Since its debut in 2004, Keane's music has been defined by a decidedly British flavor. But keyboardist and chief songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley found inspiration from the most American of sources while making the quartet's fourth album, "Strangeland."
Rice-Oxley says the album had "a slightly negative outlook and a feeling of 'complaint' music, which the British tend to churn out in large volumes" at the beginning of the project. But he changed his tune after watching "Runnin' Down a Dream," director Peter Bogdanovich's documentary about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.
"Looking at a band 30, 40 years into the journey and all the things that happened to them, I found it so inspiring," Rice-Oxley, 36, recalls. "Obviously there were some real human dramas and tragedies and highs and lows, and (the film) is talking a lot about determination and survival.
"I really identified with all of that. I'm probably the sort of person who's quite easily bogged down by things, but I feel like I do keep going and trying to push on through and keep working and trying to do the right thing. So I started to articulate the more hopeful and more positive side after that."
Rice-Oxley acknowledges that "Strangeland," coming four years after Keane's last album, "took a long time to get to, but sometimes you do need to take the time to get it right." Complicating matters, he adds, is a set of bandmates who are notoriously hard to please.
"Finding stuff that impressed the other guys was a challenge," he says. "It took lots of mediocre songs to get to the squad of songs we all felt were particularly strong...and then it was letting the songs lead the creative process and finding a style and a sound which supported the emotional stories of the songs rather than trying to fit the songs into a preconceived sort of production approach.
"It's not easy. Each time you feel like you'll never do it again, but that feeling never really lasts, fortunately."
Keane and Youngblood Hawke perform Sunday, Dec. 27, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 main floor, $60 for reserved tables. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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