The song "Perfect Symmetry" was voted best track.
In November of the same year, they started their third world tour, the Perfect Symmetry World Tour. On 2 April 2009, Keane became the first band ever to broadcast a live show in 3D. It was filmed at Abbey Road, the site of the world's first satellite broadcast (by The Beatles). Keane fans were prompted to buy 3D glasses along with the new 7" single, "Better Than This", or also to hand-make their own glasses. The show is available to watch on Keane's official site in high definition.
2010: Night Train
On 10 May 2010, Keane released a new EP entitled Night Train which, on 16 May became their fourth number 1 album in the UK. Night Train was recorded during the Perfect Symmetry World Tour. The Night Train EP could be considered a studio album, because it has 8 new songs. The band first named this record as a Mini-album, then that changed to an EP. In an interview, Tim Rice-Oxley said that Night Train is "pretty much an album".
The songs "Stop for a Minute" and "Looking Back" feature Somali Canadian rapper K'naan. The EP also includes a cover of the song "You've Got to Help Yourself" by Yellow Magic Orchestra, featuring vocals by Japanese funk MC Tigarah. The song "Your Love" features Keane's keyboardist, Tim Rice-Oxley, having lead vocals. The song "My Shadow" was featured in the Season 6 Grey's Anatomy episode "Shiny Happy People".
Supporting the Night Train EP, the band began on the Night Train Tour. which started with a show in Brixton, London at The Fridge on 12 May 2010. It then took the band through a series of Forest Shows, The tour includes a homecoming show at the Bedgebury Pinetum, just outside the band’s hometown of Battle. Also a Festival appearances in Europe followed with a tour of the USA/Canada, concluding with an appearance at the Mile High Festival in Denver.
After the end of Mt. Desolation Tour (alternative project by Tim and Jesse), Tim Rice-Oxley and Jesse Quin joined with the other two members of the band to work on the pre-production of Keane's fourth studio album, Strangeland.
It was announced on 3 February 2011 on the band's official website that Quin had become an official member of the band. He has worked with Keane since 2007.
Keane played a concert in Beijing, China on 13 April 2011 at the invitation of the fashion company Burberry. The band also performed an acoustic session at the Wall of China. The band finished recording their fourth studio album on 12 January 2012 and finished mixing the record on 10 February. The album was recorded at Tim Rice-Oxley's Sea Fog Studios, in Polegate, East Sussex.
The Strangeland Tour started at De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex on Friday, 9 March 2012. Due to the high demand, a second show was added and took place on 10 March 2012. Both shows sold out in minutes. The Hoodlums were the support act. More shows in Europe and UK were announced due to demand.
The band released "Silenced by the Night", the album's lead single, worldwide except for the United Kingdom on 13 March 2012. Keane performed "Silenced By the Night" for the first time on 12 March on American talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The song was sent to US adult alternative radio stations on 26 March 2012. In the United Kingdom, the single was released on 15 April 2012 after the release date had been brought forward from 30 April 2012.
The second single, "Disconnected", was released on 20 April 2012 in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, with the official worldwide release on 8 October 2012. The third single, "Sovereign Light Café", was released on 23 July 2012. The video was filmed in Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex, England, and includes shots of the café itself. The band was on an extensive tour to promote their "Strangeland" album, called Strangeland Tour and have visited Europe, the American continent and many parts of Asia.
2013–present: The Best of Keane and hiatus
On 20 October 2013, several publications, including The Sun and Digital Spy, claimed that Keane intended to split up following the release of The Best of Keane, while also reporting that the band members were "taking a break ... to pursue their own projects." On 21 October 2013, Tom Chaplin clarified on Real Radio Yorkshire that the band was not splitting up, but the band members would like to "take a bit of time out from being Keane" after being busy for the past few years. Chaplin has since recorded a solo album entitled The Wave, released on 14 October 2016.
On 11 September 2016, the band released a music video for an exclusive new song, "Tear Up This Town", which was written and recorded for the fantasy drama film A Monster Calls directed by J. A. Bayona. The single was made available for digital download on 23 September 2016.
In late October 2006, Rice-Oxley collaborated with Gwen Stefani as a co-writer of the song "Early Winter", released later in 2007 as a single, from her album, The Sweet Escape, as well as two more tracks. Stefani had been wishing to work with the band since 2005 and Rice-Oxley responded by saying "we might give it a go". Tom Chaplin collaborated with Rocco Deluca and the Burden on the song 'Mercy'. The band has also collaborated with Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan and Japanese Baile Funk singer Tigarah on their EP Night Train. In late 2009, Rice-Oxley collaborated with the Australian singer Kylie Minogue as co-writer of the song "Everything Is Beautiful", for Minogue's eleventh studio album "Aphrodite", released in June 2010. The band also collaborated with dance artist Chicane on a song titled "Wake Up", featured on the artist's 2008 best-of compilation. In 2012, Tom Chaplin collaborated with the Dutch singer Laura Jansen, for a Dutch charity radioprogramme.
Musical style and themes
Tim Rice-Oxley and Dominic Scott were the main writers of the band's songs during their early years. When Scott left in 2001, Rice-Oxley became the main composer. However, Rice-Oxley credits the rest of the band on all compositions, so that royalties for song credits are shared.
Keane usually harbors an ample, reverberated, melodic, slow- to mid-tempo fully orchestrated sound, somehow reminiscent of Elton John's early and middle career, while their most plangent and introspective songs have brought comparisons to the likes of Suede and Jeff Buckley.
While guitars have been (minimally) present even in their early work, their appearance in the final mix has always been very slight, and even today that Chaplin has stepped up as an almost full-time guitarist in the band, that instrument is never featured as prominently as to be more than barely noticed. For this matter, they have been dubbed as "the band with no guitars", thanks to their heavily piano-based sound. By using delay and distortion effects on their pianos and similar keyboards, they often create sounds that aren't immediately recognisable as piano. Rice-Oxley said during an interview in Los Angeles that they tend to think piano-related music is boring and what they really wanted to do was try something different. He referred to the piano as an odd instrument to form part of a rock band instrumentation, comparing it to The Beatles' set of instruments. Rice-Oxley's distortion piano has been key to most of Keane's multifaceted style and most definitely their most recognizable asset.
Tom Chaplin's vocal style is measured and elegantly delivered; he uses no grit and doesn't drive his voice when the music ramps up, stepping up in volume rather than aggression as most other rock singers are prone to do. Therefore, Keane's signature sound is a gentle, refined but full-bodied brand of romantic pop-rock which does not crunch or overdrive itself, but manages to soar using orchestration and other arrangement means.
Lyricwise, during their early years most songs were about love or broken relationships (most notably "She Has No Time" and "On a Day Like Today"). However, other themes – including the relationship between Rice-Oxley and Chaplin – have emerged in more recent compositions. Other themes have been explored; for example, "Is It Any Wonder?" and "A Bad Dream" are both about war. More recent themes have included the impact of being a celebrity in "Better Than This" and "Clear Skies" and criticism of religious violence in "Perfect Symmetry".
Keane have covered songs by music artists such as U2, Rufus Wainwright, Depeche Mode, Genesis, The Beatles, The Cult and Queen, with Tim saying: "I guess it's classic song writing that is the main influence rather than one band in particular – we love people like Nick Drake who can convey so much emotion and write songs and albums that will be loved and cherished for many years – the things that will be in people's record collections for their whole lives."
- Current members
- Tom Chaplin – lead vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, organ, piano (1997–present)
- Tim Rice-Oxley – piano, keyboards, synthesisers, electric guitar, bass guitar, backing vocals (1995–present), lead vocals (1995-1997)
- Richard Hughes – drums, percussion, backing vocals (1995–present)
- Jesse Quin – bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitar, synthesisers, percussion, backing vocals (2007–2010, as additional member) (2011–present, as official member)
- Former members
- Dominic Scott – electric guitar, backing vocals (1995–2001)
Awards and nominations
- Hopes and Fears Tour (2004–05)
- Under the Iron Sea Tour (2006–07)
- Perfect Symmetry World Tour (2008–09)
- Night Train Tour (2010)
- Strangeland Tour (2012–13)