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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 03:40 GMT
Keane's sound is 2004 hit
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Keane's debut album Hopes and Fears went to number one in May
Twelve months ago, rock band Keane came top of the Sound of 2004 poll of music pundits to find the best new talent. In a whirlwind year, they have lived up to the hype with one of the biggest-selling albums of 2004.

The top five acts in this year's survey, Sound of 2005, will be counted down every day from 3 to 7 January, when the winner and full top 10 will be revealed.

"We're the sort of band who have dreams of being like U2 or The Beatles or The Smiths or these big bands who have touched so many people with their music."

Keane singer Tom Chaplin is considering his group's place in the rock fraternity.

This time last year, when Keane was still just a footballer's surname, Chaplin was already talking about his band's "stadium rock" sound.

Now, they are one of the biggest bands in Britain and 2004 has seen an increasingly frantic and far-reaching blur of gigs, travel, promotion and sales.

After their first two singles went straight into the UK top five, debut album Hopes and Fears was released in May and has gone on to sell 1.6 million copes in the UK.

Back at the end of 2003, they had a fair idea their grand, guitarless rock could have wide appeal - but were aware lasting success could slip through their fingers.

Keane singer Tom Chaplin
We're aware of wanting to be a proper rock band and I think people should see that side of us more often
Tom Chaplin

Now, they have a hunch they can build on their debut to produce something more meaningful and important - but are still aware lasting success may be elusive.

"I don't think we would ever think, 'Now we've made it, we can slack off,'" says the group's creative force, Tim Rice-Oxley, who writes the music and lyrics.

"We're always trying to drive ourselves to get better."

The trio have enjoyed their achievements so far, he says - but "you can't sit around on your laurels thinking how wonderful we are".

"We really have to think what we can do next, how can we go from this position to being a band that's a really great band or making an album that's a really great album," he says.

"Maybe when that moment happens, that's when you start going downhill."

Keane have risen to the top with emotionally-charged, piano-led ballads in the Coldplay tradition that are as comfortable on a Saturday morning pop show as a Glastonbury stage or BBC Radio 2.

Chaplin says the scale and speed of their rise have been "hard to take in".

"The pace of things has been so great, it's been hard to sit back and take stock," he says.

'Big following'

"The main thing I'm happy about is that people have taken to our music and there seems to be a really big following for it now.

The band were called "sheet-soilers" by The Darkness
"It really seems to have made a connection with people - so that in itself is enough to be excited about."

Rice-Oxley has been writing songs for the second album on the tour bus but says the band members are "probably exactly the same people we were when we were writing the first album".

"We are still as reflective and as paranoid and as weird as ever," he says. "But at the same time, I hope we'll push ourselves to explore new themes."

One thing that has changed is the band's timetable. Free time is now very precious and Chaplin says he has missed the chance to "take your shoes off and watch telly".

And they have been too busy for typical rock star antics. "We haven't really had any time to get thrown out of nightclubs or punch photographers or go out with A-list celebrities," the singer says.

'Nice posh boys'

"That doesn't really happen with us - and I don't think it would anyway, we're not that sort of people. I don't think we court fame."

After a while, you learn to ignore it when people write nasty things about you
Tom Chaplin
But at another point, Chaplin says he wants to be seen as "a proper rock band", a plea to those who think rock must involve loud guitars, groupies and a drug habit.

The band's lack of controversy or rebellion - and guitars - has led to a perception in some quarters of nice posh boys who do not deserve to have done so well or are simply not "for real".

The Darkness have called them "sheet-soilers" who play "music to suck your thumb to", while The Sun compared them to Richard Clayderman and said they were "more middle-of-the-road than Chris De Burgh".

Chaplin calls detractors "catty" and says: "After a while, you learn to ignore it when people write nasty things about you. Very often, they're untrue.

"That's something we'll shake off because we're a band about music and not going with any style or trends.

"So I think we'll shake off those problems as time goes on - as long as we keep getting better and as long as we keep focussing on the music."

Keane: Somewhere Only We Know


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