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Dangerous

Tom Chaplin lets out a laugh. "Is that a man with a hangover?" asks Keane's baby-faced lead singer; his rough-around-the-edges bandmate, Richard Hughes, slowly making his way towards our table.

We're in a Dublin hotel. Some of the band members were out the night before.

"I'm fine, actually," says Hughes. "We went to a place called the Palace Bar. They do their own whiskey, don't they?"

Indeed they do. So you sampled some?

"No, I can't do whiskey! I've tried. About once a decade I try because I think I might be mature enough to cope, but every time it's like, 'oh my God, how do people drink whiskey?'"

Both Chaplin (33) and Hughes (36) are well used to answering questions. After all, Strangeland, an accomplished if muddled offering, is Keane's fourth studio album release in eight years. The East Sussex quartet (bassist Jesse Quin became a permanent member last year) have sold more than 10 million albums worldwide. The Americans love them. Their lead singer turned his life around after a drink and drug addiction threatened to ruin it all.

For Strangeland, Chaplin and Co set up shop at multi-instrumentalist and chief songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley's home studio and agreed that the album would be ready when it was ready.

"We were just a band in a studio for the first time in a long time, playing together," says Chaplin. "It's always dangerous territory to say 'it feels like the best thing we've ever done' but it really feels strong to me."

I ask Chaplin about returning to the road and if touring helps him to stay focused after a heavy battle with alcohol and cocaine so early in the band's career.

"My life seems divided between these two extremes of being this person who's out on stage, pouring my heart out to thousands of people, and feeling this intense energy coming back from them -- this real beautiful, emotional connection. And the other side is a part of me that wants to go away and be on my own.

"My struggle in life is to try and find somewhere that's a middle ground. And every day I have to try and do that, and it's tough. Being out on the road definitely does give me a bit more focus."

>Chris Wasser

Strangeland is out now


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