I caught up with Keane's songwriter and keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley on October 10, 2008 to talk about the band's third album Perfect Symmetry and being Keane.
Bill: First, I would like to say congratulations on your Q Award last week!
Tim: Yeah, it was very, very exciting...always an honor.
Bill: In listening to the new album, it's obvious it's a signfiicant change from the first 2 Keane albums. If you were talking to fans of Keane, what would you say they should expect in listening to Perfect Symmetry?
Tim: I hope that people expect great songs from us, for a start. I kind of hope people expect a sense of musical adventurousness, creativity, I suppose. I would like people to associate Keane with records that are exciting, records that are exciting for music fans. I think that even though this record has quite a few moments that are different from the first 2 records, I think it's the best record we've ever made by a long way, and the songs are better and the lyrics better, and it's more exciting sonically. For me as a music fan that's kind of what I'm always hungry for. I hope that our fans enjoy that.
Bill: What does the album's title Perfect Symmetry refer to, if anything?
Tim: It's kind of about the theme that sort of runs through the whole record. It's about the sense that we could do much better as people. I'm talking about humanity in general I guess. This record in general has much more of a sense of hope and sympathy, I think, than the first 2 albums that we did. That kind of positive feeling is something that's reflected in this kind of recurring theme of, how can I explain it...I feel like there's a big distance between this dream of what we want to be as people and the reality of what we actually are. So the symmetry that I'm talking about is an imperfect symmetry. It's kind of an ironic title, and the hope is that we can inspire a dream of something much more, to actually achieve something more positive and more beautiful as people.
Bill: For that theme, was there a particular inspiration?
Tim: A lot of things. We're always absorbing a lot of influences from around. To be honest, it's just a sense of looking around us and the world the way that it is. I think there's a sense of it being a dangerous time for humanity, but our particular mindset when we were making the record was a very positive one. We really believe in people. I believe in people much more than I believe in anything else, and I think that rather than just despairing, I think we want to inspire certain people to actually do something better, to kind of dream of better things and aspire to better things rather than just accepting the slightly sort of grim state of affairs that we seem to be getting ourselves into.
One thing that definitely had a big influence on that was being in Germany, in Berlin. We recorded a lot of the record there, and that's a city that's been knocked down and divided up as much as any city on earth in the last 100-odd years, but it's constantly rebuilding itself and healing, and it's a very modern, forward-looking city, and it really embraces people and is a very creative city. It's a city that's full of hope and a sense of healing and looking forward. I think that's something we really absorbed in the spirit of making this record.