3 Doors Down are living the rock 'n' roll dream: They're touring the country by bus and performing nearly every night in an effort to maintain the momentum of their hit song "Kryptonite."
The Mississippi Gulf Coast band's single (RealAudio excerpt) is #1 on the Radio & Records Rock and Active Rock charts and #7 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Frontman Brad Arnold, 21, said he hasn't been home since February, when the band's debut CD, The Better Life, was released. Bass player Todd Harrell, 27, said he misses going home for a shower after gigs and that he's seen the inside of one too many roadside burger joints.
"Yesterday we splurged a little bit and went to Red Lobster," he said, from Huntington, W.Va.
This is the band's first national tour, and Harrell said it was strange to find audiences singing along with their songs, word for word, in cities such as Boston and Philadelphia.
What's also made the road trip so much fun is that most of the bandmembers are like family. Arnold and guitarist Matt Roberts, 22, have known each other since they were kids in Escatawpa, Miss., a cozy town of 4,000, about 20 miles east of Biloxi. Harrell, he said, used to go out with his older sister in high school.
Guitarist Chris Henderson, 27, fell in with the band about two years ago. Drummer Richard Lyles, 27, joined just a few months ago, to free Arnold, who had drummed in addition to singing lead vocals.
Like many of the tunes Arnold wrote for the band, "Kryptonite" stresses friendship and sticking together through tough times. "It's just about living up to people's goals," he said. "And it's just kind of asking the question, 'If you look up to me, and I fall down, will you still be there for me? Will you still be my friend?' "
Kenny Vest, operations manager at WCPR-FM, said he's seen frenzy over "Kryptonite" building for more than a year since his Biloxi radio station first played the song on its Sunday night "Homegrown" show. One such night, he said he was driving around town listening to the tune, and his instincts told him it was a hit. "So the next day I called up and had the morning show play it as I drove into work," Vest said.
Reaction was immediate. "It was well past the family and the sisters and the bandmembers calling up. It was like just masses requesting the song." The station quickly put the song into heavy rotation, where it's been for more than a year.
"I think the lyrics 'If I go crazy then/ Will you still call me Superman?' is just a great hook," Vest said. "When they got signed [in June], we were a little concerned that maybe it would be just a regional hit, because they are a Southern-style band. But this thing has just exploded nationwide." Other bands popular on the Gulf Coast such as Better Than Ezra also went national, he notes, "but never to this magnitude."
Local promoter Glenn Mattina said he first booked the band for an outdoor show in November 1995, when they knew only a few cover tunes and couldn't play more than a 30-minute set. They were the first band on.
"Usually the first band is the youngest or the weakest," he said, "but the kids just took off from there." He liked their stage presence so much that he booked them to open shows for rockers Creed, Sister Hazel and Jonny Lang.
Next Single May Be 'Loser'
Now the band is debating whether to follow up "Kryptonite" with either "Loser" or "Duck and Run." Arnold said he realizes "Kryptonite" is what got them signed, "but in my opinion, I think there's so many better songs on the album with a lot more meaning to them."
"Loser" (RealAudio excerpt), he said, gets its unique sound from a studio technique. Producer Paul Ebersold and mixer Toby Wright made Roberts and Henderson learn to play the intro backward, then flipped it over to make it sound like the notes were being sucked into the speakers.
It's a depressing song that makes Beck's tune of the same name sound almost manic by comparison. "It's not really me calling myself or anybody else a loser," Arnold said. "The person I wrote that song about was a good friend who thankfully has straightened himself out now. But in coming up, he let cocaine grab a hold to his life and bring him down. So I tried to look through his eyes as to how he sees the world, and how he feels a reflection of his attitude."
Mattina said he thinks the band has five or six radio-ready tunes on The Better Life, plus whatever they're planning for their follow-up. He hasn't seen them since they hit the road two months ago, but he'll be ready when they come home. "We're looking forward to throwing a big party for them on the beach," he said.