ACL Music Festival Interviews
Sunday, 8:30pm, SBC stage
"You know, it's the same four people who sat in my bedroom nine years ago and tried to hammer out some songs. We're still exactly the same just with less hair and more body hair."
Jonny Buckland, guitarist for superstars Coldplay, tries to explain what it's like being in one of the biggest bands on the planet. It's hard to put in perspective. Ever since the London fourpiece broke through with 2000's beautiful Parachutes, Coldplay has escalated to a level that bands only dream of. There's U2, Radiohead, and then Coldplay. Could anyone have predicted this?
"I don't think we could see that far ahead," Buckland grins. "We thought it was good. I thought it was the best stuff I'd ever done, and I think everybody felt the same. We had something different and good. We didn't really think we had any limitations to where we could go, but you never imagine this shit."
When a band masters sweet, pure love songs, something honest and basic while still being heartfelt, they become much more than music on the radio. They become a sort of universal language. No matter what corner of the Earth, everyone knows the words to "Yellow."
2003's worldwide tour behind sophomore release A Rush of Blood to the Head put Chris Martin & Co. in the spotlight more than ever before. Rush of Blood was more complicated than their debut: The sound was bigger, fit for arenas, and the tunes broke the mold of their previous release. While Coldplay still reached out to folk of all stripes, songs like the cacophonous "Politik," staccato "Clocks," and the title track provided more juice, more feeling, and proved that lightning does strike twice. Of course, the band's popularity didn't exactly wane when Martin married actress Gwyneth Paltrow, a fairy tale if there ever were one.
"It leaves us in a very good position," Buckland slyly explains of his college buddy's garnered attention, "because the only people who know who I am generally like what we do. People who don't like us know who Chris is."
This year provided a landing ground for third release X&Y, an album in the same vein as Rush of Blood. With each arena show, Coldplay feels a little more comfortable in that environment. While Parachutes was made of simple love songs, X&Y begs for lights, smoke, and a killer PA.
"You get used to how big a place is, and you think that's fine," Buckland says. "Then you go somewhere that you would've previously thought was absolutely enormous, and it feels small. It's very strange. It feels intimate. You play an arena gig, and it feels intimate.
"This year we came to America and did some small gigs. It was great. You feel like you've got to start again with each record and also work out how to play it live in front of not too many people, so it's not completely embarrassing when you're terrible. It's nice to start that way because there's no smoke and mirrors or anything. It's just you and your instruments, which is what really matters in the end."
From Coachella to Live 8 to Zilker Park, Coldplay is slowly becoming a festival veteran, which makes perfect sense. Their extravagant, magical live shows are suited for open spaces.
"Festivals are great because it's just a big celebration of music," says Buckland. "It's just really cool. Everything's a bit more easygoing, really. There's not so much pressure on you because if you're crap, there will always be another band that will be good. But obviously you want to be good."
With an expected 65,000-person sell-out Sunday night as the sun sets behind the main stage, it's hard to imagine those four young British lads being anything less than overwhelmed.
"I think you can get used to a lot of things," Buckland says, "but not that."