With a Best Of in the shops and talk of a split, Keane's continuation is hanging in the balance. Andy Welch catches up with singer Tom Chaplin to find out if it's really all over for the British four-piece.


When one of the country's biggest Sunday papers ran a story with the headline 'Keane splits to work on solo projects' a few weeks ago, fans were understandably a bit shaken.

Keane are, after all, one of the past decade's most successful bands with more than 11 million album sales around the world. As their Best Of Keane album out now proves, they're also responsible for some undeniably brilliant songs.

While Keane are taking a break "for the foreseeable future", frontman Tom Chaplin says news of the band's demise has been somewhat exaggerated.

"That, unfortunately, is the story now - that we're splitting up, and it has gathered its own momentum," he says. "We are taking some time away, but it's not the same as splitting up. I don't think so, anyway."

He says they've been on the road for a long time, which they have. There was an intensive tour of North America earlier in the year, followed by a string of gigantic concerts in South America, where Keane are especially big. Then there was a European tour and summer festivals.

"We've worked hard towards getting to this point, so naturally we want to take a bit of a break," says Chaplin. "And what's the point of being in a band as big as Keane if it doesn't afford you the luxury of a bit of time off?"

When it comes to whether it was him, or bandmates Tim Rice-Oxley or Richard Hughes, who suggested the break, he's much more vague. Perhaps that means it was his idea?

"It's complicated, and a complicated set of reasons. I haven't thought about why.

"Being in a band is such an irregular life, and I don't think anything is well planned," he adds, not entirely convincingly if truth be told, although he explains his wife Natalie is expecting their first child in the spring.

"It's instinct that drives a band more than anything else," he continues. "I felt like I wanted some time out and I've been thinking long and hard about a solo record."

The solo has actually been on the cards for some time, perhaps inevitably as Chaplin grew more independent as a songwriter. During Keane's early days, keyboard player Rice-Oxley wrote all of the band's songs, but the pendulum has swung since second album Under The Iron Sea was released in 2006.

"You just carry on until someone says stop," says Chaplin. "We're very happy and comfortable, and things work very nicely and easily. You relax into that. I'm just interested in what new challenges are out there."

He won't say any more about the solo record, although he does admit he's put some feelers out for a producer, but wants to write everything himself.

It's not hard to imagine that being in a band with a songwriter as dazzling as Rice-Oxley could determine another member to go it alone. Healthy competition is good for all concerned, and hopefully Keane will reconvene in a few years, stronger for their hiatus.

The aforementioned Best Of, then, is exactly that. Not content with letting their record label Island compile a simple collection of singles, the band sat down and picked the songs that best represented their 'journey'.

"When we signed our record deal, we basically signed a five-album deal," says Chaplin.

Until quite recently, that was the most common format of a contract, with most bands choosing to release a 'greatest hits' to use up their fifth and final album with a label.

Now, with the advent of downloading individual tracks and playlists being so easy to curate, compilations aren't quite as essential as they once were. Even Chaplin agrees the idea of a Best Of Keane is slightly redundant.

"Nevertheless, it has come around and as with anything we've ever done, if we're going to do it, we might as well do it well.

"We're not a band to cut corners and just let someone at the label put one together. We're really pleased we've done it, and very proud of the songs on there."

To make the compilation more appealing, Keane recorded two new songs for the album and seized the opportunity to raid their collection of personal photographs and put together a special booklet.

Of the 20 tracks on Best Of Keane, seven come from second album Under The Iron Sea. While it was their debut Hopes & Fears, the second-biggest selling album of 2004 and certified nine times platinum (it's sold six million copies), that catapulted them to domestic fame, it was the follow-up that cemented their position around the world.

"It's an album that probably surprised a lot of people," says Chaplin. "People who loved Hopes & Fears might've found it harder to digest but, that said, it found a lot of new fans too. It was darker and heavier, and when I listen back, I think it's, sonically at least, the album I'm most proud of."

Interesting he should say that, given one of the songs on the album, Hamburg Song, is about the souring of his relationship with Rice-Oxley. It was around the time of Chaplin's stint in rehab for addiction and the pair have long since patched up their differences.

Now all that's left for Chaplin to do is worry about what he's going to do with his free time if there's no band to occupy his mind. He says he was hyperactive at the best of times, and since rehab and therapy he's more manic and full of energy than ever.

These days he finds "calmness" when he goes fishing, and recently indulged another of his great passions, running, on a week-long solo holiday in Snowdonia.

"I thought, 'If I have a heart attack here, no one will find me for days'," he says. "It was insane to be on those long trails on my own, but I loved it.

"With a baby coming next year, and a solo album, I think all my free time is going to be spoken for."

Extra time - Keane

:: Keane were formed in 1995 by Dominic Scott, Tim Rice-Oxley and Richard Hughes.

:: Chaplin joined in 1997, with Scott leaving in 2001, disillusioned with the band's slow progress.

:: Coldplay's Chris Martin and Rice-Oxley studied together at University College London, with Martin asking Rice-Oxley to join what would become Coldplay. Rice-Oxley declined in order to concentrate on his own music.

:: Jesse Quin performed with the band when playing live during shows for Under The Iron Sea, and joined the band as a full member in 2007.

:: Keane's fourth album Strangeland went straight to No 1, their fifth consecutive release to do so (including their 2010 Night Train EP). It's a record only beaten by Abba, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Eminem.

:: The Best Of Keane is out now