Photograph courtesy of Universal Music Group
Got a minute? Keane songwriter and jack-of-all-instruments Tim Rice-Oxley discusses the band's new album, the Ting Tings, and why he's not cut out to be a frontman.
Q: Keane made a name as a piano-rock band, but on the new record, Perfect Symmetry, you use a synthesizer, saxophone, and musical saw. What made you bring more sounds into the mix?
A: I have no idea, really. We were just following our noses. We set out to please ourselves—not to worry about record sales or radio play. The musical saw in "Love is the End" was inspired by the film Delicatessen. There's a beautiful bit with a cello-and-musical-saw duet. It just worked. In the past, we might have been too scared to try those things, but we embraced the fear. The bands that we worship—Radiohead, the Beatles, the Talking Heads, U2, and Bowie—change all the time.
Q: You released the synth-driven "Spiralling" online in August. Does the song epitomize the band's new sound?
A: We just released it because we finished it first. We were still mixing the record at that point and thought, Why don't we put it on the website? We never intended for it to be a radio track at all, but it blew up into this big thing.
Q: Were you concerned about alienating your fans with this departure?
A: [Laughs] We certainly didn't worry about it while we were making the record. But once you put it out, you think, Oh shit, someone's actually going to listen to this and judge it.
Q: What was it like working with Jon Brion, who has produced songs for artists as diverse as Kanye West, Fiona Apple, and Rufus Wainwright?
A: That's what we loved about him. We didn't want someone who was going to bring us the sound of a particular band. We wanted to push what a band like us is supposed to be able to do. We spent more time talking than we did making music.
Q: In 2004, you guys were the band to watch. What new groups do you think have potential for long-term success?
A: It's been a great year for new music on both sides of the Atlantic. My favorite band this year is the Ting Tings. They're intelligent pop, and they have that energy that comes from making music in a bedroom without fear of being judged—very much the way we made our record. The MGMT record was also great.
Q: Would you ever consider going solo?
A: I've got my hands full trying to play all the keyboard parts. Tom Chaplin is set to be one of the greatest singers of all time, so that's a lot to compete with. I'm happy in the background, doing my thing. Ryan Wenzel
The music video for "Spiralling." Keane's new album, Perfect Symmetry, hits stores October 14.