In the early 2000s, the guys behind Keane were young guns, drawn to the rockstar lifestyle, who were taking the world by storm with hits such as Somewhere Only We Know and Everybody’s Changing. Last Friday, the British band released their new studio album, Cause And Effect, in which you can hear that they have delved into a whole new territory. It might be less rock-n’-roll, but it’s definitely no less meaningful.

In this inspiring heart-to-heart with lead singer, Tom Chaplin, and the songwriter/keys/bass player Tim Rice-Oxley, the two explain their personal story behind the raw lyrics on their new album and we discuss the paradox in sad music, taking a philosophical turn at the end.

This might just be the wisest Behind the Track Interview to date, so listen and learn!

What role does music play in your lives?

Tom: “Music has played a bigger role than anything else. Most of my first memories are musical, for example performing in school plays or choirs.

When I got older, I discovered this incredible thing called rock music. The cliché of standing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush came true. I tried to emulate those people that I had fallen in love with musically. That became the dream.

For us as a band, we never grew out of that dream. Over the years, Tim became a really great songwriter and my voice developed into what it is now. Suddenly we had this chemistry that meant we could make our dream a reality.”

What is your new album Cause And Effect about?

Tim: “It’s based around the theme of my marriage breaking down, which happened a few years ago. Each song tells a little part of that story. Some songs are about why it happened and the mistakes that were made, others are about how it felt afterwards and what went on in my head. Some are very sad and full of grief, others are romantic, funny or hopeful.”

That sounds like a full rollercoaster of emotions.

Tim: “Yes, it expresses the different aspects of any traumatic incident, or big change in your life. There’s always grief and shock, but often good stuff comes out of it as well. Or it forces you to think about yourself and learn new things.”

Is there one song on the album that has an extra special meaning to you?

Tim: “I love Phases and I think it’s a real favourite with all of us. I suppose it’s the most philosophical track on the album. It’s bittersweet, but also very hopeful and human.

A plan is a work of art
A house built to fall apart 

You can make plans in life and think you’ve got it all worked out, but anything can happen at any time. Chances are you’ll end up somewhere different from where you intended.

You’re digging for the answers
Crawl across the world to find
There are just more questions
Waiting on the other side

 But you’re still here
You’re bleeding but you’re still here

 Phases, the motion of our lives
Ages, the rote of changes
Erases the ink before it dries on pages
It’s all just phases

 Any given moment in life, like being in a band, being married, or having children, it might feel like it’s your whole world. But the chances are that in a few years’ time, it appears to just have been a phase of your life.

We salvage the parts we can
And work on a better plan

Always on the outside
Fingers clinging on so tight
Kicking at the window
Dreaming of a better life 

Take what you can
Just got to take what you can

 Phases, the motion of our lives
Ages, the rote of changes
Erases the ink before it dries on pages
It’s all just phases
And sometimes you feel how good it is 

I really like the following lines: 

And low tide gives way to high tide
And hard times, we watch them come and go like crazes

It’s all just phases
Phases – Keane

It can be scary to realize that the good and the difficult times in your life will pass, but I also think it’s very comforting. If you can reconcile yourself to that rather than having to have a plan that works, it probably can help you to navigate life much more happily.”

What do you hope that people get out of your music?

Tom: “I think our music has been the soundtrack for a lot of people’s break ups or hard times [laughs]. I believe the strength of our music is that we go to sad places quite often and deal with those emotions.

A sad song allows people to wallow, but it can also make them feel like they’re not alone. You can get that from a conversation with a friend too, but some people don’t have the right friend. Music can actually be really uplifting in a very meaningful way, even if the music is sad. That’s the great paradox.”

Tim: “We all know that music can make a massive difference. If you hear the right song at the right time, it can change your life.

Sometimes people say ‘Your song really made a difference’. That, for me, is the best that could be achieved, even if it’s to a tiny proportion of the people that hear our music.”

Then, my final question, and that might be a big one, but why do you make music?

Tom: “I think you make music first and foremost for yourself or yourselves as a band. Keane was this space into which we could express all our troubles and anxieties. So, there’s that. But when you’re a teenager, the story of bands and rock music is also very compelling and seductive.”

Tim: “One of the biggest reasons I got into wanting to be in a band was because I used to love U2 and they just seemed to have everything. They were super arty, their lyrics and music were amazing, their shows were incredible and they were super famous and commercially successful. There were pictures of them swimming off yachts and meeting with Cindy Crawford and other supermodels [laughs].

But you can’t sustain that for a whole career, that’s probably not a way to live. As time goes on you start to look for something else in the music I suppose.”

Tom: “You realize all of that that rock-’n-roll lifestyle is fine, but the feeling of connectedness that you get through making music, for me is the thing that drives it. Connectedness with yourself, with the band and with people who listen to it.”

Tim: “Connecting with people is such an important part of being human. If you want it to get philosophical, you can say, what else is there? There is nothing else.”

Tom: “All that matters is relational, isn’t it? Everything that we do, every day. If you can’t celebrate things or go through tough times with other people, then what’s the point?”

Cause And Effect by Keane is available via all streaming services now.

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Curious for more artists who explain the meaning behind their lyrics? Then also take a look at the interviews with Alvaro Soler, Andreas Moe and Bastille for more interesting stories!

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– Phases, 2019

📸: Alex Lake