Entertainment & Arts

Keane: Breakthrough, breakdown and break-up?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionKeane talk about having their song covered by Lily Allen, on BBC Breakfast

From the highs of hit albums and global adulation to the lows of breakdowns and now (temporary) break-up, the story of British band Keane is not an unfamiliar one in the history of pop music.

It is a decade since the band broke through, coming top of the BBC Sound of 2004 list. They went to number one in the UK with their first five albums, a record only bettered by The Beatles.

They are now looking back on their careers after releasing their greatest hits and seeing their early single Somewhere Only We Know back in the charts after being covered by Lily Allen.

Below, singer Tom Chaplin and drummer Richard Hughes pick out some pivotal moments from the band's past. As the band prepare to take "time out", pianist and songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley does not join them for the interview. This feels like another pivotal period in the story of Keane.

The big break

Image caption The band started to get noticed in 2003 after six years together

The three core members of Keane, school friends from Sussex, formed a band in 1997 but did not come to national attention until they released a one-off single on the small but influential Fierce Panda label in 2003.

The key to their breakthrough came when BBC DJ Steve Lamacq played the song on the radio, Hughes believes. "The single could have existed and not been heard," he says.

"I think his show was still on Radio 1 at that point. So it was massive. Record companies realised that it sounded good on the radio and went, 'Hang on a minute, have we made a mistake by ignoring these guys for five years?'"

When Tim almost joined Coldplay

Tim Rice-Oxley was friends with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin at university, and Coldplay almost poached the Keane musician in their early days.

"There was a point where Coldplay thought about adding a keyboard player and they knew Tim and they asked him," Hughes recalls.

"We'd been a band for years. Before he had to really decide, I think they withdrew the offer and Chris decided he was going to do it [play the keyboard]."

The course of both bands, and British music, could have been so different.

We're famous!

Image caption Lily Allen's version of Somewhere Only We Know is at number two in the UK

The band took off in early 2004, when their single Somewhere Only We Know became a hit. Chaplin recalls realising they were famous when he saw the video in a hotel gym.

"I remember getting on a running machine when we got to the hotel in Scotland and it was playing, and I felt slightly strange and embarrassed," he says.

After becoming famous, he says, "it is hard to conceive of life not being like that".

"It's like once you've got a mobile phone you can't imagine life without it. And in a way that's quite depressing. Because even if someone's not staring at you, you still feel like that wherever you go. And so from that moment onwards it changes you as a human being."

On top of the world

Image caption Keane won best British album and best breakthrough act at the 2005 Brits

For Chaplin, the best times with the band are when he is on stage.

"There have been lots of crazy times - a Grammys party or picking up a Q Award or a Brit Award, and you're elated and it's a buzz," he says. "But the great moments are really great gigs, and there have been lots of those. They're kind of untouchable.

"It might just be a fleeting moment in a gig that I'll have almost an out-of-body experience. I'll be seeing things happen almost objectively, no sense of ego, just a sense of being something really great."

He says the most memorable shows were a concert for 14,000 fans in Paraguay last year and another in Dublin in 2007.

The biggest arguments

Image caption Tom Chaplin has had well-publicised battles with drink and drugs

Chaplin and Hughes insist there are not many arguments within camp Keane. There is no reason to disbelieve them. But when pushed to pick their biggest bust-ups, they both recall occasions when Rice-Oxley told them they must try harder.

Chaplin recounts a band meeting before the recording of their fifth album, Strangeland. "I wasn't being very healthy. I was a bit all over the shop," he admits.

"Everyone was like, 'Tom are you ready to make the album?' I was like, 'Yeah yeah, definitely.' And I remember Tim saying, 'Because you know you're not singing very well at the moment.' I remember thinking, 'Oh God.'"

Hughes recalls recording their second album, Under the Iron Sea, when the songwriter and taskmaster told him he had to re-record his drum parts.

"It was a real sinking feeling because I didn't know if I could do any better," Hughes says. "It turned out that we could. We could all do better than we'd already done, and pushing yourself is really important.

"But at that moment I felt like I wanted to hit the road and hitch and stop wherever I got kicked out and live there."

The breaking point

Image caption The band scrapped a tour when Tom Chaplin went into rehab in 2006

Asked when he has come closest to quitting the band, Chaplin looks back to a drink-fuelled breakdown in 2006.

"We were in Japan and I'd just been on a bender," he says. "Cumulatively there had been a lot of episodes where I felt very unhappy and was pushing the self-destruct button a lot.

"I just walked out of the hotel, got on a plane and flew home.

"No-one knew where I was or what I was doing. I remember feeling quite relieved on the plane home, 'Thank god I can just leave all this behind now.'

"It was because I hated myself more than anything else. It was a general self-loathing, really. I found I lashed out by trying to hurt the things that were important to me. You want to destroy everything.

"It wasn't long before I realised it would be a very bad idea, especially mid-tour, to throw in the towel."

The hiatus

After promoting their greatest hits album, the band will be put on hold as Chaplin makes a solo album.

"We are taking a break from Keane, but we're not splitting up," the singer says.

"In order to do some of the things I want to do, you have to clear the decks. I've wanted to do a solo thing for ages, so that urge has become undeniable for me."

He will attempt to use the solo album to prove himself as a songwriter. "It's something I used to do for years and years and then Tim got so damned good at it that I just gave up, really," he says.

"When you're denying a part of yourself like that it's not healthy. So it's a voyage of self-exploration for me, rather selfishly. But it has to be that way."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites