Hopes and Fears

Hopes and Fears

When Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley thinks back to the meteoric rise his band experienced around the time of their multimillion-selling, chart-topping 2004 debut album, Hopes and Fears, the trio’s keyboardist and chief songwriter recalls a show they played at London’s Kentish Town Forum on the day the record was released. “I remember someone from the record company casually saying, ‘Oh yeah, the album’s definitely going to be No. 1, it’s already platinum on the first day,’” Rice-Oxley tells Apple Music. “It was like they all expected it but no one had told us. It suddenly felt very weird, obviously amazing, but it was hard to connect that to any sort of reality.” For Rice-Oxley and his bandmates, singer Tom Chaplin and drummer Richard Hughes, playing the 2300-capacity Forum felt like they’d reached the top—but soon, it would represent a very intimate setting for Keane. “We thought 2000 people was vast so when people started saying, ‘Oh, you’ve sold 300,000 records’, it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know what that looks like.’” With its yearning anthems, soaring balladry and dynamic grooves, Hopes and Fears was the album that made Keane one of the 2000s’ biggest indie-rock acts. There are at least three songs on the record that were unavoidable for a few years around release, the sort of modern classics that seem to be hanging in the air, whistling on the wind. Even after that initial burst of success, some tracks have gone on the sort of shapeshifting journeys that you just can’t plan for. When Keane wrote the stirring sing-along “Somewhere Only We Know”, for example, they couldn’t have known it would become a phenomenon on TikTok—mainly because TikTok was a decade and more away from existing. When Rice-Oxley listens back to the album now, he wonders where these songs came from. “I almost listen to it as a fan,” he marvels. “I just think it sounds so good. It transports me to a different place because you’re hearing your thoughts of my early-to-mid-twenties self. It’s like looking at old photographs.” Like all great coming-of-age albums, it’s a record with a timeless quality, one that repeatedly connects with a new generation of fans. Here, Rice-Oxley guides us through it, track by track. “Somewhere Only We Know” “It’s so bizarre that ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ is a kind of phenomenon in itself, almost outside of the album. It had its first life when the album came out and then it was always cropping up in films and big syncs, but then Lily Allen did her version of it, and it’s somehow become a Christmas song. Now it’s gone absolutely mad on TikTok and social media so it’s become familiar to so many younger people, probably people who weren’t even born when the album came out. I love that. The life of this song is incredible. That feeling of coming together in hard times crops up through the album, and I think it’s probably also what speaks to people the most about the song.” “Bend and Break” “I think it’s a song about us trying to be a band. That ‘Meet me in the morning’ lyric, that was us, we’d meet every day and write and do demos and practise and try and improve the songs. It feels like it was made to play live, this song, but I don’t mean for stadiums, I mean to play in a pub to 50 people, songs that had an energy and excitement to engage people enough to stick around and actually listen.” “We Might As Well Be Strangers” “Someone we knew, their parents were having a hard time with marriage and I think this was basically me trying to write about that in my own naive, youthful way, thinking about what goes wrong in our lives—that you suddenly realise you are waking up to someone you don’t know anymore having been so close to them. I have to admit, I don’t remember much about writing it but 20 years later, it’s still one of our most loved songs live. We probably play it at almost every gig. It’s got a drama to it.” “Everybody’s Changing” “This was our first song that got on the radio, when we released it on [London indie label] Fierce Panda and it got picked up by [BBC Radio 1 DJs] Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley. Hearing that on the radio for the first time was so exciting, such a buzz. Again, I wonder where those songs came from. Andy Green, the producer, always used to say that it sounded too much like dodgy disco, and ‘Oh, are you sure about that drumbeat?’ It sounded a bit like ‘Dancing Queen’, it’s got that open hi-hat thing. It’s a song about friendship and trying to navigate your way through change, life changing from a childhood dynamic or teenager’s dynamic to being more in the adult world, and having to let go of people or accept change.” “Your Eyes Open” “I have no recollection of writing this at all apart from the thing I hear when I hear it is that we used to listen to Röyksopp and Air and Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. There was this whole electronic side of the band because we were trying to navigate our way from being a guitar band. Our guitarist left and we were trying to find a way to be a band without a guitar, so the first thing we turned to really was more of an electronic sound. Quite a lot of that stuff found its way onto the record, and ‘Your Eyes Open’ is a good example of that.” “She Has No Time” “This song was basically about Tom having girl trouble. He came back in this raging fury one night because things weren’t working out and someone was treating him very badly, so I was trying to put that into song. It’s a very heartfelt romantic song, I suppose, from a friend to a friend. The thing I hear on this is that sort of Sigur Rós high-vocal thing, I think that’s probably where that came from.” “Can’t Stop Now” “To my ear, the biggest influence on the album overall was The Smiths, which very rarely got picked up on—thankfully, because I always thought we were just going to get told that we’d ripped off loads of Smiths songs. But to me, ‘Can’t Stop Now’, ‘Bend and Break’ and ‘This Is the Last Time’ are basically trying to be like The Smiths, some quite bouncy rhythms, very melodic and—I’m not claiming to be a Morrissey-esque lyricist—trying to say something meaningful and normally quite melancholy over these very almost ultra-melodic songs. I think ‘Can’t Stop Now’, consciously or otherwise, was an attempt at that.” “Sunshine” “When we first had a little batch of quite good songs, we got spotted by a producer guy called James Sanger. He had this dilapidated farmhouse in Normandy and we went out there in the summer of 2001 and tried to make a record with some of the songs that ended up on Hopes and Fears. We got some good stuff out of it, but the wheels fell off a bit. One of the songs I wrote out there was this. It was sitting under an apple tree on a summer evening, it just came out in 20 minutes or something. I think it’s got that lovely atmosphere to it, it’s almost the opposite of all the bangers on the album. Very understated and dreamy. I think there’s probably a third of the album that has that kind of dreaminess to it that you don’t necessarily associate with Keane. I think it really helps to offset the rest of the album. I love this one, it was a love song to my girlfriend at the time.” “This Is the Last Time” “This is another very Smiths-y one. Tom and I both used to work in the same office in Dorling Kindersley book publishers in Covent Garden. We were in different departments, but we were both the dogsbody, the office junior. In amongst photocopying, making tea for people and trying to refill the water cooler, I remember walking around the office with this song in my head and being really pleased with it. I think it was probably the first instance of me doing a soaring chorus where it hit that big note, and then it’s got a sort of rhythmical hook. When I listen to it, I can still hear myself learning to write songs and honing a songwriting style that became the album. This was probably the first song I wrote that ended up on the album.” “On a Day Like Today” “I was reading a biography of Kurt Cobain by Charles R. Cross, Heavier Than Heaven. I hadn’t realised how Beatles-influenced Kurt Cobain was and the book made him seem much more relatable and accessible to someone from the other side of the world with a very different life. I remember him going on about how they’d hit upon this idea of the really quiet verses and then the massive choruses and that really stuck with me, that massive dynamic contrast. I think you can hear that in this song starting with a wobbly synth sound and Tom’s vocal and a little distorted drumbeat, and then it gets bigger and bigger as the song goes on into an epic thing. It was one of those where it felt like the soundscape was more important than the actual song, not something we’ve done very often.” “Untitled 1” “As I said, we’d been a guitar band, so we were experimenting with new styles and new equipment. That whole world of electronic music and working digitally was all new to us—the idea that you could put in drum loops and then muck around with it a little. There’s hardly anything on this track, again it’s very much like a soundscape. I love the chorus bit where it goes from that big fat synth-y bass into this other bit which sounds completely unrelated and it’s just a wash of sound with these really high ethereal vocals. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to it, but we just thought it sounded cool and it seemed to stick and fit on the album even though we didn’t know why, because we didn’t know anything!” “Bedshaped” “We used to finish [gigs] with this and it was something I got from the Pet Shop Boys. They used to finish with something like ‘Jealousy’, a slow song, and I remember reading this review that said, ‘A downbeat denouement to a glittering charade.’ It stuck in my head, like, ‘Oh, that’s the way to end the gig, rather than go for your biggest song, go for something understated.’ I don’t know if you’d call ‘Bedshaped’ understated, but it’s a slow song, so we used to finish our gigs with it. The 20 people that were there seemed to like it, so it just seemed natural to put it at the end. My mum was a hospital doctor and she used to talk about people being ‘bedshaped’. I assumed this was a recognised medical term and I later found out it was just something she made up, but I thought it was a really cool word.”

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