Interview Tom and Richard - British Embassy Asuncion - 13 March 2021
Interview of Keane with S.E. Ambassador Ramin Navai, during the British Week 2021. Published on their Facebook.
Ambassador - Right, welcome everyone to the latest installation of Britweek 2021 here in Paraguay, and the one I've been most looking forward to. Music is without doubt one of the UK's finest exports, and Keane are without doubt one of our finest bands, so I'm delighted to have Tom Chaplin and Richard Hughes on the line. Welcome Tom and Richard. How are you both doing? Hope you're surviving quarantine in the UK.
Richard – Yeah.
Tom – We're just about surviving. Yeah, it's been tough. Particularly the third lockdown has been a bit of a killer, because it's been right in the middle of winter. Everyone's just tired of the whole thing now, but we are all hoping that the vaccinations and springtime and what all of that brings, will be the key to freedom.
Ambassador - I'll keep my fingers crossed, and I won't brag on about the glorious weather here, in Asuncion, so I will not mention how beautiful it is there.
Richard – No, that would be a bad thing to do.
Ambassador - That would be. But it's great. I think we are coming out of the worst of it. So fingers crossed for the summer. The spring and summer … I’ve always thought I just wanted to give a personal thanks from me for Hopes and Fears. It's one of those albums… It takes me back in time. I love it when music does that. It happens with me for Definitely Maybe, Urban Hymns, and Hopes and Fears… I just go back in time for good and bad, and I just relive that period. I was also at your performances in Glastonbury in 2004 and 2005. And it's one question you probably had a few times, but I think it’d be great for fans here in Paraguay that maybe don't know you that well - you have lots who do, but for the ones that don't. Can you tell us a little bit about how and when the band got together?
Richard – Wow, well it's a long time ago. We basically went to school together, the three of us… Though we added Jesse a bit later, but Tim, Tom and I went to school together. So we've been friends since we were... I don't know. I found a photo that I took of Tim and Tom where what... You (Tom) must have been 9, maybe. And Tim would have been 12 or something like that. Maybe even a little bit younger. So you know, we've been friends for… basically, as long as it really makes any sense in our brains, I think.
Ambassador - And when did music become a part of your lives? From that same age, or did it come slightly later ?
Tom – Oh um, it’s very hard to know, because when you're a kid, you just love music, don't you? And it's such an exciting idea, more than anything else. It is this magical sound. It can come from a band or an artist and just inspire you. And I think we were just like all the other kids, we fell in love with music. But as we got into our teens, we just began thinking : what about making it and writing songs, but kind of other things. We read these stories of The Beatles, particularly with bands like U2 at the time, and we just thought that would be a great life and a great way of expressing ourselves. And so yeah, in a way, it was not a very sensible thing to do if you want to have a career and have a normal life, but we had this mad dream : we would try and get a record deal, and try and make albums, and travel the world. And we were one of the very select tiny few that made it through and actually were able to live that dream.
Ambassador - Yeah, it's amazing. It's a brave decision. It must have been a big decision, but it obviously paid off, which is fantastic. And you know, coming to your point about travelling the world. When you start as a band you ... how does it work? You get a list of countries as a tour manager is coming up. We're going here or do you say I want to go here? You can probably see where this is leading, but I'm just interested in, when you look at the world map, is it you that is sort of guiding it, or does it happen from this sort of production side?
Richard – I think it happens from the fans, because you go to places where you think you can play a concert. And that requires people to want to buy tickets. So effectively, whoever... For us, back in 2004, the record label was a much more significant part of what you do than maybe these days. But yeah, they know when you're on the radio here, or you got to number one there. And you look at the diary and look at the map, and hope your manager can make sense of the two things and get you to as many of those places as possible. I don't think we ever dreamt that we would travel so far and wide.
Ambassador - And in your travels, when you first saw Paraguay appear, what did you think? Did you have any expectations of what Paraguay would be as a destination to play music in, or as a country?
Tom – No.
Richard – I didn't know at all. I mean we knew that we'd been to… initially we went to the States, in Europe and Japan, and then it just started to get a bit more interesting. And those are great places to go to, but then you start to go to Mexico, or into South America, and in South East Asia. And yeah, it was pretty amazing to suddenly think that we could even go there. To be honest at the start, we would happily go wherever we could and just break even. As long as we didn't like lose a lot of money, we were up for just going to places just to experience it. And so yeah, it was pretty wild to suddenly be able to go to South America.
Ambassador - And it's no surprise hearing that you didn't have huge expectations about Paraguay … because you know it's something that I check about Paraguay all the time. It's not a country, certainly in the UK, that people have much of a feel for. But what struck me since being here is how warm the people are when you talk. When you're jumping from country to country, are you able to get a feel for places you've been to you? I say that because, the Paraguayans really got a feel for you and your music, and the impact you've had here is incredible. Lots of bands have played here, but more than any other band, I hear your name branded about as brilliant performances. So do you feel that connexion from the other side? It must be quite difficult because you are hopping from spot to spot.
Tom – But yeah, first time we came to Asuncion, I think we didn't know what to expect. I remember people being very… Like in a hotel, the staff were incredibly welcoming. All seemed very excited and I was thinking : “Are they excited because we're here?” And I was like …. But obviously, as time went on, then we played the first show. And I remember the promoter said : “Oh, don't worry that you haven't sold that many tickets. Everyone just comes on the night.” So we were like “OK…”, we were a bit unsure though, we sold about 900 tickets to this huge 14,000 capacity venue… But he was right, everyone turned up on the night and it was this amazing energy that night. All of us said, we will never forget that show and we must make a point to come back to Paraguay again. So yeah, obviously we came back in 2019, wasn't it? And did the same venue. But it was an even better show. Actually I felt like it. It topped it. There's even more sort of excitement, but in terms of… The second time round, we did get a chance to get out and about in the city, didn't we? Your predecessor was able to take us to lunch and then also show us around. I think San Jeronimo, would that be right ?
Ambassador - Yeah, that sounds right.
Tom – We had a lovely time.
Ambassador - Fantastic! Well, I was really gutted. I wasn't ambassador then. It's one of those things, I've got the job and I was looking at it now. God, that's a real shame, but I'm so pleased. You know, you felt something here as well because I said the fans responded to the first concert in 2012, second in 2019, it’s still get talked about here and it's incredible. And then obviously you chose the Live in Asuncion album to release. Was that based on what you were saying about this sort of magically feel ?
Richard – I think we were pretty confident it was going to be a good show. And you do feed off the crowd. And the crowds, not just in Paraguay, but all around South America. You know you're going to have a great tour from start to finish from the perspective of the way the crowds are going to engage. I think it's partly because you know that you really only get to go once per album cycle. Maybe. It's not like playing in London where you know there's going to be a few. This is like your one chance and so for us, it's our one chance to bring those songs to that audience. And you can hear this. We all wear monitors in our ears, but you can hear the crowd above that. And Tom always just whips them up into a frenzy and gets the singing along. You know it really gets going and you know it's gonna be loud. So yeah, we knew that would come across well, if we managed to record it and we made a point of bringing Jon Stone, our videographer, along. It was the only tour I think we actually took anyone on. We didn't take anyone on the UK tour. We just brought him to South America, because we really wanted to document that experience. And so yeah, fortunately he got loads of great footage and the audio sounded good so we were able to put out some of the tracks.
Ambassador - Yeah, congratulations, it is fantastic. And do you feel that South America when you're touring is different to other parts of the world ? You talked about their energy. Can you tell you’re in different continents when you're performing?
Richard – Yeah, Tom tends to engage more with the crowd. Because he's right up close and personal. But yeah, you always see the flags and you see the signs. People wave and you start to recognise people as well, that you may have seen the last time or that go to a couple of shows.
Tom – Yeah, for some reason, there seems to be lots and lots of young people, younger people at our shows in Latin America. Of course, they bring a different kind of energy to maybe the people that have been following you for 20 years or whatever. They have this kind of passionate excitement and so it's great. It's great to see the generation who got into Hopes and Fears, but also this whole swathes of younger people, who are getting to see us for the first time, and particularly I think in Latin America. It feels like that contingent in the crowd is more passionate than anywhere else in the world. So that's definitely something we really kind of vibed off in the two times we’ve been.
Ambassador - That's great to hear and Tom knows it. You don't want to see me at your next concert as the old brigade, bothering you? But no I … (laughs)
Tom – We will take all comers.
Ambassador - But I feel old now, when I go to concerts, especially here, and I know that happens obviously. But I totally agree with you about that young energy here. I've been here for months, but it has a really young population, Paraguay, and they have real aspirations, and the music is so important in the culture here. They have their own great sounds, but they're so embracing and you have a distinctive sound as well. In my view, it's not you are a traditional kind of rock band. And for me at least that's something that comes across here. The Paraguayans have their own language. I don't know if you picked up on Guarani, or at least you heard it being spoken, but that's a part from the region. And I think you're sounding away, it's slightly different to the traditional ones. And I think the both two together have really, really, accounted for something in terms of what you have achieved here.
Richard – I think it's an interesting point as well, because we're singing songs in English to a crowd who don't have English as their first language, and yet you get the song sung back to you with such passion. Word perfectly and that's a pretty remarkable experience that I think sometimes we forget how special that is. Actually, it's easy to take it for granted that you're somewhere and people are singing back to you in English.
Ambassador - And looking at the future, what are your plans? Obviously it's been a difficult year for all bands. You know, fingers crossed we get through the pandemic. What's on the pipeline for music and touring?
Tom – And looking at the future, what are your plans? Obviously it's been a difficult year for all bands. You know, fingers crossed we get through the pandemic. What's on the pipeline for music and touring?
Richard – Yeah, let's just say we've always tried to support our local record shops…
Ambassador - Okay, that's an exciting teaser. Generally being stuck at home, does it work? Is it confusive to buy some music, not being and having ever been close to the profession. I know some answers would come out with a whole load of material during their lockdowns… How has it been for you in terms of the creative side of your work?
Richard – Well, you've been working away, haven’t you, Tom ?
Tom – Yeah, I've been trying. I find it difficult, I don't particularly like writing on my own, so I found that quite difficult. I've taken every opportunity I can to find a window in between the lockdowns to go and work with some other people. For the solo stuff. But yeah, as far as Keane goes, we've cobbled together a few live things. Well we tried to record apart at home. And I mean it's a challenge, to be honest. You think it's going to be easy to set the camera and record your bit of audio, but it ends up taking you hours. It's not… I mean, music really, particularly live music, it's so much about the relationship between the musicians (video frozes).
Richard – Oh, he has frozen again.
Tom – You can't really… Oops, sorry... Yeah you can't really fake that thing of being a group of musicians together, and of being in front of people, and the unwritten or unspoken communication that goes on, in that format. Everyone has made the most of it and tried to do what they can, online over the last year, but it does not match for the real thing. Let's be honest.
Richard – Yeah, I found like all areas of life, my brain has just been all over the shot, like days where you feel like “Oh God I really just want to do something”, and days when you just want to keep the door shut and stay inside. And I guess the same goes for music. Tom did a really good “How to sing Somewhere Only We Know” thing with a choir, and Tim did some tutorials on playing a few of the songs on the piano, which I thought were pretty amazing. That was good, but yeah, it is hard to keep… Because we are a band, I think we've always felt like when we get into a room, it's quite a sort of special experience for us, and so being physically removed is quite hard. But then, like Tom says, hopefully some of the shows will come back. Whether it's later this year or next year or whenever. I think we are committed to do some more shows. But when those will be, goodness knows.
Ambassador - Yeah, and looking for the future - I'm not putting a time frame on it, but obviously I have to ask : we obviously hope you will come back to Paraguay. You know if I didn't ask that question, I'll get lynched in the street. People really want to see you back here. And so, as much as you can, we obviously really want to see you here again.
Richard – Yeah, I think we made it pretty clear how much we enjoy it, you know, and I think if we do tour… In fact, one of the reasons… I’d forgotten about this until just thinking ahead to this today. When we got back together after our sort of hiatus, Tom had toured a little bit solo, and I remember you (Tom) saying that you really felt like it was so special when.. Because you came down South America didn't you? Not to Paraguay at that time, but you did made it to South America. And I remember Tom coming, saying to us there's such an energy and a thirst for Keane that we had missed out on it that he had felt, and he felt like we deserved to feel that again. And so that was one of the things that, in a way, inspired us to make Cause and Effect. And come out and hit the road again. So I think it's pretty safe to say, if we do make another record at some point, and tour that again, that we will be making a beeline for South America again. I mean, we came to South America before we did Europe, and before we did the North America. So yeah, we put it pretty high up the priorities lists these days.
Ambassador - Okay, well your fans here will be very pleased to hear that. And it's a question that I get off a lot about, when you're coming back. So at least now I have some more up to date lines state. Just to finish off, cause I'm conscious you've got your things to do. Whether it be childcare or... And I'm being respectful of a time frame, that maybe isn't that important your end, but… (laughs)
You are performing and you come off... What's the kind of chemistry? What's the best energy you feel when you come off stage? In that I mean, is there a kind of moment when you look at each other, and you realise that's been incredible ? Cause for the fans, certainly 2019, and 2012, it had that. Do you know as you’re performing, or is it when you come off and you kind of reflect on it? I'm really thinking about your concerts here. If you've got any particular memories of those.
Tom – Yeah. I think generally you get a feeling early on. If the show is going to have that kind of energy, generally, not always - sometimes a show could just come good as it goes on - but most of the time, certainly as a front man I feel, like you will know pretty fast whether it's going to be a good night. And then the key is, can you sustain it for a whole show ? Because sometimes you get that kind of burst of energy and then it can go a bit flat. So I think the thing that I really remember about Paraguay is it just started there, super high level, and it just carried on for the whole show, and obviously when you come off stage after that, you're in no doubt that you had a great time, the audience had a great time, and then it'll be something you'll remember forever. I've always said, in so many interviews over the years, about our shows in Paraguay - or if it's only the first show. People kept asking me : where's your favourite show you've ever done? It was always one that I would quote because it had that energy and it never kind of dipped. So yes, and the second one was just as good, if not better.
Ambassador - As I said you, that's reciprocated here. Whenever I asked what are people's favourite bands that are visiting - and I generally ask not thinking about British bands - but you invariably come out on top from all the bands that come here. So it's great to hear, and I guess in a way it has to be a two-way thing. You're not going to get there, the fans saying it was great, and the band… I guess it's a two-way relationship, isn't it? When you're on stage and the fans are connecting with you ?
Richard – Yeah, absolutely. I think Tom is right. Those two shows at the Jockey Club, you definitely felt it straight away. Also, we come off stage for… If we do an encore - which we always do, we could never get away without doing that there - you have that little moment where you look at each other and say : well, this is going quite well, isn't it? You know you are having fun, you know you’re having a good night. For us, a good night has always involved the crowd as much as it has involved us. We can play terribly and have a great night.
Ambassador - As I said before, as soon as we hear of a date, there's going to be huge interest at this end, and it's something that I will be following very closely as well.
Richard – Well, that's good to hear. I mean, we are blown away by the reception we get when we come there, and I think everyone can see that on our faces as much as we can see it on theirs. So hopefully we will get back, and do it all again sometime.
Ambassador - Brilliant, thanks. And hopefully I will be ambassador when you make it there. And I can show you a little bit more of the country, a little bit more of its food, its people and also some of the incredible nature that Paraguay has. If you've got time, but anyway.
Richard – It'd be great to get out into the countryside. That's for sure. That sounds amazing, we will have to book a few days off or something. Sounds good.
Tom – Sounds great, yeah.
Ambassador - Great. Well Richard, Tom, thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure talking to you. and all the best. Fingers crossed things look up into the coming months.
Richard – Thanks, man and you stay safe. And obviously, hope things are doing okay over there. It's a global crisis, isn't it? So, we are thinking of everyone over there as well.
Ambassador - Thanks mate, it's much appreciated. Take care, bye.
Tom and Richard - Cheers, bye.