How rehab, chitchat, and Michael Jackson helped the British trio create ''Perfect Symmetry''

By Shirley Halperin
Updated October 17, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

EW You’ve been practically inseparable since childhood. How can you still stand each other at this point?
Tom Chaplin, vocals At the end of 2006, things were looking pretty grim. Becoming famous — I thought that would be great, but as soon as it started happening, it was a big turnoff. Then we stopped talking to each other. Classic British men: We internalized things and ended up on the verge of explosion.

EW What turned it around?
Chaplin I had a spell sorting myself out in rehab, which was a pretty dark time — things ground to a halt and we were at our most desperate. But we talked a lot and remembered that the band and our friendship were too important and it was crazy to sacrifice that.

EW Much of Symmetry has an ’80s feel. One fan even called it a Top Gun sound. Compliment or insult?
Chaplin Top Gun was actually the first record I ever bought, so I’m okay with that. But the funky, upbeat, flamboyant ’80s vibe of Thriller may have been an indirect influence. I worshipped Michael Jackson as a kid.
Tim Rice-Oxley, keyboards Our decision to not restrict ourselves by good taste was liberating.

EW You’ve also added guitars for the very first time.
Richard Hughes, drums To me, allowing a saxophone on the track [”Pretend That You’re Alone”] is a much bigger deal. If you’d have said two years ago, ”On the next record, you’ll be so excited about the sax part,” I would’ve thought you were crazy.