Keane's Summer Tour: Fun with a Purpose
When Keane recorded its multi-platinum debut Hopes and Fears (“Somewhere Only We Know,” “Everybody’s Changing”) in 2004, the group enjoyed the freedom of a low-pressure creative process. On the band's fourth long-form release, Strangeland (Cherrytree/Interscope), the British rockers made sure they'd have the same set-up. Just prior to the new project, primary songwriter/keyboard player Tim Rice-Oxley even built his own studio so they wouldn’t feel rushed.
“With Hopes and Fears, we had our whole life to write it based on our experiences up until that point,” explains drummer Richard Hughes by phone from a tour stop in Copenhagen. “[With Strangeland], Tim wanted as much time as he needed to write songs and he wrote 100 different ideas that wound up in about 50 songs. He sent them through to us and we narrowed them down to 20, and with the studio in his house, we didn’t have any pressure. We worked from last January through September on the songs getting ready to actually record from September onward, and once we started recording, it was really fun and smooth sailing.”
The top dozen tracks made their way onto the final project, which besides boasting elements from the band’s piano-pop beginnings, also includes plenty of introspective songwriting a la 2006’s Under the Iron Sea and the danceable (but equally emotive) Perfect Symmetry. “Our second record was pretty dark and was a reaction to the claustrophobia and the crazy life that came with success,” continues Hughes. “[Our third record] carried through looking into the confusion we were living in, along with the multiple wars going around the world and wondering ‘how did we get to that point globally?’ With this record, we’re turning back inward and it’s probably our most personal record yet.”
Several cases in point include “Sea Fog,” a reflection about navigating through life’s rougher waters, alongside two anthems, “Day Will Come” and “The Starting Line.” “Sovereign Light Café” flashes back to the youthful days of bike riding to a seafront restaurant, while “You Are Young” was inspired by Rice-Oxley’s recent trip to Glastonbury Festival, where he attended simply as a fan, discovering life has plenty of potential at any age.
“A lot of bands write with broad strokes where the good and bad are oversimplified, but we’re not pretending life’s that simple, though there are still some very positive songs,” notes Hughes. “Strangeland is basically the idea that life turns out different than you would imagine and sometimes it takes a pretty weird ride. Nevertheless, we’ve learned to realize that can be a very positive experience, whether you’re expecting it or not. When you’re a kid, maybe you think by the time you’re an adult you’ll have everything sorted, but even though it doesn’t turn out that way, the point is to have fun along the way and do something positive and live a life of decency and grace. [Strangeland] is the thought of looking back on the ride we’ve had with the band and looking forward to more of these crazy adventures and traveling around the world.”
On the Road Again
In support of the project, Keane’s loading up its luggage for a world tour, which includes a summer and fall run throughout North and South America. One of the most anticipated stops comes Sunday, September 2 when the band pops up at Seattle’s massive Bumbershoot Festival smack dab in the middle of everyone from Tony Bennett to Jane’s Addiction.
“Our new record is really fun to play and it’s pretty accessible, even to the point where those who haven’t heard it yet enjoy it the first time out,” assures Hughes. “We’re not going to do a Radiohead and refuse to play ‘Creep.’ We know people want to hear certain songs and it’s been great [to have hits] because that’s given us the chance to be in the States. It’s something we always look forward to because we love nothing more than being in a tour bus and going from place to place for a few weeks. It’s really one of the things we dream about and it feels like we have a pretty loyal following over there.”
No matter what the territory, Hughes hopes to share a message that’s always been near to this heart in the form of Amnesty International, a social justice and anti-torture organization (also supported by a slew of monumental musicians like U2, Bob Dylan and Peter Gabriel). Though he doesn’t necessarily share its message from stage, and doesn't want to come across as pushing an agenda on Keane’s audience, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning nonprofit, whose slogan is “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” often comes up in conversations with fans.
“I feel privileged growing up in a country that doesn’t have capital punishment or the death penalty [and Amnesty International] is trying to abolish it worldwide,” he asserts. There are a lot of good reasons to do it, but the main one I think is that it’s wrong that people should be killed by other people... I’m not trying to tell people in another country how to live their lives, but I do think it’s interesting to have a perspective from where it’s not used and we have a functioning system without it. Probably the best argument is, if it turns out that somebody in prison is innocent, they can be let go.”
Hughes continues: “Amnesty International is something I believe very strongly in and has an enormous amount of support from fans and bandmates. We have a lot of conversations about it and I feel like I have an opportunity to say what I think about certain things and I appreciate the attention people give to it... Some people don’t like pop stars to go off on something, but I just see myself as person in the world who talks about things I care about, just like plumbers and doctors. It’s nice to feel a lot of support and I’m very grateful.”
Copyright 2012, watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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