Matchbox 20 catching fire

The Florida group isn't where it wants to be yet but is definitely reaching some milestones

By SHARI OKEKE -- London Free Press

Picture it, because you won't see it.

Six men arm-in-arm in a circle -- pants dropped to their ankles -- belting out America the Beautiful, followed by Always and Forever.

The ritual was to happen in New York Wednesday night and will happen again Friday night in London -- except for the dropped pants, maybe.

The members of matchbox 20, who appeared on Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday and will be at the Embassy on Dundas Street on Friday, never go on stage without first performing the ceremony with their tour manager.

"If we don't do it, bad things happen," drummer Paul Doucette said from a New York hotel room Tuesday.

The ritual, which is performed on the tour bus or in the dressing room, isn't always the same. Always and Forever is always part of the ritual. America the Beautiful is reserved for the last stop before leaving the U.S. and the first stop outside the U.S. Pants are only dropped before "a big show," Doucette said. That part may not happen in London.

But if the next year is anything like the last one, the members of matchbox 20 may find baring their briefs is not the exception but the rule.

The group, which formed about two years ago, is drawing greater audiences and playing larger venues. The concert in London is sold out.

matchbox 20's debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, was released in October and in the U.S. it was certified gold with about 500,000 copies sold. Push, the second single from the album, hit No. 1 on the modern rock charts Monday in the States, Doucette said.


"We're just excited. We're just happy. But I'm sure the whole thing could just fall apart tomorrow."

The band's keen awareness of how fast an "in" group can be "out" helps keep the members grounded, said Doucette.

Despite the whirlwind of success -- music videos, countless radio interviews, Letterman and a date for The Tonight Show this fall -- the group has maintained its perspective and a refreshing level of modesty.

Doucette admits they've worked hard, "but so have a lot of people."

He said he has "millions" of CDs at home by incredible musicians most people don't know of and probably never will. "And they put in just as much hard work, if not more, than we did."

But all the success has not come without criticism. Many reviews not only compare them to Counting Crows but accuse matchbox 20 of ripping off the Crows, Doucette said. He disagrees, but appreciates honest opinions, he said.

"There was one that said we spend our time sitting in Orlando in front of the mirror saying 'No, it's my turn to be Adam Duritz (Counting Crows' songwriter) now.' I thought it was so clever, I loved it and I saved it. I love bad reviews; I think they're funny as hell."

Counting Crows is just one of many influences, he said. Others include Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Elton John, REM, Indigo Girls and various jazz and rhythm and blues musicians.

What is matchbox 20's career goal? The 24-year-old drummer's response is simple and reflective of his generation: "To have a career."

So far that career has been a lot of learning -- about themselves and the business -- and a lot of excitement, Doucette said, adding that seeing the band in Rolling Stone magazine was a real high.


"I (thought): 'My God, I got a gold record and I'm in Rolling Stone all in the same day. This is pretty damn cool.' "

But there's more to learn and matchbox 20 is looking forward to it, he adds. They plan to release another single with a video in the fall, but haven't decided which one. Doucette also said they're anxious to get back into the studio to record new songs. In the meantime, they'll keep working toward their ultimate goal.

"We want people to come see us and walk out saying 'That's the best live band I've ever seen.' Are we there yet? Hell no. But that's what we'd like."