At the end of July 2008 the band Keane announced to the entire world that their new album “Perfect Symmetry” was complete. They spent their time over the past year listening to new music, pushing their limits, and throwing all the old “Keane rules” out the window. These changes have brought about a new style to Keane. It brought out the funkier side of the music giving us songs such as “Spiralling” and “Better Than This”. Not only did they throw out the old rules and push their limits, but they experimented with sound beyond plugging the old CP70B into various effects pedals. They have introduced the musical saw, saxophone, violin, and the strangest of all, the stylophone.
Who would have guessed that back in the year 2006 Keane would have come this far and made such an amazing album? Even Tim Rice-Oxley, Richard Hughes, and Tom Chaplin had doubts about the future of Keane. Fortunately enough, the guys pulled through those difficult times and became even closer than ever as music had done for them once before. We asked Tim if he had written any songs about the hard times they endured through during 2006.
“There are only a couple of songs that refer specifically to that time – Again And Again and You Haven’t Told Me Anything are the two that spring to mind, although they both deal with the topic from a slightly unusual point of view. Other than that, I kind of wanted to move on from the whole subject, so it doesn’t really feature too heavily on the album. The whole episode ended well, and by hook or by crook we found our way back to music, which has always had a magical power to heal the deepest of wounds. In a way the fact that the album makes very little reference to that time is the clearest reflection of the fact that we’ve made it through those hard times and are in a much more creative and exciting place.”
With the past being the past now, Keane can only look towards the future.
Keane have travelled to many places around Europe and America whilst making their next big album. In the process they picked up a new talent. That talent of course being the one and only Jesse Quin. What most people don’t know is how long Jesse has actually been in the Keane scene.
“Jesse is a friend of ours who has been behind the scenes helping out on several Keane tours in the past. He’s also a great musician. We’ve been debating whether to bring in a bass player for about seven years – ever since Dominic left the band and I had to move from bass to keyboards!”
Since Jesse had already been around for quite some time some may beg to ask, what is it that Jesse brings to Keane that wasn’t already there?
“We entered the making of this record with a completely different attitude, so it seemed like the right time to say, ‘Let’s give it a go’. Jesse originally just came along to help us rehearse the songs, but his involvement ended up becoming a lot more than that – he played bass on most of the finished songs, and he’ll be coming out on tour with us. Being able to rehearse and record songs live has made for a much more organic feel on this record, which is really exciting for us. He also brings his own peculiar brand of humour to proceedings – there’s a video on our website where he points to an important part of one of my synthesizers and in all seriousness says, ‘Does that actually DO something?? I thought it was for keeping your pencils on.’”
We asked Tom what kinds of things they did to prepare and make this album.
“We were much more open to taking any influence or idea and running with it on this album. We produced it ourselves, so there was a sense of liberation with everything we did. After all the troubles of 2006, we’ve managed to return to a situation where we are all enthused and happy about Keane. In some ways I think we’ve returned to the teenage ideal of being a band – plug in everything you have and be completely uninhibited with everything you try.”
Experimentation on the new album is not only limited to the sounds from synths, piano and guitar. We must not forget the strong back bone to Keane’s music. We asked Richard about some of the new beats on the album, which ones were his favourite and most challenging.
“I think it’s going to be a really fun record to play live, that’s for sure, and having Jesse there as a proper rhythm section is also going to be very cool. I’m proud of the drum parts, and I’ve definitely pushed myself to be as funky and rocking as possible. It’s a pretty fast record – “You Haven’t Told Me Anything” (yhtma) is the quickest tempo of any song we’ve recorded, and there are a few samples and loops to trigger, so I’m in a new world of technology too. Scott (my tech) and I are having fun working out just how I’m gonna make it all work. I guess we’ll find out soon enough as the songs take shape for playing live. I tried to play what works for the songs, but I’ve also had some fun with it – I’ve been listening to the “Wannadies” a lot, and tried to get that sense of fun into the drum parts.”
With Jesse joining the band on their upcoming tours we asked Tim if the lack of their laptops’ presence will have any strong effects on their live shows.
“We’re definitely trying to use the computers as little as possible. We were mainly relying on it for the bass, but now Jesse’s playing bass so that’s a huge improvement. We’re all playing lots of instruments and doing lots of singing, so we’ve got our work cut out, but I think it’s all going to sound great.”
When “Hopes and Fears” was released Tim had mentioned that before the release, they had a lot of time to work on their music as “nobody was listening anyway”, but by the end of the Hopes and Fears tour, Tim was finding it to be a challenge to write or even find time to write songs. By the time the band had finished touring and were back in the studio, Tim had written a handful of demos which would evolve into the songs on “Under The Iron Sea”. We asked Tom if Tim had written demos for the new album as well or if it was more of a blank page method.
“It was a longer process this time. When we came off the road last summer, Tim had an album’s worth of songs that we started rehearsing. However, we all felt a break might help us to take stock, so we downed our instruments and took a bit of time off. I guess that was a decision that came from our experience of rushing things with the last record. As a result, most of the songs for the new record came later last year. Some of the demos were more complete than others, so it was a case of getting a feel for what worked and what didn’t. The process in the studio was much more cohesive this time – it felt much more like the good old days when we were holed up in Tim’s house making Hopes and Fears. We spent time in Berlin, Paris and at our barn in England…the ethos was about being a gang and being together for every step of the adventure. There were no musical boundaries (a blank page if you like), so the result was a lot of experimentation. We loved it.”
With that we asked if Tom had written any songs on the new album himself.
“No, I didn’t. However, I think we all feel a real sense of ownership with the new album. On Under The Iron Sea, I think that Tim owned the songs a lot more because he was articulating a lot of personal feelings and pain that he was feeling about our friendship and about the world at large. This record is much more philosophical…it discusses the dangerous road that humanity is going down, whilst trying to remain positive about the good in us all and the potential for change. I think this record is more direct, more welcoming.”
Speaking of song writing, fans wanted to know what the quickest song Tim had written along with the longest its taken him to write a song.
“I never really write super-quickly to be honest. My attention span is too short, so I get half way through an idea and then drift off into something else. On this album, Pretend That You’re Alone was pretty quick – I think I wrote that in a day or two. And Black Burning Heart was also quite quick. I remember going to a studio in Detroit to do the demo of that one and realising I hadn’t written a middle section for it. So I just bodged something together for the sake of the demo. When I listened to it the next day I thought it was the best bit, and still do! Spiralling was pretty quick too. So maybe I need to work quicker and spend less time tinkering!
Some of the others took a very long time though. You Haven’t Told Me Anything is one of my favourite songs on the record, but the lyrics took me forever. I remember coming up with the hook for that in Paris in late 2006, and didn’t finish it until the end of 2007, so that was quite a long time I guess! It’s a very fast song and I had a lot that I wanted to pack in to some pretty short lines.
There are a lot of lyrics on this record – it’s very dense lyrically compared to the first two albums, and I really worked hard to make sure that every line added to the story. But that does make it a very long process!”
With Keane going back on tour again soon, we asked Richard if there was anything new we could expect during their live show.
“It’s way too early to know – I have just got back from the first day of rehearsal (Thursday night in the UK). We are talking about it and have a load of ideas, but we don’t know what’s gonna be possible so we’ll keep the ideas under wraps for now – sorry! We have always tried to put on a show that allows people to enjoy the night whether they are at the front or the back, and that’s definitely gonna carry on.”
According to an article in “Q” magazine Tim says his favourite song from “Perfect Symmetry” is “Spiralling” and we know Tom’s favourite song is “Perfect Symmetry”. Which new Keane song is Richards favorite we ask.
“Perfect Symmetry” is probably my favourite song, so I can’t wait to play it, but at the same time there are a ton of backing vocals to learn to play, and that is going to be hard, but fun. I think better than this is also one I’m particularly looking forward to – it’s hard and fast, and then there’s a very happy sounding song called pretend that you’re alone which was great fun to record.”
As we all know Tom, Tim, and Richard know how to have a good time. We wondered if there were any funny stories they wanted to share with us while recording “Perfect Symmetry”
“Many stories, not all suitable to share, naturally. We had a favourite bar in Paris until one night we noticed a maggot crawling across the table in front of us… does that qualify, or is that just gross?”
With that, we wait until the album is released on October 13, and October 14th for us here in the United States.