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Keane gear-up to play V Festival at Weston Park

Staffordshire | Entertainment | Published:

The last time Keane played at V Festival they found themselves in the odd position of filling in for Oasis who, having performed at the festival's Staffordshire site, didn't make it to Essex to play a second night.

The last time Keane played at V Festival they found themselves in the odd position of filling in for Oasis who, having performed at the festival's Staffordshire site, didn't make it to Essex to play a second night.

Liam Gallagher released a statement saying he was suffering with a throat infection, and while that might have been the case (Noel Gallagher has since stated his younger brother was hungover), in reality Oasis were in the process of splitting up.

"We were expecting a smaller crowd, but when we walked on stage we all just looked out and said 'Wow!'," says Keane's bass player Jesse Quin. "There were people everywhere."

Drummer Rich Hughes adds: "And then Tom (Chaplin) decided to cover Cast No Shadow.

"Although I thought the crowd were perhaps those that wouldn't have gone to see Oasis anyway, it worked brilliantly. It's another great Oasis song, and the whole field was singing.

"We might not be doing any covers this year, but V is going to be great. It's one we always look forward to. British festivals are always fantastic. We did T In The Park in Scotland recently, and despite the horror show caused by the weather, the people were there in their tens of thousands to watch us."

Given Keane's current status, it's difficult to imagine their appearance at a festival eliciting any other kind of reaction. Debut album Hopes And Fears was 2004's second biggest-selling, after Scissor Sisters's self-titled breakthrough, while the follow-up Under The Iron Sea, and third album Perfect Symmetry, only broadened their appeal.

While many bands of their 2004/2005 vintage struggled after the success of a huge-selling debut, Keane thrived with the increased attention. Not even the blip of singer Tom Chaplin's admission to rehab for cocaine addiction in 2006 could derail their ascent.

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They might not have the music press kudos of Radiohead and Coldplay, but when Keane's fifth album Strangeland went to No 1 in the album chart earlier this year, they equalled feats by the aforementioned bands.

Only the Beatles have outdone the three groups on that front. Their forthcoming European tour is their biggest yet, moving from Beirut to Lisbon to Helsinki, while they're planning something big for the UK in December.

"Despite all that, I think it's only now that I'm getting a handle on what we do," says Hughes.

"Bands who make their second record the same as their first really struggle when it comes to making their third. We established with our second, Under The Iron Sea, that we weren't going to make Hopes And Fears 2.

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"Because of that, we were free to do whatever we wanted with what became Perfect Symmetry. Essentially the first record is all about getting to a position to make your second, the second you're still looking over your shoulder, the third, in our case, is about going a bit mad in Berlin, and only with this one do we feel more established."

When it comes to Perfect Symmetry, there is a slight pause in conversation. It's not to say it was an unhappy record, but they do feel it was too dense-sounding, burying much of piano player and chief songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley's hard work.

"There was a lot going on, and we really indulged in the fun side of making it – too much, maybe, which covered up whatever might have been lacking," says Hughes. For Strangeland, Rice-Oxley had a bank of around 80 songs to choose from, and early sessions for the album involved the quartet playing and rehearsing the final 12 before going anywhere near a studio to record them.

The idea was for the album to be more stripped back than its predecessor. Disconnected, among the band's best singles, and the song Strangeland set the tone for the recording, which Hughes says was engineered to let the songs be the stars of the show, not fancy production techniques.

The duo, sitting today in their management office in north London, trade compliments about Rice-Oxley's songwriting. Quin, who joined the band as a full-time member in early 2011, especially enjoys the way Rice-Oxley uses plain language to explain complex, emotional ideas, while Hughes is impressed with his bandmate's consistent ability to confuse him.

"I never really know what the songs are about to begin with. When we release a new album, I normally just sit in on a few interviews and think, 'Oh, so THAT'S what it means?'

"But – and I think I can say this because I don't write them – the lyrics on Strangeland are brilliant. Tim definitely goes to places other songwriters fear to. Sea Fog, for example, is absolutely heartbreaking. It's about being so depressed you wish there was a mist that would just come and carry you off."

Quin chips in, laughing: "Maybe Tim needs to lighten up? Maybe we should make him write an album of songs for kids?"

Strangeland is out now. Keane play V Festival in Weston Park on August 19.

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