Let's let Rob Thomas, MB20's singer and main songwriter, tell about some of the band's fans. "I'm sitting here with a polaroid of me and Trisha Yearwood," Thomas says during a phone conversation before a concert in Pensacola, FL. "She loves us. You wouldn't expect that, this big country star. She was like, giddy. Of course I was giddy. I was like 'Oh my gosh- Trisha Yearwood.'"
Then came the incident two weeks ago at the AMA's. "The guy from Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony walked past us and said, 'You guys got a really good record, you guys are good.' Thomas recalls, "You don't expect that...to happen."
Well, maybe you should when your no-frills but edgy, semi-rootsy-rock album has sold 3 million copies and is quickly approaching 4 mil.( it's now certifed 5 million). Maybe you should when your album has been on the Billboard's best-seller charts for an amazing 45 weeks, while albums from such heavy hitters as U2 and Rolling Stones, came and went in a lightning flash. Maybe you should when such hits as "Push", "3am", and "Long Day" have sprawled across radio and MTV like so much sonic and video kudzu. Maybe you should when your concert at the Ryman on Monday is Sold Out.
Thomas says that the band isn't upset by critics barbs, and his happy-go-lucky tone of voice convinces you he means it. "It's like a test from God, the Great-Spirit or whoever you are praying to these days, to see if you are an asshole or not." He says. "If you sell going on 4 million records and you have fans and people supporting you, and you and your friends and family are healthy - if a couple of critics don't like you, you have to be a real jerk to be offended and start going, 'Man, my life is shit. I can't believe I don't get any respect.'"
But Thomas is clearly miffed that the controversy over the song "Push" continues. He's repeatedly said that the lyrics don't refer to physical violence, that anyone who listens closely can tell that the song explores the manipulation and emotional violence of a bad relationship.
"Still 'Time' magazine called us and Prodigy two of the worst records of the year because it was misogynistic rock." Thomas says. "It really upset me because if you are not going to like us because you think we suck, that's one thing. But to say that we are one of the worst bands becaue we're misogynistic rock? That means one, you didn't listen to our whole record. Two, you didn't actually listen to the one song you heard. It's uninformed opinion. Critics have the responsibilty to be informed."
In any event, The matchbox20 juggernaut continues-the band's album moved up a spot to No. 6 on the most recent Billboard chart. The band has its theories on why its music is clocking such big numbers... "The main feedback we get from people is that they take the album personally. They listen to it and use it in certain parts of their lives. We were playing in New York and we were drivin' to the next town. Me and Paul were looking at each other and going...'Man, three million albums- that's amazing!' We all ran to the front of the bus and listened to the record for the first time in six months. We were all up there smoking like chimneys and saying...'I dont know if I get it.'"
Thomas points out that while critics of Rolling Stone blasted the band the magazine's readers voted matchbox20 Best New Band. That paradox leads Thomas to muse: "If thats the way its going to be the rest of my life, if critics aren't going to dig it but music listeners and fans are, I'm fine."