Keane answer reader mail: Two members of the Britpop trio (No. 4 on last week's albums chart) tackle your questions

By EW Staff
Updated July 05, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Keane: Joe McGorty

Last month, Keane keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley told Entertainment Weekly his reasoning for not having a guitarist in the multiplatinum Britpop trio. ”I want to be the center of attention,” he quipped. ”I vetoed any other members at an early stage. We used to have a guitarist, many years ago. [Nefarious eyebrow arch] We had him ‘disappeared.”’ So with the case closed on that perennial question for the band — and in honor their debut last week at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 with their latest album, Under the Iron Sea — we’ve opened the floodgates for you, dear readers, to ask the fellas some pressing questions of your own. Here’s what singer Tom Chaplin and drummer Richard Hughes had to say about their new sound, Paris Hilton and groupies. And yes — damn you! — they even answer one last cleverly worded inquiry about that ever-absent guitarist. —Jason Adams

Your 2004 album, Hopes and Fears, was a CD with a lot of U2 and Beatles influence. The tracks I’ve heard on Under the Iron Sea, however, sound very different, and I like the new sound. To what do you attribute your new sound — is it some specific occurrence or influence?
Tina House, Palmyra, Va.

TOM CHAPLIN Those bands that you name-check are bands that have/had no fear of changing. That feeling of wanting to innovate and move forward is built into our psyche as a band as well. This new record is us experimenting with new sounds, new beats, new styles of recording. The songs are about the here and now, about all the stuff that we lock away inside us but that needs to get out.

RICHARD HUGHES We wanted the sounds we created to reflect the atmosphere of the new songs. It’s a much darker album that asks a lot of difficult questions, and the sounds are harder and angrier than Hopes and Fears. We definitely wanted to keep developing as a band and trying to innovate. Tim has found loads of new ways to process the piano sound in a similar way to the innovations used by the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix. This desire to develop and challenge ourselves was a huge part of the sound of the album.

I would like to know more about the album title… Is there really an Iron Sea somewhere? Where? How big is it? How deep is it?
David Struffolino, Lawrence, Mass.

TOM It’s a very big, scary place — a world where we put all our feelings, both good and bad, over the last few years. On the album we wanted to convey the feeling of a journey into that place.

RICHARD It’s a metaphor for a place where people hide away the things they don’t want to talk about, or where they go to hide from things they should face up to.

Suppose that your record company [Interscope] told you that your next album had to be made up of all cover versions. What songs would you choose to cover and why?
Bobby Lindsey, Columbus, Ga.

TOM Thankfully, we never have to do anything unless we want to, but if the future of the planet depended on a cover version, it would probably have to be something ambitious, like ”A Day in the Life” by the Beatles.

RICHARD We’d throw in some Depeche Mode, maybe a bit of Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Laura Nyro…

You’ve covered the Walker Brothers’ ”The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” and Elton John’s ”Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Who would you like to hear cover one of your own songs?
Jason Lacob, Beverly Hills, Calif.

RICHARD The Foo Fighters.

TOM I’d like to hear Eminem do a cover of ”Nothing in My Way,” because we kind of ripped that song off him in the first place!

You opened for U2 on tour last year and they, obviously, are a band that has kept it going for a long time. Did they give you any advice on how to have a lengthy and successful career that you can share with us?
Gino Ughetti, Aurora, Colo.

TOM For me, that’s something that you have to learn for yourselves. Every person, every band is unique. We’ve lost our way in the past and nearly imploded as a band, but we’re learning how to deal with that now. Like any friendship, marriage, or bond between people, you have to work at it — make time for each other and listen to each other.

RICHARD Larry Mullen Jr. gave me some advice on how NOT to ruin my body playing the drums, so I guess that has longevity at its heart.

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin recently hooked up with longtime fan and hip-hop super producer Timbaland to record a song with Nelly Furtado for her new CD, Loose. Is there a chance of a possible hip-hop collabo in the future for Keane, and, if so, with whom? Cheers!
Phil Albater, Philadelphia

TOM Refer to my earlier answer about cover versions and Eminem!

RICHARD I’m a big fan of Dr. Dre, so it would be cool to get him to do a remix.

How did it feel to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live last year with Paris Hilton as the guest host?
Nancy Brisson, Fairhaven, Mass.

TOM For a bunch of guys from small-town England, just playing SNL was enough for us! The fact that Paris Hilton was hosting made it doubly surreal. I hear she’s a fan and now talks about us as an influence on her own music… Is that a compliment? I’m not sure.

RICHARD It was a completely surreal night. The comedians on the show are absolutely hilarious — it was great to watch them do their thing.

Tell us your best groupie story, and which city in the world has the best/worst groupies/fans?
Stevie Wong, New York

TOM I see you’re from New York, so I’ll say New York. That said, we feel honored that we go all over the world and find Keane fans of all ages, colors, and creeds. The fact that we spent so long getting nowhere, without any recognition, means that we appreciate and value our fans more than anything else that we have in our lives — without them, we’d be f—ed.

RICHARD Mexicans go nuts at gigs — we recently played there to a massive crowd and it was amazing.

Do you get tired of people asking why you don’t have a guitarist?Kristin Brothers, Tualatin, Ore.


TOM That sounds like you’re [just] indirectly asking us why we don’t have a guitarist…

What football clubs do you support?
Meredith Clifford, New York

RICHARD Leicester City, but I rarely get the chance [to keep up] these days.

TOM Ipswich Town for my sins. Just like Oasis, they’ve gone from being sublime to being utter shite.