On their long-awaited second album, matchbox twenty open their sound by emphasizing background vocals and woven guitars while adding horns, orchestral arrangements and big-band elements, the album's producer said.
"It was very much about trying new things," said Matt Serletic, who also produced matchbox twenty's debut, Yourself or Someone Like You (1996).
Serletic pointed to the amalgamation of synthesizer and guitar on the album's first single, "Bent," as an example of the experimentation that marked the group's recording sessions for mad season by matchbox twenty, due May 23.
Serletic called "Bent" "a whole new dimension" for the band. "It's got this raw power to it that comes from creating this darkly, sonically rich palette of textures," he said.
When it came time to record the new LP, the group acted more like a fledgling garage band than a multiplatinum rock group. The quintet, which formed in the mid-'90s in Orlando, Fla., took refuge from the studio to jam in the basement of a rented cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.
"We were back to playing in the basement like your high school rock bands," said Serletic, who co-wrote two of the album's songs with frontman Rob Thomas. "We'd spend a couple weeks at a time really honing these songs until we had something we felt really connected to."
The band then returned to an Atlanta studio to continue recording the album. Mad season by matchbox twenty features 13 songs that range from hard-charging rock to serene ballads to midtempo pop tunes.
Touring, Marriage Influence Recording
Serletic said the new album testifies to the bandmembers' growth as musicians a result of two years on the road. The group features Thomas, guitarists Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor , bassist Brian Yale and drummer Paul Doucette.
"They were a young band when we made that first record," Serletic said. "Every musician in the band has developed his own really unique musical approach. ... Technically, the band couldn't be in better form, and creativity, the ideas that were bouncing back and forth from the whole band was so exciting."
Thomas wrote all of the album's 13 songs, penning 10 alone. He and Serletic co-wrote the midtempo "Last Beautiful Girl" and the ballad "Bed of Lies," while the singer collaborated with Doucette on the rocker "Stop."
Both of the songs Serletic and Thomas wrote together came about during the band's retreat to the mountains. "Bed of Lies," like most of the album's songs, explores the emotional complexity of a relationship.
Serletic and Thomas, who are each newly married, wrote the lyrics after reflecting together "on the excitement about having lifelong companions and ... how we have to watch it so it doesn't go astray," the producer said.
"As a writer, Rob is really about those human-interaction moments," Serletic said of the album's themes. "I think that's why people gravitate to him as a writer, because he really goes into the essence of a relationship."
'Perfectly Set Up'
Thomas won three Grammys this year for his collaboration with Santana on the song "Smooth" (RealAudio excerpt), which Serletic produced. Thomas said in February that the song's success and the bump it gave his stature as a songwriter and performer didn't inflate his expectations for the new album.
"It's been such a high that there's really no other place to go but down," he said backstage at the 42nd annual Grammy Awards. "You don't want to get too ahead of yourself."
"Smooth" has provided matchbox twenty with a larger audience to work with, according to Chris Tanner, who from 19941995 booked an embryonic version of the group called Tabitha's Secret.
"Rob Thomas was a major rock star before he worked with Carlos Santana," Tanner said. "But because of his [increased visibility] and presence with every age level, I think it's perfectly set up for the album to do phenomenally well."
The track listing for mad season by matchbox twenty is: "Angry," "Black & White People," "Crutch," "Last Beautiful Girl," "If You're Gone," "Mad Season," "Rest Stop," "The Burn," "Bent," "Bed of Lies," "Leave," "Stop," and "You Won't Be Mine."
Matchbox twenty, who previously spelled their name "Matchbox 20," have sold nearly 7 million copies of Yourself or Someone Like You, according to SoundScan. The LP featured the hits "Push," "Real World" (RealAudio excerpt) and "3 am."
The band will travel to Europe in June for an extensive tour, but only six dates have been announced so far.
Matchbox twenty tour dates:
June 10; Nurburgring, Germany; Rock Am Ring
June 11; Nuremberg, Germany; Rock Im Park
June 12; Hamburg, Germany; Grosse Freiheit 36
June 15; London, UK; Apollo Hammersmith
June 16; Manchester, UK; Manchester University
June 18; Glasgow; UK; Old Fruit Market