Members include Guy Berryman (born April 12, 1978, in Fife, Scotland), bass; Jonny Buckland (born September 11, 1977, in London, England), guitar; Will Champion (born July 31, 1978, in Hampshire, England), drums; Chris Martin (born March 2, 1977, in Devon, England; married Gwyneth Paltrow,
Record company —Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028–5209. Website — http://www.coldplay.com .
Group formed in London, England, mid–1990s; made debut with Safety EP, 1998; released first album, Parachutes, 2000; released follow–up album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2002.
Brit Award for best British group, 2001; Brit Award for best British album, for Parachutes, 2001; New Music Express Carling Award for best new artist, 2001; New Music Express Carling Award for best single, for "Yellow," 2001; New Music Express Carling Award for Session of the Year, for a live BBC show, 2001; Brit Award for best British group, 2003; Brit Award for best British album, for A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2003; Grammy Award for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocal, Recording Academy, for "In My Place," from Coldplay Live 2003, 2003; Grammy Award for best alternative music album, Recording Academy, for A Rush of Blood to the Head, 2003; MTV Video Music Award for best group video for "The Scientist," 2003; MTV Video Music Award for breakthrough video for "The Scientist," 2003; MTV Video Music Award for best direction for "The Scientist," 2003; Grammy Award for record of the year, Recording Academy, for "Clocks," 2004.
British rock quartet Coldplay burst onto the music scene with its debut album Parachutes, released in 2000. Fresh, heartrending, and passionate, the album proved popular on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, capturing honors at both the Brit Awards and the Grammy Awards. Since then, Cold-play has become one of Britain's leading musical exports, filling venues across the United States with fans yearning to hear their searing love songs and haunting ballads. In 2002, the band released its second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, which also captured top musical honors. Ironically, lead singer Chris Martin credits the band's insecurity for its success. "I think our strength is not being sure if we're ever good enough, and so we're always trying to write a better song—or get a better suit," Martin told Sound & Vision writer Mike Mettler.
Martin is backed up by guitarist Jonny Buckland, bassist Guy Berryman, and drummer Will Champion. The four met in the mid–1990s at University College in London and became steadfast friends. Music had always been a part of Martin's life. As a youngster, he banged out songs on the family piano and joined his first band at 15. He grew up the oldest of five kids. Likewise, the other band members had been involved with music most of their lives. Soon after meeting, Martin and Buckland started writing songs together. Buckland had taken up the guitar after he discovered the psychedelic pop band the Stone Roses. Berryman liked Buckland and Martin's work and added his bass, which he had taken up at age 13. Champion thought the trio had a lot of potential and wanted to join. He ended up on drums, though he had never played them before. Growing up, Champion had concentrated on guitar, bass, and piano, but those positions were already filled.
Eager and anxious to see what they could come up with, the group rehearsed nearly every night during those first years. "We used to play in bathrooms, the basement, even in the park," Martin said in the group's biography posted on its website. "Anywhere we could find to play." The bandmates all lived in the same residence hall and stole the name Coldplay from another resident. It was the name his own band used, but he decided it was too depressing.
Eventually, all of those rehearsals paid off and the young men felt confident enough to make a recording, which they called Safety. The 500–copy, independently produced EP, released in 1998, earned the band a performance slot in the 1998 In the City music festival in Manchester, England, which featured unsigned bands. At the festival, they were discovered by Simon Williams, who offered to produce Brothers and Sisters on his Fierce Panda label. That EP was released in 1999 and Coldplay subsequently signed with Parlophone Records, who in the past had signed the Beatles and Queen. That year, Coldplay also released a 5,000–copy EP, The Blue Room, which included five new tracks.
In 2000, Coldplay released its first album, Parachutes, which quickly shot to the top of the British charts. It remained in the top ten for more than 30 weeks. For a rock album, it had a quieter sound than most bands, yet was full of raging emotion. "We were trying to say that there is an alternative," Martin said on the band's website. "That you can try to be catchy without being slick, poppy without being pop, and you can be uplifting without being pompous. Because we're sometimes playing quieter stuff, it's hard to sound like we're trying to change things, but we wanted to be a reaction against soulless rubbish."
Their approach worked. In sum, the album sold about five million copies worldwide and earned them a stack of honors. At the 2001 Brit Awards (the British Grammys), the band went home with both the Best British Group and Best British Album awards. That same year, Coldplay also won three NME (New Music Express) Carling Awards, for Best New Artist, Best Single ("Yellow"), and Session of the Year, for a live BBC show. Before releasing their album, the band had been playing in small pubs across Britain, but after the success of Parachutes, band members headed to the United States for their first headlining tour.
In October of 2001, the band started work on its second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head. By Christmas, the producers were satisfied that the album was complete. Coldplay members, however, felt the album needed something more. "There was a feeling it was almost going too smoothly," Buckland related on the band's website. "We were pleased with it, but then we took a step back and realized that it wasn't right. It would have been easy to say we'd done enough, to release an album to keep up the momentum, but we didn't." In the end, Buckland is glad they went back to the studio so they would have an album they were satisfied with and would be proud to tour with for two years.
The resulting album, released in August of 2002, was a bit more upbeat from the first and chock full of emotional beauty and maturity. By September, it sat atop both the UK and Canadian LP charts. Once again, the band's efforts proved award–winning. At the 2003 Brit Awards, A Rush of Blood to the Head captured awards for Best British Group and Best British Album. Coldplay also won two Grammy Awards, one for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "In My Place" and Best Alternative Music Album. The band spent 2003 on tour. Coldplay also collected several video awards at that year's MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Group Video, Breakthrough Video, and Best Direction, all for "The Scientist."
Coldplay has used its position in the rock world to promote its own political ideologies. Lead singer Martin has become a champion spokesman for Ox-Fam, a British humanitarian organization that campaigns for fair–trade practices in an effort to reduce worldwide poverty. After traveling to Haiti and the Dominican Republic to find out what some global–trade policies do to real people, the band was hooked on the cause. At concerts, Martin's piano often has the words "Make Trade Fair" scrawled across it. He scribbled the OxFam web address on his hand during the MTV Video Music Awards so he would be sure to include it in his winning speech. Martin also plugs the cause relentlessly during Coldplay's shows. Before a 2003 concert in Mexico City, the band visited with local farmers in the town of Santa Isabel Tepetzala. In 2003, Martin attended a World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting and presented the WTO with a four–million–signature petition seeking trade–rule reform; signatures had been collected at shows.
"Anyone in our position has a certain responsibility," Berryman noted on the band's website biography. He said the band has a great platform through its television appearances, records, and notoriety. "You can make people aware of issues. It isn't very much effort for us at all, but if it can help people, then we want to do it."
Martin used the 2004 Grammy Awards to stump for another cause. During the ceremony, Coldplay won the Record of the Year award for "Clocks." When Martin accepted the award, he took the opportunity to do a little political campaigning. According to Scotsman writer Tracey Lawson, Martin accepted the award by saying, "We would like to dedicate this to Johnny Cash [the late country singer] and to John Kerry, who hopefully will be your president some day." He also used the Brit Awards to call for an end to military action in Iraq.
Viewed as a cutting–edge alternative rock band in the United States, Coldplay remains wildly popular there, but often takes a beating back home. British tabloids love to poke fun at the clean–cut, public–educated rock stars, whom they label as terminally boring. There are no bad boys of rock 'n' roll here. Berryman, after all, earned a degree in engineering and Martin, whose degree is in ancient world studies, is thought to be the dullest of all. Martin reportedly loves cricket and rarely drinks. When he started dating actress Gwyneth Paltrow, the press had a heyday. The couple met in October of 2002 backstage at a Coldplay concert. According to Independent writers Ian Burrell and Andrew Gumbel, one British tabloid described the couple as "anti–starlet Paltrow (no wheat, no dairy, no fun) hooked up with anti–rock star Martin (no sex, no drugs, even less fun)." The couple had a daughter, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, born May 14, 2004. They plan to raise her in London. Martin did, however, generate some headlines in July of 2003 when he allegedly chased down a photographer in Australia. Though Martin was arrested, the charges were eventually dropped.
Q magazine's Gareth Grundy told the Independent that the band is getting a bad rap for its good–boy image. "People probably say they are boring because they are not cool and everybody likes to like things that are cool. But whether they are cool or not they are a really great band, both on record and live."
According to Time magazine writer Josh Tyrangiel, rock manager Alan McGee, the man who discovered Oasis, dubbed Coldplay "music for bed wetters." Martin, however, defended the group to Entertainment Weekly writer Mary Kaye Schilling: "We take s*** for being boring. It just means that instead of doing coke or partying with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, we lock ourselves away and think of a new chord."
Sitting around thinking about their music, however, is precisely what has made Coldplay so successful. They take the time to be involved in every aspect of album production, down to shooting their own album cover art. Even though their albums are produced with a major label, Coldplay members remain ardently independent in their approach. They keep tabs on everything from the videos to the artwork. They want to have a hand in everything that has their name on it.
Of course, when it comes right down to it, it is Coldplay's songs that makes them so popular. Speaking to Sound & Vision, Martin talked about what makes a good song good. "Songwriting is the crux, but the best records … are those where the sounds fit the song. There's no use putting amazing techno sounds on a song that just needs to be played on a blues harp; similarly, there's no point in having a nice oboe sound on a Nirvana record. But I'm not pretending to be an expert, because I sometimes hear our stuff and think, 'Ecch.'"
Safety EP, independently produced, 1998.
Brothers and Sisters EP, Fierce Panda, 1999.
The Blue Room EP, Parlophone, 1999.
Parachutes, Parlophone, 2000.
"Yellow" (single), Parlophone, 2000.
A Rush of Blood to the Head, Capitol, 2002.
Coldplay Live 2003, Capitol, 2003.
"Clocks" (single), Capitol, 2003.
Entertainment Weekly, December 26, 2003–January 2, 2004, pp. 36–37.
Independent (London, England), February 10, 2004, pp. 20–21.
Rolling Stone, October 16, 2003, p. 30; December 25, 2003/January 8, 2004, p. 83.
Scotsman, February 10, 2004, p. 7.
Sound & Vision, July/August 2001, p. 17.
Time, September 2, 2002, p. 71.
Time International, March 12, 2001, p. 58.
"Biography," Coldplay, http://coldplay.com/biogpage.php (May 15, 2004).
"Coldplay," Rock on the Net, http://www.rockonthenet.com/artists–c/coldplay.htm (May 27, 2004).
— Lisa Frick