Coldplay leaped headlong into the unknown with Viva La Vida. Frontman Chris Martin traded in his customary falsetto for a lower register. Bandmates Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, and Guy Berryman experimented with raucous dissonance. And with help from legendary producer Brian Eno, the English quartet obliterated the earnest rock formula that made them global superstars. The risk paid off: Viva La Vida sold 1.8 million copies, and its title track scored 2.56 million (paid) downloads. Martin called EW between tour stops to discuss the year.
EW: Viva La Vida expanded your sound considerably. Where do you go next?
Chris Martin: It only came out about three weeks ago — that’s how it feels. We’re just getting to the point where we’re having a great time playing it live. [Pauses] I’m 31 now, and I don’t think that bands should keep going past 33, so we’re trying to pack in as much as possible.
EW: Really? Nothing past 33?
CM: Well, we definitely know what we’d like to do up until the end of next year, and that’s just go for it in every sense.
EW: On Saturday Night Live last month, you played three songs, instead of the usual two. Why?
CM: Well, as you know, SNL is a comedy show, and a lot of people think of our band as a joke. So that’s maybe why they let us play more.
EW: With the evolution of the band’s sound, how do you feel about playing your older songs?
CM: We’re always happy to play ”Yellow” or ”Clocks” or ”Fix You” or whatever it is, because they’ve been passports to get us where we are.
EW: You’re about to release an EP, Prospekt’s March, on Nov. 25. How did that come together?
CM: When we had to hand our album in, there were songs we loved that we just hadn’t gotten time to do. Over the summer, we finished them and added new ones. We were waiting to see how Viva went down, and then we would decide if we were brave enough to put out these other ones.
EW: The EP features a new version of ”Lost!” with a rap verse from Jay-Z. Why that direction?
CM: We’ll work with anyone that we love, and obviously we love Jay. But we’ve done that now, so the most interesting thing that we could do is the complete opposite, and play banjo on a Miley Cyrus record. Which I would equally be as thrilled to do.
EW: So what do you think has made Coldplay one of the biggest bands in the world?
CM: The reason we’re the biggest band in the world at the moment is because the others are on holiday. That’s how you get your breaks. That’s how the understudy gets his opportunity. While U2 and Green Day are away, we’ve gotten to make the most of it. But I don’t think it’s got anything to do with talent. There’s people much more talented than us that aren’t famous, and people that are much less talented who are much more famous.
EW: You’ve been promoting the hell out of this album. Are you looking forward to time off?
CM: I don’t believe in time off. We’ve still got most of our hair, and we can still fit into our musical trousers. We have to make the most of that!