Drugs and reported infighting led to the demise of English soft rock band Keane in 2013.
For frontman Tom Chaplin, it was a crippling drug addiction. Keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, the band’s chief songwriter, saw his own life turned upside down at this time, with a collapsed marriage and a DUI-arrest—after crashing his car into a ditch.
The band reunited a couple of years ago—a likely surprise to many longtime fans. On Keane’s fifth album, Cause and Effect, Rice-Oxley used some of his darkest and loneliest times as inspiration.
“It’s kind of emotionally intense, a little more cohesive than anything we’ve done before,” Rice-Oxley said. “It tells the story of a relationship breakdown; my marriage, specifically. And it talks about everything that comes out of that—the fallout—the good stuff and bad stuff.”
Keane formed in the mid-’90s and struck gold in 2004 with piano-heavy pop hit “Somewhere Only We Know.” But after releasing three more albums, Chaplin, Rice-Oxley, drummer Richard Hughes and guitarist Jesse Quin had reached the end. Chaplin has talked about how his drug use contributed to the collapse. But at the same time, the band’s constant touring was straining Rice-Oxley’s marriage.
Over the course of a hiatus, starting in 2013 and continuing on for the better part of a decade, the keyboardist went back to basics. He wrote songs for a solo album that he’d never release. Mostly, he tried to find his balance again. And he had to redefine what he considered personal and professional success, now that his wife and his popularity was gone. Would it be playing shows? Connecting with small crowds? Writing songs that no one would get to hear? He had to find acceptance with that.
“I’ve certainly done a lot of thinking over the last few years about what constitutes personal success,” he said. “A lot of the time over the past few years I’ve been on my own, just working away on my piano or at my little studio.”
That’s what makes the Keane reunion so much more special. Chaplin is reportedly clean now. Rice-Oxley is happier.
The songwriter described Keane’s 2019 album, Cause and Effect, as being less of a pop album than previous efforts. The keyboardist, who played a pivotal songwriting role, compared the experience to being brought back from the brink, and said it displays more of an emotional standpoint to let fans in on what the members experienced and overcame during the break.
“It really influenced the album,” he said. “And … it’s something that a lot of people can relate to.”
The album presents feelings of loneliness, grief, emotional upheaval and regret, but also finds resolution while recreating a sense of hope at the end of the tunnel. On single “Stupid Things,” for example, Rice-Oxley faces up to past mistakes and addresses the feeling of being stuck inside of a “black hole so blue,” while asking for forgiveness from his ex-wife, Jayne. “Phases” is another look through the tougher times, but envisions the end of painful moments while fighting through the motions.
While it has been a difficult journey, Rice-Oxley said that he feels better than ever now that Keane is back on the road and sharing music with the world.
“We’ve had a little break and are now in a better place, mentally,” he said. “The happiest I feel about the songs I’ve written is when I hear the stories about how those songs help to bring (people) back from very difficult times in their own lives.”
Editor Roman Gokhman contributed to this story. Follow writer Amelia Parreira at Twitter.com/AmeliaParreira.