Life can really hang you up.
But remembering that we live in a beautiful world somehow helps. And when Chris Martin’s pacific lips are doing the reminding, it doesn’t hurt at all. Cascading along with the slow-leak UK invasion of introspective mellow, the kaleidoscopic flag of Martin’s band, Coldplay, has been raised to flap and flow in the cool breezes of critical and popular acclaim as often as it’s been torn down and hung out to dry.
The debut album by the four young chums (Martin, vocals; Jonny Buckland, guitar; Guy Berryman, bass; Will Champion, drums), Parachutes, won Best British Album and the band won Best British Group at the BRIT Awards in March. This Thursday, Coldplay headlines the State Theatre in its first Detroit appearance.
Part of its success is due to the overwhelmingly … er … overwhelming single, “Yellow,” a lilting body-bombast of maudlin and melodic melancholy, with a sliver of shivering hope and goose bumps. The majority of the album follows in this fall ’n’ float philosophy, hence the title,Parachutes. With such immediate success, however, you know the critics soon come running. Alan McGee, head of the dissolved Creation label, declared Coldplay “bed-wetter’s music.” And to say they take “influence” from such artists as Radiohead, Jeff Buckley or Travis is an understatement.
But Coldplay recognizes this critique and Martin even joked once before an encore at Sheperd’s Bush Empire, “OK then, we’ll do another hour of Travis covers,” as reported in January’s Select. And in an interview on a fan Web site, Martin said that the album’s other single, “Shiver,” with its quivering time changes and expressive falsetto, is a “direct nod” to Jeff Buckley. “He would have done it better,” he cracks.
Over the phone from his London flat during a “lovely summer’s evening,” Champion says that the band keeps its head by ignoring the hype and keeping the focus on the music at hand.
“We don’t really listen to it. We listen to the criticism of our friends and colleagues and the people that we trust. And that’s about it. We don’t react to it. We don’t even take notice of it really. … People make a lot of things up or read a lot of things into our interviews because we’re quite good at not giving too much of ourselves away. So people just make things up. Because of that, there’s been loads of stuff that’s been written about us, which is wrong and false, but it doesn’t really bother us because we don’t read it.”
The album has gone quadruple platinum at home, but the guys can still make a trip to the store without getting stopped or photographed.
The day Parachutes was completed, Champion’s mother died. And right around the time the buzz around the band hit its first climax, Buckland fell ill.
“There were periods when we lost focus about why we were in it,” Champion admits. “There was a bit when Jonny got ill at the beginning of last year and we had to cancel loads of things. We didn’t do any music for a month. We just did interviews. We kind of lost focus and one thing we learned was that the reason we were in it was because of the music and that’s what we love doing. The way to go forward was to keep writing music and that’s what we felt. We were ready to go for the next album.”
That album, Champion says, is written for the most part, but not recorded yet and they don’t know what it will be called.
“It’s a follow-up in terms of that it’s going to approach the same things — good melodies, overall good songs. But then again, there’s a chance for us to start fresh and we’ll definitely take advantage of that as well.”
The foursome, all between 22 and 24, met at University College London.
“We were just really good friends,” Champion says. “The other three, Jonny, Guy and Chris, would play together and they needed a drummer and I was just there. So I said I’d give it a go. It sort of went from there.”
His original instrument was guitar, but he played piano and “all sorts of other instruments.” But did he play drums at all? “Not until recently, no,” Champion quips.
And did he enjoy university life? “Absolutely. It gave us a lot of free time so we could be in a band. I did anthropology. I loved it. Very enjoyable, but of course by the end of it, my attention was focused on the band, really.”
While, as a band, this is Coldplay’s first time in Detroit, Champion has been to Michigan before. His father actually taught at the University of Michigan. “He was doing some work for the archeology department. We were in Michigan for a week.”
Champion also says he’s looking forward to seeing where Motown started. He used to listen to his mum’s Motown records as a kid growing up. Like Motown, Coldplay’s music has bridged continents. And the success so far hasn’t changed them too much, the drummer hopes.
“Success has made us want to do better. That’s all it’s done. It’s made us want to make a better record. In terms of stardom and fame, that doesn’t really mean too much. If it means we can keep playing music and making records, then it’s certainly something we accept, but it’s certainly not the reason we got into it.”