Considered internationally as one of the most inspired bands of both the rock and pop genre, Coldplay transforms the sounds of many genres with their note-defying, expansive instrumentation, and bittersweet lyrical storytelling.
The British band brought their iconic and intimate sound to the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ, playing songs like “Yellow,” “Paradise,” “Viva La Vida,” “Charlie Brown,” “Fix You,” and “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall.”
Despite the early hour, lead singer Chris Martin met Kevin & Bean‘s quips with cheeky, self-deprecating humor and adeptly answered questions about their age and the longevity of their songs, whether they are going to “get fat like Axl Rose,” the quirky name of their upcoming album, how their original name Starfish first came about, and how a certain Coldplay song may or may not have inspired an impotent horse.
“I think it was one of our biggest blessings…We’d never have gotten to meet U2 without it,” jokes Chris Martin, the ofttimes tongue-in-cheek lead singer of Coldplay. “Anytime we have anything that’s even moderately successful we’re surprised because we’re English.”
Martin is speaking of Coldplay’s song “Yellow,” a song that is considered by many to be the breakout hit that made them internationally successful–despite the popularity of other singles from their début album Parachutes like “Trouble” and “Shiver.”
A song over a decade old and with a plethora of other songs in Coldplay’s catalog, “Yellow” is still both one of the most requested and most memorable songs written by the band.
Drummer Will Champion, considered by Martin to be the voice of “sonic reckoning” in the band, told Kevin & Bean that regardless of the age of “Yellow,” the song “still means the same thing…Like Chris said, it helped us immensely when we first started out.”
Just as they ostensibly started their career with the song “Yellow,” Coldplay also started their set at the Red Bull Sound Space with the same song. A song about unrequited love, “Yellow” still sonically swells with an innocent hope, perhaps an entreaty of acceptance to their then-new audience.
Even though they started out as appealingly naïve and girl-crazy young lads at university, these days the members of Coldplay seem more accomplished as both artists and adults. Age has served them well as artists and the band jokingly said that they plan to live it up while they can.
“We’re all between thirty-two and thirty-four now, so we only have a limited time with our bass player being so handsome,” quips Martin. “We can go painting and rock climbing when we’re a lot older.”
Known for his light-hearted sarcasm on stage, Martin is charming albeit a bit nebulous when talking about the meaning behind the title of Coldplay’s upcoming album Mylo Xyloto. Martin apologized for the confusing name, but not without a wink.
“It’s a strange title. I agree and I’m sorry for that…But it had to be called that. Maybe it’s because it couldn’t be called anything else…Like Dr. Pepper, or Coca-Cola or Google.”
In fact, Martin recently gave another equally vague answer to the New York Times, saying:
“Music comes from a place we don’t know…It sort of comes through the fingers and toes. So we came up with the idea of, what if you had musical digits, like xylo toes.”
And according to the same article, Mylo is “just a great name for anything.”
Regardless of the name of Coldplay’s fifth studio album, the cohesive, almost cinematic album full of what Bean described as musical “vignettes” is also heavy with single potential–like their second single from the album, “Paradise.”
“We are really trying to make albums like we’re putting together movies,” explained Martin. “We try to make it like journey and a story from start to finish…not just a collection of singles in a row.”
“Paradise” creates a sort of musical portamento with their first single “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” even containing a tie-in lyric with “the wheel breaks the butterfly, every tear a waterfall.”
For their second song of the morning, Coldplay performed “Paradise,” an anthemic Coldplay ballad with viscid strings, expansive guitars, and fluid piano.
Despite what Kevin & Bean insinuated as their British penchant for “self-deprecating” humor and tongue-in-cheek humility, Martin said that although many consider them to be the “biggest band in the world” that “it really doesn’t feel like that when you’re in the middle of it.”
“Like this room feels very similar to the first room we’ve ever played in.”
Life is still very much the same for the band who still gets a “rush” when they hear people singing along to their songs; still gets “tingly” when they hear their songs (even if someone else is singing them); and still loves hearing heart-warming stories about their fans such as the pair of Coldplay fans that met at a Coldplay gig, walked down the aisle to a Coldplay song, and named their baby “Chris Martin.”
Martin said sincerely: “We’re just so happy to have our job at this point. If somebody doesn’t like us, we don’t care. We only care about the people that do.”
And the self-deprecating humor is not an act, more like a way to turn unfortunate life circumstances into more agreeable ones.
“I think we’re interested in turning negatives into positives. Every kid is trying to do that at school…if we talked about it, it’s only to say that when people are really mean to you…don’t let that distract you from your vision,” Martin explains.
“In life, it’s good to learn how to take negative stuff like that and turn it into positives. Every time something happens like that, we just flip it around.”
“Have you seen Kung Fu Panda 2? Po learns how to turn that force around and send it back twice as strong.”
Which is essentially the message behind the next song Coldplay played this morning, the Frida Kahlo-inspired “Viva La Vida.” One of Coldplay’s most extensive storytelling songs, “Viva La Vida” jumps from grandiose instrumentation to gossamer vocals.
Mylo Xyloto was also sparked by artistic sentiments. Bassist Guy Berryman explained that the album is “very much inspired by street art and graffiti in ’70s and ’80s New York….to find these kind of splashes and color and expression in these otherwise kind of grey areas was very fulfilling to us.”
Coldplay’s fourth song of the morning, “Charlie Brown,” alluded to that shimmer of color and light in the dark moments of existence, like the expressive street art of New York.
A fiery, uptempo dance-jam with hints of ’80s pop, “Charlie Brown” brandishes evocative lyrics like “all innocent and wild, we’ll be glowing in the dark.”
When the band was “innocent” and, perhaps wild, their first name was Starfish, a name that barely lasted and which Martin joked was the product of his dad’s encouragement over breakfast sausages at a “railroad worker” café. A joke, of course.
In fact, what one might not ascertain from listening to a Coldplay song is that Martin’s comedic timing is almost equal to his lively stage presence.
When an audience member asked him what the “best story” he had heard from a fan that affected him was, Kevin & Bean were afraid he’d get too “gooey and emotional.”
Martin blithely retaliated with “we heard that there was a guy who couldn’t get his horse to breed probably and he played ‘Fix You’ and low and behold sexual intercourse took place and now he has the most expensive stud farm in Britain.”
“It’s not true of course. “
What is true is that the fifth song of their set, “Fix You,” has touched many of their fans around the world.
So many of them that they are able to see past their personal differences in an effort to continue vivifying their audience and regardless of an early tendency to tiff. Guitarist Jonny Buckland explained:
“We’re quite nice to each other. I think that helps. We have good lawyers…We had quite a lot of fights early on but learned to get over them…We’re not the best musicians…but we have the chemistry of each other.”
Competition within the band seems to have quelled and friendly competition with other artists like Kings of Leon, U2, Arcade Fire, and Adele keeps Coldplay on their toes, although the band cites artists like Lana Del Rey and Aloe Blacc as some of their favorite new artists.
They would also love to see what Kevin & Bean described as a “fat Axl Rose” perform with the original Guns ‘N Roses again. Martin explained:
“I think one of our dream things if we could ever make it happen is if we could get the original Guns ‘N Roses line-up to get back together. How can we do it?”
That prospect certainly seems unlikely, but with performances like Coldplay’s sixth song of the set, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” music fans will have plenty to keep them entertained. They will just have to live with “Paradise” instead of “Paradise City.”
Will Coldplay be performing while in their older years as they wish Guns ‘N Roses would?
“It all depends on our hips,” jests Martin. “Whether they can withstand the pressure.”