It’s not easy being Keane.
That’s according to Tim Rice-Oxley, keyboardist-composer for the British pop combo, whose new fourth recording “Strangeland” was trashed, without a full-length feature, in NME, the overseas journal of record.
“The best that we can hope for from NME is that they’ll leave us alone, like the school bully,” he says. “Because in the U.K., we’ve never been cool, we’re not part of some scene, and we’ve never belonged to that world of glitz and glamour. But our album’s just gone to No. 1 there, so it’s amazing. The people who buy our records just keep coming back for more punishment!”
The media always wanted an angle on Keane, who play Oakland this weekend. Yet, outside of vocalist Tom Chaplin’s brief rehab stint in 2006 for substance-abuse problems, they’ve never offered one.
The members — including new bassist Jesse Quin, who also partnered with Rice-Oxley in last year’s spinoff duo, Mt. Desolation — simply aren’t tabloid fodder.
The childhood chums are now family men who still reside in the English countryside where they grew up. They would rather disappear into Rice-Oxley’s Sea Fog Studios in East Sussex, where the masterful “Strangeland” was recorded, than attend red-carpet events in London.
“So there is no angle on us, basically — we’re just four friends who love making music,” says Rice-Oxley, 35.
Keane has repeatedly topped U.K. charts, starting with its ABBA-brilliant, Brit-Award-winning 2004 debut “Hopes and Fears.”
Understandably, Rice-Oxley adores ABBA. “They were so underrated, even though they’re probably the biggest-selling band of all time,” he says.
For “Strangeland,” he studied the Swedish supergroup’s biography “Bright Lights, Dark Shadows” to learn its dogmatic work ethic. “Even when they were massive, they always went back to a little hut on an island with a piano in it. They never forgot to write the songs,” he says. “You’ve got to put the time in.”
“Strangeland’s” breakthrough track occurred to Keane’s conceptualist in Sao Paulo, of all places. The sweeping ballad “Sovereign Light Café” is a reminiscence of the members’ rustic youth.
Then more majestic reflections — like “Disconnected” and “Silenced by the Night” — started flowing. There were 82 in all over a two-year period, whittled down to 12 (and 16 on the deluxe edition) by Vaccines producer Dan Grech.
“I like the idea of assessing where you’re at in life,” he says of his introspective lyrics that Chaplin brings to operatic life. “And looking back to where you started is a great way of doing that.”
Rice-Oxley’s craftiest trade secret, however, might be his humility. “Keane is just a small, not-very-musically-talented band, but with very big ideas, sonically,” he says. “And it’s fun. I like the challenge of that, actually!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com