IT’S a hot and sweaty night in LA and Keane have just finished a special “fanclub” gig at The Roxy, playing to just 500 people.
Long after the final song has finished, the crowd are still singing and cheering, hanging outside the stage door, hoping to get a glimpse of their idols.
“That was nuts,” says elated singer Tom Chaplin as he is whisked back to his hotel with his manager Beth. “It was one of the best shows we’ve ever played.”
Bassist Jesse Quin chips in: “I’d play ten shows like that for every arena,” while songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley and drummer Richard Hughes happily pose for photos with waiting fans.
It has been an exciting comeback for the Sussex band who went on an indefinite hiatus back in 2013. Internal frictions had pulled the four friends apart.
Chaplin then embarked on making two solo albums — 2016’s The Wave and 2017’s Twelve Tales Of Christmas — after suffering a crisis with drug problems.
It was something he had first struggled with in 2006 during the tour for the band’s second album, Under The Iron Sea.
But today things look brighter for Keane, back with their fifth studio album Cause And Effect, and clearly happy to be reunited.
NEW LEASE OF LIFE
We talk as we walk to a nearby restaurant before the show’s soundcheck, and the next day I accompany them to a California radio show performance and interview.
It’s fun and we chat on the bus to the station where Chaplin holds court, quizzing his bandmates and crew on pop facts from a book he has discovered.
The friends, who met at school — apart from Quin — are back to being a gang, their friendship given a second chance and a new lease of life as Keane.
The band had sold more than 13million records and won Brit Awards and an Ivor Novello Award for Rice-Oxley, now 43, for Songwriter Of The Year in 2005.
He says: “Our time away gave us a chance to look at what Keane had achieved together. We have a renewed pride in our music and don’t take anything for granted. We were always quite hard on ourselves and self-deprecating but now we are celebrating everything we do.”
When Keane broke up Hughes, also 43, thought that was it for the band from Battle, East Sussex, who had formed in 1997.
The worst thing about being in Keane before was watching Tom self-destruct
He says: “I didn’t see Tom for two years. In my head Keane were a band I used to be in, and it felt like 20 years ago, not five years, when we did get back together.
“I understood that Tom needed to step away and I tried to be a supportive friend through the various false starts and hiccups with his addiction, but I was genuinely worried he was going to kill himself. I remember getting back from tour and arriving at Heathrow. He could not get his bag quick enough and run straight to his drug dealer.
“And I’ve held him when he was sobbing, crying in my arms.
“The worst thing about being in Keane before was watching Tom self-destruct.
“There was no positive or upside to me staying in his life.”
Chatting over lunch, 40-year-old Chaplin looks much leaner and healthier than in his early Keane days, and he nods in agreement that his problems added pressure to the four’s friendship.
He says: “I needed time away and it’s been a long process finding myself and learning to like myself. It wasn’t until my problem got really bad before The Wave that I accepted I needed more help and it was a massive switch.
“Being sober for a long period allows you to deal with it and now I don’t worry that I’m going to fall off the wagon or feel temptation. It’s reassuring for me that I am no longer at the mercy of my addiction.”
Quin, 37, adds: “And this fit and happy Tom Chaplin is hilarious and brilliant fun. We hang out now more than ever.”
The post-Keane period also wasn’t easy for Rice-Oxley, who suffered when his marriage to Jayne, mother of his two daughters, broke down.
After Keane he continued songwriting, having written for Kylie and Gwen Stefani and co-written with Gary Barlow and Travis, but he found it uninspiring.
He says: “I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t find the co-writing phase satisfying so I started my own songs intended for a solo album.
“They were emotional songs, but I was anxious about going out there and doing it on my own. I’d lost my confidence, then I met up with Tom and the other guys and I got the feeling we might do something again.”
FALLEN OUT OF LOVE
Chaplin had also been missing his friend, got in contact with him, and they met at Christmas. Then all four met to discuss reuniting after Chaplin had heard Rice-Oxley’s new songs. Chaplin says: “For me personally, it was hearing Tim’s new songs and the vulnerability of them that made me want to sing them. I felt I could express what he had been through.”
But there were doubts from the others. Hughes admits: “I was sceptical.
“I hadn’t played drums for two years and I felt I’d fallen out of love with Keane. I’d parked it to forget it.
“Also, Tom and I had become fathers in our time away from Keane and I was worried about not seeing my son. But we all had said all four needed to be in, or not at all.
“But we just planned the album, which had a beginning and an end. We want to see our families rather than go on a never-ending tour, like the old days.”
Cause And Effect is an album of subtle beauty filled with quality melodies and songs which already feel like classics. It was made with producer David Kosten (otherwise known as Faultline) who from day one in the studio, pushed them out of any comfort zone they might have had.
My marriage was falling apart, friendships were splintering and life hadn’t turned out like it was meant to
Rice-Oxley says: “We love his work with Everything Everything and Bat For Lashes, and he’d worked with Tom on his solo work so we had history and a connection.”
Chaplin adds: “He’s quite stubborn and strong-willed so it wasn’t always easy.”
Hughes recalls: “There were definitely a couple of run-ins and it got a bit tense. But we are pleased with how the album turned out.”
As well as their brilliant comeback single The Way I Feel, the album’s other standout songs include Stupid Things, I’m Not Leaving, Phases and Strange Room, which was written after Rice-Oxley crashed his car while nearly three times the drink-drive limit and was banned from the roads for two years.
He says: “That song is about me telling the police officer how I’d made a bad decision, and how it looked — d***head pop star with a massive ego crashing his car.
“But my marriage was falling apart, friendships were splintering and life hadn’t turned out like it was meant to.”
The sparse ballad You’re Not Home is another stunning track, with sad lyrics about loneliness, while Love Too Much is an apology for the breakdown of a relationship.
Rice-Oxley says: “No one could sing these songs as well as Tom. He really articulates them so well.”
Hughes agrees: “The music we make together is better than the music we would make separately. We really appreciate each other’s playing and I think we are lucky we’ve found each other again and it works together.”
All four of Keane’s previous albums and 2010 EP Night Train topped the album charts.
So will anything less than the top spot be disappointing for Cause And Effect, which is released on the same day as Liam Gallagher’s new album?
Quin says: “We are glad to be out the same week as Liam as it shows it’s a good week for albums.
“Liam has been slogging it out, playing shows for the last few years while we sit at home. He deserves to do well.”
Rice-Oxley says of possibly failing to hit No1: “I think you wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a little disappointed.
“But in our time away I’ve thought a lot about how I gauge my own work. What counts as a success?
“I am very proud of us for making an honest record, and that we haven’t shied away from the difficult topics.”
After Keane’s rapturous return, headlining the Isle of Wight Festival, Glastonbury’s Acoustic Stage and shows across Europe and in the US, they are looking forward to their headline tour next month. It includes two nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall, then dates in South America.
Rice-Oxley says: “We are looking forward to getting out there. The comeback has been positive, and it’s not just the old fans. We know we have a lovely hardcore fanbase around the world, a baseline support of people who really feel passionately about the band.
“But we’ve also heard from fans who were too young to see us last time, who will be coming to a Keane show for the first time. That’s exciting.
Cause And Effect track listing
- You’re Not Home
- Love Too Much
- The Way I Feel
- Put The Radio On
- Strange Room
- Stupid Things
- I’m Not Leaving
- Chase The Night Away
- I Need Your Love
“We are all in a much better place. When we announced the album we played a little show to Press and radio and we were bricking it, saying, ‘Oh no, they’ll be rolling their eyes, saying, ‘Not this lot again’.’
“But we felt how excited people were to have us back — and it’s been like that since.
“We are all in a good place and we are better at accepting who we are. We are being a bit kinder to each other.”