Keane Interview - Keane to go to the top

Q Award winners and great British music hopes Keane – who have been dubbed the new Coldplay’ – have seemingly shot from nowhere over the past few months. Adam Aiken spoke to drummer Richard Hughes ahead of the band’s gig in Norwich.

You know you're dealing with stars when Island Records call you ahead of an interview with Keane and, while you are waiting to be put through to the band, the background 'muzak' is Keane's album. To put it into context, this is a record label that has on its books the likes of Busted, PJ Harvey, the Sugababes and U2.

But that is just one of many indications that this is a band that is going to make it big – even though their debut album came out less than six months ago. And when they come up to Norfolk next week, Keane will do so having just picked up this year's Q Award for best album.

They last played in Norwich in May, the week before their album Hopes And Fears was released. A packed Waterfront – despite not knowing many of their songs – gave them a great reception.

Next week, the East Sussex band are returning to the city for the first date on their new UK tour. And this time, with Hopes And Fears still sitting comfortably in the top 10, where it's been since its release, they will be playing in front of a much larger audience at the UEA. They were also shortlisted for the Mercury Prize – ultimately won by Franz Ferdinand – as well as their recent success in the Q Awards.

“It's a bit weird what's happened to us,” says Richard Hughes, the band's softly-spoken drummer, who insists that self-belief was a crucial factor in the trio's rise. “In a band, it's a constant battle backing yourself and really believing what you are doing.

“We spent seven years trying to get someone to release a record.

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“You have to believe in yourself, but at the same time you never think anything like this is going to happen. You never expect to see anything like we did – seeing the number of people who came to see us at Glastonbury and at T in the Park.”

Hughes, 29, has mixed feelings on whether scooping industry awards is a definition of success.

“It's such a weird concept. We didn't go into music to win prizes,” he says.

“We wanted to do things like T in the Park and Glastonbury and getting the album in the shops, It is flattering but I'd rather play Glastonbury and not win the Mercury Prize than the other way round.”

A recent tour of the US was, by all accounts, a success, although singer Tom Chaplin picked up a sore throat and a couple of dates had to be cancelled. Incidentally, Chaplin's family comes from Norfolk and he was a childhood fan of Norwich City, despite growing up in the South-East.

Copies of the band's singles Everybody's Changing and This Is The Last Time, released on Fierce Panda before they signed to Island, have been sold on eBay for sums nearer £100 than the £2.99 that they were originally available for.

And it all points towards the fact that just a few months after the release of Hopes And Fears, Keane are massive. “If I keep having lunches like I had today, we will be massive quite soon!” says Hughes.

“Seriously, we still feel there is a lot of work to do just in this country. We have only released one record and we have got a long way to go before we see ourselves as a really significant band.”

At the Waterfront gig in May, the band – completed by Tim Rice-Oxley on keyboards – were happy to come out after the concert for a meet-and-greet with their fans. But as they get bigger and their audiences grow, is that something that is going to have to come to an end?

Hughes believes that they have learned from Travis, a band Keane supported this year and one of the acts Keane are often compared with.

“It's something we'll have to discover as we go,” he says.

“When we played as a support act for Travis, the way they handled it was by not going outside to see people until a bit later. By then, most people had drifted away and the ones that had hung around got to see the band. We want to stay approachable. We don't have much experience of this yet, but we hope we'll still be able to go out and meet people.

“We met someone at the airport

the other day and I was quite happy to chat for 20 minutes with one

guy. It's incredibly flattering that people should want to.

“At the same time, it takes a long time to sign 1000 autographs or whatever so we'll just try to keep a balance. But we are grateful that people make the effort to see us come and play live.”

The bond with fans is mirrored by the bond within the trio.

“We grew up together in the same town and all went to the same schools. Tom was a bit younger than us, so it was initially Tim, [former member] Dominic Scott and me in the holidays,” Hughes says.

In 1997 Rice-Oxley and Hughes – who had both graduated from University College London – managed to persuade Chaplin to pack in an art history degree at Edinburgh University to join them in the capital. Even then, it was another six or seven years before things really began to happen for the band, but the hard work finally paid off.

“Having been ignored for seven years as a band, we ended up with quite a few people wanting to sign us,” says geography graduate Hughes.

“One of the good things about where we ended up [with Island] was that instead of just going for loads of cash, we actually went for really good terms, which means we're basically in control of what we do.”

Perhaps that explains the choice of muzak at Island . . .

Tickets for Thursday's UEA concert are sold out.