Coldplace, the world’s leading tribute band to the legendary Coldplay, opens up for the first time in fourteen years about their band, the music, and what it’s really like impersonating your idols, before they hit the stage at The Lights in Andover on 24th November.
Previously a very private band, much like the man Chris Martin himself, Coldplace talk about their band, their work and their time on the road. Here, frontman, Shane Crofts, lead guitarist, Dean Stewart, and drummer, Wayne Birch, answer a few questions about being in the most sought-after tribute band.
What first made you even think about being in a tribute band?
Shane: The idea of it appealed to me initially as it gave me the opportunity to play the songs I loved.
Dean: I’d helped Coldplace out by filling in for their guitarist when he wasn’t available in the past, and loved it. So when the opportunity came up to join the band full time, I couldn’t resist.
Wayne: I hadn’t really thought about it until one evening at college where I was studying music recording, that I spotted an advert on the board for a drummer and bassist for a Coldplay tribute band. I was in a covers band at the time, and had just started to enjoy Coldplay’s music, so it seemed worth pursuing. So I did, and 14 years and 700 gigs later, I’m still in the band.
How much work did you have to do to prepare for a show?
Shane: Preparing for a tribute show can take years, and I don’t think you ever feel you are at the top of your game, and you’re always wanting to improve, whether it be the sound or look.
Dean: Lots, and it never stops! We’re always looking for ways to improve the show and improve our performances individually. I’ve spent a lot of time and small fortune building a guitar setup that even Jonny Buckland would be proud of!
Wayne: If I recall correctly, we spent about six months rehearsing before we performed our first show. Back then there wasn’t much of a stage show, so the preparation was largely just learning and perfecting the songs.
When studying the real band, what aspects do you concentrate on most?
Shane: Studying the real band is a must, and the first is the music, and the way they play their songs to a live audience. When we have perfected the songs, there is then a lot of timer spent on the visual aspect of the show, watching footage of them on stage for hours on end, pausing after a few seconds and ensuring every last detail is included.
Dean: We all study the person we are representing individually, which includes every detail such as the clothes, the instruments, the sound, the way they move. We also study aspects of the show as a whole, set design, lighting etc.
How far do you go to replicate the real band’s look?
Shane: I’ve had some haircuts to keep up with Chris Martin’s look. Admittedly some didn’t look as good on me than him! The time I grew my hair was not a good look for me, and the first time I wore tight trousers during their Viva la Vida era, I felt people would just burst out laughing as soon as I walked on stage. I actually got back in the van straight away after putting them on! I also make sure I have the same shoe laces, and have learnt origami to make the paper stars they use.
Dean: We’ve spent months designing and building the stage show. We speak to the companies that build the show for Coldplay, and try to work out how we can build something similar within our budget and scale. For the current ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ Show which we will be touring with, we have recreated the full height flower curtains at the back of the stage, and a huge custom built video screen in the shape of the ‘Flower of Life’ from the album cover.
Wayne: I have the same minimal hair that Will Champion has, and I do make sure I wear the same clothes. In the Viva La Vida era, I made my own jacket to match Will’s, and in the current ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ era, I’m sporting a t-shirt with the silver flower of life.
How do you learn Coldplay’s music?
Shane: We learn their music by studying the live versions, and after fourteen years we still adjust the sound of certain songs. If we notice something that sounds slightly different, we change it.
Dean: Mostly by ear and watching the many videos online. We spend a lot of time on the individual sounds. For example, we don’t just use a standard piano sound, it’s crafted specifically to sound like Chris Martin’s piano.
Wayne: Listening to it on repeat and watching live videos, and then lots of practise.
Take us through a typical day on the road.
Shane: It normally starts early where we all meet, jump in the van, stop for petrol, food and coffee first. For those of us in the back of the van, we play a few games on the Playstation. In the front we’ll be listening to the set and talking about what we want to add to the show, such as confetti canons, pyrotechnics etc., but unfortunately not all the venues allow us to use these.
Dean: When we arrive at the venue it’s usually straight on with setting up the show and sound checking. If there’s any down time before a show, we like to play table tennis, and we usually carry a set with us.
Have you met the real band?
Shane: Yes, I have met Chris three times, and the whole band once. Chris was really nice, and I did mention to him I was in a tribute to his band, and we were just on our way to Russia to a show. He was really keen the next time I spoke to him, to find out how our show went.
What is the biggest gig you have done to date?
Shane: We headlined the main stage at the Matthew Street Festival in Liverpool, where there was a crowd of 60,000 people. The atmosphere was just incredible. The police had to stop people coming into the main stage area.
What is the craziest thing that has happened at a gig?
Shane: Probably getting mistaken for the real Coldplay in the Dominican Republic. We came offstage to a line of around 100 people waiting for autographs and pictures. It wasn’t until the end of the night that we realised they thought we were the real deal!
Dean: Wayne once forgot his passport when we were going to Europe for some shows, so we hid him in the back of the van! I’m not sure we’d get away with that nowadays as port security is much tighter!
Wayne: I can’t really reveal my craziest story if it’s before the watershed!