England's Keane have been known to rock out so hard onstage that sometimes they have to reach for an oxygen tank.
While playing the song "Bend and Break" in Mexico City, the piano-driven alt-pop trio's lead singer, Tom Chaplin, was "puffing away on the oxygen as a preventative measure," he said.
" 'Bend and Break' is one of the big rockers we play early on, and for us it's a pretty physical experience," said pianist Tim Rice-Oxley. "And I guess for the crowd it's sort of loud and fast and exciting to watch."
Energy and onstage antics may not be what you'd expect from a band comprised of a pianist, drummer and vocalist. Still, the British band — who released their debut, Hopes and Fears, earlier this year — works hard to keep the energy level high and connect with fans.
"I think people are blown away by the amount of energy we have when we play live," drummer Rich Hughes said. "Onstage we absolutely love rocking out. We have a sort of physical reaction to playing. ... On a good night, you get that sort of [energy] bouncing off the crowd as well. It's a physical thing as well as an emotional thing."
Keane sought to record an album as memorable as their shows. "We set out to make a record that people would connect with," said Hughes, "not just get their toes tapping, but connect with emotionally, and we feel that's happening, so that's incredibly satisfying."
Hopes and Fears has garnered Keane a strong following of listeners drawn to their thick piano chords and romantic, reflective lyrics. Notoriety came slowly for Keane, though, who began as a cover band in 1997 (at the time, joined by guitarist Dominic Scott), gigging around Sussex, England. In 1999, after moving to London, the group began recording, and in 2000 Keane self-released their debut single, "Call Me What You Like."
Scott parted ways with Keane the following July, and the band opted not to replace him. Now a trio, Keane spent the rest of 2001 and most of 2002 developing their new sound, testing it out at two London shows in December. Fierce Panda founder Simon Williams (whose label's roster has also included fellow piano enthusiasts Coldplay, as well as Death Cab for Cutie and Polyphonic Spree), was in the audience and asked them to put out a single on his label.
Keane chose the instrumentally catchy, lyrically melancholy track "Everything's Changing," garnering the attention of several U.K. labels, including Island, which the band signed to in mid-2003.
Hopes and Fears, their first album on the label, is a series of sweeping, epic odes by way of swelling piano chords and prolonged vocal notes, as exemplified in their current U.S. single, "Somewhere Only We Know."
The band will next shoot a video for "This Is the Last Time," which Chaplin said "is about being in a situation where you're very close to someone but you feel there is something more out there, or you have a dream where you really want to be properly in love and you feel like you're not quite getting that. It's about going out there and trying to find something more magical."
That search for something magical also applies to the band's approach to its next record.
"We've got some stuff we're really proud of that we're just starting to work on now, and we don't want to rush into another record for the sake of it or something cheesy like that," said Rice-Oxley. "We want to make sure we don't sell ourselves short, so we're going to work out ways of developing and pushing ourselves forward and writing the best songs we can and making exciting sounds and just seeing what we can actually do as a band."