Two and a quarter hours with Keane fly by, the evening's enjoyable and the talk interesting, the beer, well it's the same as everywhere else. But I'm not working for CAMRA and in a bar such as this asking for a 'pint-a-bitta' would probably cause a frown or two and end up with me being barred for taking the piss. To put Keane's musical career into perspective they've been together for 6 years, they've grown up as Keane, they've learnt their instruments as Keane and they've learnt to shave as Keane! I look for clues, facial similarities - none, scars on their wrists the signs of mysterious blood-brother rituals - none. As I walk round the table to buy some drinks I glance at their scalps to check for the sign of Beelzebub, I see no hint of them selling their souls to the Devil. They have the closeness of brothers and the knowing looks of married couples, I'm dealing with a tight knit community, I'm the outsider but still welcome.
Keane are Tom Chaplin - Vocals & Guitar, Dom Scott - Lead Guitar & Keyboards, Tim Rice-Oxley - Bass & Keyboards and Richard Hughes - Drums. They take their name from a female acquaintance - the role she played is unimportant but she was inspirational to them in their formative years. The nucleus of the band formed at school, Dom and Tim recruited Richard to play drums and Tom joined later as Dom puts it 'because we discovered none of us could sing!' but only after his voice had broken. The line up has remained the same since.
Richard starts, "We've only been serious about being musicians for the past year, for the preceding five years we were just dabbling. Our first rehearsal took place two days after we found somewhere to practice, but we couldn't even play our instruments." He pauses, Tim takes over, "Everything we've learnt, we've learnt together and that's what binds the band together. It's a shared experience from day one." The band has evolved into musicians writing songs of quality. Their first EP 'Call Me What You Like' features three excellent tracks, none of which you'd consider a filler. To make comparison something I'm never keen on doing - put them in a slightly heavier category than Elbow and I am Kloot but with more electrics and piano and stronger hooks, dare I say it even at times like James.
The musical journey really started with their first proper gig at the Hope & Anchor - The starting blocks for many a famous band over the years. Tom's previous experiences with his inadequate PA meant he's now labeled as the loudest singer that the H&A mixing desk has ever dealt with, no matter how low they turned him down he was so used to shouting out his vocals that he was still drowning out the rest of the band. Best gig so far was their support slot for Maximum Roach an Apollo440 spin off at Barfly in Camden. They reacted to the positive audience. A lot of people had come to see them, friends of friends of friends, the first time it really happened for them. People coming up and talking to them whom they didn't know and the first time that they'd heard their songs being sung with them. Their secret was out.... or had it always been out but now it was worth knowing it?
Where do you see yourselves in a year's time? I ask. "It's tricky" says Tom, "it depends on how well the new single impacts on people, we're also doing our own 8 track stuff to back it up, hopefully settling down to record an album then a tour, long term plans are to produce really great albums, but in a year even just being another step closer to being a really good band. I think that's what basically drives us, to be interesting and get our music out to as many people as possible and inspire them. We have confidence in ourselves and in less than a year's time we should be able to convince people that we can do great stuff and people will know we can do it." Tim laments the fact that "Every day we spend sitting in our jobs we wish we could be doing our music, you only have one life and it's a shame to do a mundane boring job." Prompting Tom to reply "But you have to make sacrifices because you know that it will pay off eventually. It probably wont be as rosy as it looks but it least it will be rewarding." We pause and whilst I think that I've come to do an interview I believe I'm actually chairing an open forum in a young offenders institute and I'm the seasoned lag who's doing life, whilst my fellow forum members will be passing through and onto greater crimes. A philosophical Dom commands our attention and simply says "I think Tom's summed it up very well" Philosopher he may be but with the affinity he has with a guitar I'm sure he'll have many a closet guitarist wondering how he teases some of those notes through his pick ups. Obviously a sign that while most of us were making a fuss of ourselves in our rooms during our teenage years Dom was busy in his room making a fuss of his guitar and in doing so abusing his parents & neighbours with his strumming!
It's now time to test the limits of Keane's comfort zone so I play my ace.
Fact: Jimi Hendrix was once lower down the bill than some performing Seals, fact: you've supported Chesney Hawkes, will that come back to haunt you? I then reach into my pocket and produce a 56oz raw steak and with a deft flick of the wrist slapped one of them unexpectedly in the face with it! Well judging by a couple of expressions you'd have thought I had.
A surprised Richard "How did you find out about that?" Head slightly bowed Tom, "I didn't actually see him but I'm very proud of the fact I supported Chesney". Unfazed Dom: "I thought it was our proudest moment, we found out about it on the day." Looking for back-up Richard: "Well the fact is that in 1998 we were supported by Coldplay?" at which point Tim interjects, "Gig-wise it was pretty surreal but he didn't play the 'One & Only,' however he is a reasonably talented musician." Dom: "He was a complete arse." Richard: "In the bar there were all these people who had come to see this 'legend' play this really small club, several thousand Keane fans were turned away at the door, only the difference was that now the Chesney fans were old enough for legal sex." Richard: "There is talk of us supporting the Scorpions on their next tour, which I'm looking forward to" and Tom finally boasts "They've got me in as a session whistler."
The laughter subsides, my research was correct and although Dom has decreed that Chesney is an arse I do feel that there is some mutual respect for him. The last thing Keane needs is disgruntled Chesney fans picketing the next Keane gig (Chezheads or Cheznettes whatever you call yourselves details at the end of the article if you do wish to do so)
We move on before we become immersed in a piss take of immense proportions and I assert my right as facilitator to bring us back to the relevant issues. I enquire what's happening at the moment with Keane? "A second single's being worked on at the moment with Mark Wallis of Travis/Smiths fame, he's guiding us through the whole process, he has a great musical brain, he has already influenced us," says Richard "he's outside the band and he's a fresh pair of ears, you can bounce ideas off him, we're learning on the hoof." Did you have to pay him wads of cash? Tom: "No he turned up at a gig and said he could do something with us, which he has off his own back. It's good that we're working with someone like Mark because we can identify with the Smiths who were a great English band; we have the same mindset as them. He can translate our sound onto record. He was the first person to say 'I like your music I can do something with it' whereas everyone else was just saying 'we're really interested in your music.' He talks about what is great music. when we heard the first mix of the single we had this burning desire to jump up and down, Mark captures our sound. He talks the same language as us." So what do you want to achieve with this latest single? I ask, Tom answers "It's about getting our music out to more people . . .. whoever it is. If it's random punter or a record company who can take us to the next realm."