Few bands are as polarizing as Coldplay, who, for the better part of their career, have been both hailed and derided for their U2 leanings, clichéd lyrics, and snoozy sound. Meanwhile the British foursome managed to sell over 30 million albums seemingly effortlessly in their decade together as a band, with their last release, X&Y, debuting at No. 1 in 22 countries. Indeed, back in 2005, Coldplay was certifiably the biggest band in the world, but how do you hold on to that title in today’s dismal music-buying climate and do you even want to? The members of Coldplay are torn on this issue, but with their ambitious fourth album, Viva La Vida, due out June 17 (see the EW review), they’re giving world domination one more shot.
EW caught up with the band at their North London recording studio barely 24 hours after ”Violet Hill,” Coldplay’s first new song in three years, hit British airwaves, and found four anxious, adrenalized, and slightly apprehensive lads trying their hardest to look forward not back (except, strangely enough, when it comes to Limp Bizkit).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When ”Violet Hill” first premiered on Britain’s Radio 1, the Mirror reported that you were too nervous to stay in the studio and listen to it — is that true?
CHRIS MARTIN, vocalist/keyboards/guitar: Well, once we finish something, I can’t really listen to it because all I hear are problems. And I mean the most nerdy, anal problems I can’t even describe in an interview because it would look so terrible in print, but I’m talking EQs and sibilants and all that crazy stuff. Because most of the album ended up being [recorded] live, the whole record is just very well-organized mistakes.
JONNY BUCKLAND, guitarist: Yeah, we just had to find the right ones.
And you also hired a hypnotist during the sessions? What was that about?
BUCKLAND: [Producer] Brian Eno knew a hypnotist and we thought it might get some interesting results. We all went upstairs, sat down, and he walked around us. He got us into some strange kind of trance, and we came down and played some more.
MARTIN: Quite a long time, I think. It did work, actually. We came up with a lot of interesting noises, which we used. I think the whole process of getting our own place and working with Brian has been really liberating for us. Because it was starting to become a little difficult to be in Coldplay — there’s so much opinion, expectation, and criticism. We wanted to be free from that for a bit, to try things and just be a little group, which Brian really spearheaded. So things like the hypnotism, all these little crazy experiments that he tried with us was just an effort to say, ”It’s OK. Not everybody hates you because you’re in Coldplay. Just play some music and don’t worry about it.” After about a month of working with him, we literally forgot that we’d ever been on tour or had any other records out.
Speaking of getting flack for being in Coldplay, how did you guys feel being on the receiving end of jokes, like the classic ”know how I know you’re gay?” line from The 40 Year-Old Virgin?
MARTIN: I think that’s kind of something to be proud of. I’ve never been anything but delighted by that.
GUY BERRYMAN, bassist: You’ve got to laugh. I don’t particularly see it as derogatory, I thought it was funny.
Were you made aware of it ahead of time?
MARTIN: No, I was just watching [the movie] on a plane. Anything where we’re the butt of the joke, no one tells us about it. [Laughs] But I think it’s nice to be big enough to be unfashionable. It’s a luxury problem.
NEXT PAGE: ”With Brian, he’s not snobby about any kind of music. He’d say, ‘Listen to this Donna Summer track and then this Boyz II Men track.”’