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Won't Be Broken: Keane A Decade On

Monday, 16 December 2013 Written by Katie Territt

Back in 2004, Keane topped the BBC's influential ‘Sound of...’ poll, a victory that anointed them as the band most likely to succeed over the following 12 months.

Not only did they prove the BBC right with huge hits Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing, but their debut album, ‘Hopes and Fears’, reached the top spot and went on to become the second highest selling album of the year in the UK.

Ten years later, and with five consecutive top 10 albums under their belts, Keane are celebrating with a ‘Best Of’ album and some new music thrown in for good measure, before taking a break.

“It doesn’t feel like 10 years at all,” Tim Rice-Oxley, the band’s keyboard player, said. “I think we feel like we're just getting started and are basically still beginners. The greatest hits was a contractual thing to an extent, but we all felt that after ‘Strangeland’ we had completed some sort of phase in our musical story, and it felt like a good time to gather together some of the things we've done so far.

“We've also always wanted to put out a b-sides compilation, which makes up CD two of the deluxe edition, and film an acoustic show of some of our little-known but much-loved, by us anyway, songs and that makes up part of the fancy super deluxe version. So we were starting to accumulate a lot of extra material and this seemed like a good moment to put it out there and remind people that we have a lot of great stuff beyond the obvious singles.”

As is traditional, the ‘Best Of’ collection features two new tracks. Won’t Be Broken, which you can check out above, is one of them and will be released as a single in its own right on January 20.

“We write and record all the time, so there are all sorts of different tracks floating around at any given time,” Rice-Oxley said. “Some are quite rambling and out there, others are more 'classic' in sound and structure and Won’t Be Broken definitely falls into the latter category. I started it back in 2007 I think, and obviously it got put on the back burner during the ‘Perfect Symmetry’ era because we were going for a more electronic and dancey sound.

“Then I remembered the idea when I was starting to write for ‘Strangeland’ and was going through a bit of a Tom Petty phase. I was feeling a bit frustrated about my songwriting and just wanted to write some super-positive, determined lyrics.”

Keane carved a niche for themselves with their debut album, choosing pianos and synths over guitars as their focus and breaking from the indie tradition that dominated at the time. Their individual sound carried them through another successful album, ‘Under The Iron Sea’, but 2008 saw them embark in a new direction with ‘Perfect Symmetry’ and its lead single, Spiralling, which holds a special place in Rice-Oxley’s heart.

“I’m very proud of lots of our songs, but Spiralling is possibly my favourite in that respect,” he said. “I felt like we really put aside our own preconceptions of what we should be doing, and I imagine surprised a lot of people in the process. I love the fact that it's so dark but so danceable, and it has some pretty unique sounds and ideas on it too. And on a personal level, I associate it with an incredibly fun period of recording in Berlin, when we were all just having a brilliant time making new music and hanging out together in an amazing city.”

Somewhere Only We Know, one of the band’s most successful songs, has recently hit the top spot in the UK singles chart thanks to Lily Allen’s cover version, which is featured on this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert. Although Rice-Oxley had a hand in the new version, which could outlast its rivals and claim the Christmas #1 slot, that was as far as the band’s involvement went.

“We didn't have a huge amount to do with it,” he said. “They asked if they could use the song, and David Kosten [Bat for Lashes, Everything Everything, Snow Patrol] and I rearranged the structure and moved a few lines to fit with the picture. You can imagine that they wanted a nice gentle and twinkly version for Christmas, so I wasn't expecting them to use the original recording.”

Back in November, Keane played a live show in Berlin that was broadcast into cinemas around the world. It proved to be a daunting yet unforgettable experience for the band, and something else to tick off their ‘to do list’.

“It was a very exciting and nerve-wracking event,” Rice-Oxley said. “It was actually only a small show in Berlin, but it was broadcast live to about 500 cinemas all over the world. So a lot of things could have gone wrong. It was really fun and actually went amazingly smoothly - a couple of cinemas lost their feed, and we had some problems with North America, but it was a thrilling occasion and felt genuinely global.

“We had reports coming all the time of people dancing on seats and singing along in cinemas, so we were very proud that we had managed to get some of the energy of our live gigs to translate even through screens in faraway places.”

So what does the future hold for the band? For, Rice-Oxley, there are a couple of irons that could soon be in the fire, while Tom Chaplin, Keane’s frontman, is all set to wander the solo road. Over and above that, though, they can look back on the last decade with plenty of pride.

“We'll be having a break and Tom will be making a solo album,” Rice-Oxley said. “I very much hope we'll make another album and keep touring - it's what I love doing - but I honestly have no idea what will happen. I have no plans, but may try to make another Mt Desolation album with Jesse [Quin, Keane bass player]. Live wise, I imagine Tom and I will end up doing some charity things acoustically, which we always really enjoy.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we've achieved so far. We've always tried to make the best music we could, the music that makes us most excited at any given moment. We get letters and messages from people all over the world telling us incredible stories about their lives, often saying that our music has helped them through really bad times, and that means a huge amount to me. I feel like we've contributed something positive to the world in our own way, and that makes me feel great.

“There are really too many highlights to single one out - it's often just a buzz or a feeling, great gigs or hanging out together in some exotic city. Our first Glastonbury was mind-blowing, hearing the mix of Is It Any Wonder? blasting out of the speakers for the first time was pretty thrilling, making ‘Perfect Symmetry’ in Berlin was non-stop fun. One of my very favourite things is hanging out on the bus after a great gig, just having a beer as friends and talking nonsense. I get to do that frequently, so I'm a very lucky man.”



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