February 2019, and Keane are holed up in deepest Sussex, in a small studio which contains at least 17 keyboards, a rescue dog running in and out, and front man 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.’ The mood is upbeat, excited even, but when Tom sits down to talk, he reveals that it could all have been so very different.
In 2013, when the band bowed out with a Berlin show that appeared to be a finale, they didn’t know if they’d ever make music together again. “I didn’t know if I could do it anymore,” he admits. At this point, Keane had been together for nearly two decades; childhood best friends who formed a band at school. They had sold 13 million records worldwide, released 4 studio albums, an EP and a Best Of, won two BRIT awards and an Ivor Novello, and their debut, Hopes and Fears, had entered the list of the 40 best-selling albums in the UK of all time. The band had also toured 30 countries, performing everywhere from Rio de Janeiro to Taipei; from Wembley Stadium to Saturday Night Live.
Not only that, but the novelist Bret Easton Ellis had described Perfect Symmetry as “the perfect, orgasmic pop song” while Irvine Welsh had chosen to direct the video for Atlantic. Pharrell had invited the band to hang out at his studio and Lily Allen, a big Keane fan, had covered Somewhere Only We Know, a song which has since taken on a life of its own with a younger generation of fans.
Tom Chaplin, though, was ready to write his own music and make a solo album, which was his official reason for taking a hiatus from Keane, where he sang songs written by Tim Rice-Oxley. “Though I also needed to get away without sabotaging the band as I had done before,” he says now. He also got married and became a father himself, and one day found himself in therapy, thinking about Keane; and Tim. “I was wondering how I had come to let this very enigmatic and important relationship in my life drift,” he explains. So he reached out to Tim, and they made plans to meet up. Upon reuniting, Tim soon revealed that he had recorded a whole new collection of songs that he thought could make a solo album of his own. He played them to Tom, and then to Rich and Jesse, and the three of them were immediately drawn to them both sonically and lyrically.
Tim had always written emotional songs, but these were different, deeper; written from the gut and from the heartbreak, telling a story of love and lust and fucking it all up. But there was humour in there too, as well as pain. The guys had little idea of what had really been going on in their friend’s life, and how far things had come undone – but now they were starting to understand.
As Tim himself explains: “Hopes and Fears was a break-up album too, but it was about a break-up when I was 19. It’s a bit different when you’re older and you’ve got kids – your whole little world shifts on its axis.”
It became obvious that what these songs were lacking was a certain 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, borne out of love.” The others were worried. “I remember listening and thinking, oh shit, some of this is gonna be tough,” bassist Jesse Quin admits. “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, grinning.
“I had always been very frightened of exposing parts of my own personal 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 really 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. So after months of speculation Keane are about to unveil a brand new studio album entitled ‘Cause and Effect’, released September 20th on Island Records, featuring eleven new songs recorded in London and Sussex.
The band will be playing festivals this summer for the first time since 2013, including Isle of Wight, BST Hyde Park with Robbie Williams, Cornbury, and Glastonbury, before embarking on a UK tour in September.
“I think we realised that we’re more than the sum of our parts,” says drummer Richard Hughes. “We’re not the kind of band that broke up 20 years ago and is getting back together for one last tour, or for the money – we’re not some heritage act,” says Tim. “We’ve got a lot of great music in us.”