By now you've probably heard of a little band named Coldplay.
The band has sold some 50 million albums; won Grammys, the U.K.'s Mercury Prize and many other awards; and had songs such as "Yellow" featured in commercials that reach just about every household with electricity.
The very un-urban group has even made its name at least recognizable among the BET set, courtesy of collaborations with Jay-Z and Kanye West.
Having been elevated to stadium rock demigods - this generation's U2, if you will - the members of Coldplay could not be faulted for becoming a tad bored or jaded. They've been together for more than 10 years, having formed in 1998 while students at University College London. How have they retained interest in both the band and the music over all these years?
"It's inherently interesting," says Will Champion, drummer and unofficial spokesman for the group, which will perform at the Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater on Wednesday. "We have been doing it a long time. Our commitment to music is what keeps it fresh. Every day there are new bands to listen to, something to make you think of music in a slightly different way."
Champion says the band broke from its usual routines in recording its latest album, "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends," by working with Brian Eno, a one-time member of Roxy Music. Previously, Champion, lead singer Chris Martin and the other members of the group - guitarist Jonny Buckland and bassist Guy Berryman - would more or less go into a studio and spontaneously create music.
Martin would typically start them off with a melody or parts of a song, and the rest of them would collaborate until a song formed. This time, Eno had them do something drastically different.
"We would come in and pick a (homemade) card from a deck that had different strategies," he said. "You'd pick one, and then you'd do what it says on the card, and it would yield some very interesting results. It might say 'percussion' or 'guitar' and force you to do something you weren't expecting to do. He tried his hardest to knock us off balance a bit and approach things from a different angle."
Champion has been toying with new technology - specifically new drum software that's encouraged him to make sounds exponentially different from the (good) plodding of memorable Coldplay songs like, say, "Clocks."
There's even been speculation that the band is considering making dance music, which, as any Coldplay fan knows, is a complete turnaround. (People used to joke that if you wanted to put an end to a raucous party in your apartment, put on some Coldplay.)
"We're definitely trying all types of approaches," Champion said, while avoiding calling their latest experiments "dance" per se. "We're using different tempos... different time signatures. We're doing stuff that makes us feel like we haven't done it yet."
None of it has been released yet, he said, and their experimentation isn't being made with the intention of creating an album; it's just the kind of artistic exploration that keeps them interested in what they do.
When Coldplay does release its next album, chances are it'll be distributed in a novel way, too. The band already is giving away CDs of live material at shows on this tour, a move prompted in part by a lousy economy.
"People who invested in us early on have spent time and money and energy listening to us. We felt it was a nice gesture to repay that favor in some way." (Not that they're hard up for cash: Most often when they're touring, the guys pick a hotel home base - say, New York - and then fly to each gig, to ease the grueling physical demands of moving from city to city every week.)
Yet even though Coldplay is looking for novel ways to release its music, and even though Champion is the group's super-nice, down-to-earth mouthpiece, don't look for him on Twitter.
"I feel like I would get very sucked into that," he says of social networking sites. He's a family guy who usually goes unrecognized when out and about, even in London. "I would end up spending more time at a computer than with my family. We do have people that keep up with that. I just think most people I don't speak to I don't speak to for a reason."
One thing he finally is speaking about is the re curring allegation that Coldplay plagiarizes from other musicians. Earlier in May, Yusef Islam (previously known as Cat Stevens) became the fourth artist to claim that Coldplay engaged in some heavy lifting. They'd long refused to comment on the allegations, but Champion wants to set the record straight.
"It's tough when people accuse you of stealing something when you know that you didn't. So, we accept that it's part of the territory and know it is only for some reason, God only knows why, the successful songs seem to be the ones that are accused of being stolen.
"It's a very difficult thing to define. There are only eight notes in an octave, and no one owns them. And there are probably about 12,000 songs that feature the exact same chord progression. I think it lies on an intent to steal, which we certainly have never done and never would. So it's unfortunate, but it's the way people are. That's that. We're confident we haven't done anything wrong."
And frankly, their fans probably don't care. Coldplay has brought them so much joy and, as Champion alludes, will continue to.
"We want everyone to feel like they're having a wonderful time at our shows. We are thankful for what we do, and we are happy to make people happy in some small way."
Want to go? Coldplay at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater
, Wednesday, May 20