Though he sang about being "pushed around" in his band's breakthrough
single, "Push," Matchbox 20 lead singer Rob Thomas said he's through with
being told what to do.
Though his band has hit it big with its quadruple-platinum debut album and
music industry types are clamoring for a piece of the action, Thomas
insists that he is not about to let his recent success dictate his
actions. Instead, the 26-year-old said he tries to maintain a real
distance from all the hysteria.
"We don't take ourselves real seriously," the singer explained. "It's
like a big
comic book. We look at all this success as a big joke. At first, it
all happened so quickly, we didn't really feel it, but now each time we
tour we feel it getting bigger and bigger."
Matchbox 20's hit LP, Yourself or Someone Like You, is holding
steady in a top 10 filled mostly with rap, soundtracks and pop. They are
nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Performance Duo or Group With Vocal.
Meanwhile, the band's current tour of the Eastern U.S. is selling out.
And videos for the first three singles from the album are still receiving
heavy rotation on MTV and VH1, as their latest single,
World" (RealAudio excerpt), is being readied for release.
Thomas can hear the record company knocking, and he's answering -- but in
his own time, he said. "At one point they were looking for a new record,"
Thomas said of the Atlantic Records desire for the group to record their next album. "But now with
all that's happened, I feel no pressure to jump right back."
Having spent some of his early years living on the streets of Orlando,
Fla., Thomas has seen a lot of hardship early in
life. Many of his songs reflect that, his lyrics focusing on broken
relationships or a broken home. The band's latest hit,
(RealAudio excerpt), deals with his mother's drinking problem, while "Real
World" tackles the issue of facing one's limitations.
Thomas certainly comes off as a smart guy, which perhaps accounts for his
careful approach to his career.
Or maybe he just remembers the sophomore experience of other young bands
who released a giant debut, only to see their second LP drag them into
obscurity. "We played the record company a few new songs, had a few beers,
and that's where we're at," he said.
Explaining that he's still in the writing stage of new material, he added
that he expects to bring his fellow bandmembers -- lead guitarist Kyle
Cook, 22; rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor, 34; bassist Brian Yale, 29; and
drummer Paul Doucette, 25 -- in to add their touch and make the songs into
complete tracks sometime later this year. Thomas had played in the band
Tabitha's Secret with Yale and Doucette before being introduced to the
other members by Yourself or Someone Like You's producer, Matt Serletic. A relationship
has since formed that, Thomas said, will last through the next album.
"Serletic is like another member of the band, so he'll definitely be
back," Thomas said, adding that the album will come out sometime in 1999.
In the meantime, Matchbox 20 will contribute a track to A Tribute to
Rumours (March 17), a record that revisits Fleetwood Mac's historic
mega-seller through the interpretations by a group of
artists that includes Jewel and the Goo Goo Dolls. Matchbox 20 covers
Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham's acoustic gem, "Never Going Back Again."
"We added a drum set, some drum loops, made it very Tusk," Thomas
said. Tusk was Fleetwood Mac's experimental follow-up to Rumours. "We did
it all in minor chords. We rearranged it 'til it almost becomes 'The
Chain,' " he added, referring to one of Fleetwood Mac's signature hits.
Those hungry for Matchbox 20 can also keep their fingers crossed for an
MTV "Live at the 10 Spot" segment, which Thomas described as likely to
happen in April. But not all of the attention the band has received has
been good. One particularly disturbing period came with criticism from
women's groups that the lyrics of "Push" advocated spousal abuse. Just as the
controversy seemed to be getting out of hand, Thomas answered critics by
describing the song as being based on a previous relationship in which he
was mistreated, not vice versa. "[The controversy is] over, because it
was basically about nothing," Thomas said.
But things have mostly been positive for Matchbox 20. Thomas even got to meet his hero, the
legendary singer Tony Bennett, at the American Music Awards in January,
where the band performed "Push." In addition, Matchbox 20 were chosen
last fall to join an elite group, including Pearl Jam and the Foo
Fighters, as openers for the Rolling Stones' "Bridges To Babylon" tour in
And as proof that Matchbox 20 are not about to let the music industry take
control of their career or their image, consider their presence on the
World Wide Web.
The band was less than overwhelmed with their official record company
website, so they made a better one, according to Thomas, referring to the
latest page at www.matchbox20.com. "We had a buddy of ours from IBM do the
graphics," he said. "And we update the site with notes from the road and
pictures from our digital camera." [Fri., Feb. 13,
1998, 9 a.m. PST]