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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 02:06 GMT
Sound of 2004 winners: Keane
Ian Youngs
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

British rock trio Keane have been voted the most promising new music act by a panel of UK music critics, DJs and playlisters in BBC News Online's Sound of 2004 survey.

Quietly confident, highly determined and armed with emotionally-charged songs, Keane know they are capable of working their way into the hearts of music fans around the world.

Childhood friends from Battle, East Sussex, they have been tipped to take the mantle of the great British emotional rock band that has been passed down from Radiohead, Travis and Coldplay.

Their songs are "catchy tunes, pop tunes", according to singer Tom Chaplin - but have also "got a lot of depth to them".

"I think people like that and I don't think there's enough of that around," he says. "So hopefully it will reach a lot of people."

With Chaplin on vocals, pianist-songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley and drummer Richard Hughes, Keane's bare but powerful sound is made largely without guitars - a rare thing in the rock world.

The band mention The Pet Shop Boys, The Smiths and Queen as influences, and have been memorably described as "Radiohead covering A-Ha".

And the name is not inspired by footballers Roy or Robbie, as many people think - but was the surname of an old lady who used to look after Chaplin when he was young.

"We had a gig, we needed a name, it was the best thing we could come up with," Hughes says.

The name stuck and the last year has seen the group release two singles on independent record label Fierce Panda - which discovered bands like Coldplay, Supergrass and Ash - before signing a major deal with Island Records.

And they have been building up a loyal following through support slots at gigs with Travis, Starsailor and The Thrills.

"At the moment, we're playing to the unconverted, which is a good test," Chaplin says. "The reaction we've had, especially in America, is just great.

"It's great performing to lots of people because I think our music is the sort of music that fits a big auditorium well. Stadium rock."

We don't really care what makes the noise, as long as the noise is the right one
Richard Hughes
The band was born in 1998 when the trio started playing Beatles, U2 and Oasis covers - with a guitarist at the time.

But they only started to take their music seriously after Chaplin dropped out of an art history degree at Edinburgh University to join his bandmates, who had moved to London.

After a "constant struggle" for recognition, they were getting nowhere until they went to a recording studio in France in 2001 and their guitarist left.

He did not feel "comfortable in the band any more", they say - but something clicked between the remaining trio and, with their new pared down sound, things started to fall into place.

"It was a really good time because Tim was writing a lot of really good new songs then," Chaplin says.

"It just felt [like a] very fresh new time and, from that point onwards, we felt we had a chance."

The loss of the guitarist was not important, Hughes says, because the piano is capable of creating a huge sound.

"We don't really care what makes the noise, as long as the noise is the right one," he says.

You have to be able to be very brutally honest... to make the songs mean something worthwhile
Tim Rice-Oxley
"If we wanted to make it easy for ourselves, I think we would have gone and found a guitarist. But we're quite confident that people will like the songs."

When asked to describe their music, the words "tuneful", "emotional" and "melodic" come in reply.

"A lot of them are love songs and some of them are about communication between people in relationships," says Rice-Oxley, who writes the music and lyrics.

"They are all written from experience of my own life and our lives together as a band." He says music is the best way of expressing himself because he is not normally very articulate or outgoing.

"You have to be able to be very brutally honest and you have to be very open, put yourself out there, without holding anything back, in order to make the songs mean something worthwhile," he says.

"And doing that can be quite painful sometimes."

The band want their music to reach as many people as possible, but are wary of talking about chart success and do not want the pressure that comes with hype and expectations.


Rice-Oxley says they are just aiming to produce a good first album.

"We've been trying to do this for so long that we've got a sense of the possibility of disappointment is always around the corner, and that's what spurs you on to make sure you don't get slack," he says.

Other people are hoping that they will deliver "an album that really means something", according to Hughes, who adds: "It's hard to live up the expectation."

"We have struggled to get where we're at, and a lot of our favourite artists and bands haven't had chart success.

"But they still mean an awful lot to us and if we can mean a lot to people, then that's a great achievement."

  • The Sound of 2004 survey was compiled from the tips of almost 60 impartial music critics and broadcasters, who were asked to give three names of artists who they thought would be successful in 2004. The artists who got the most tips were then ranked in order to compile the Sound of 2004 list.


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