Matchbox 20 strikes a low profile

August 18, 1998

Boston Globe

Normal guys. That's how a lot of musicians describe themselves, but it really holds true for Matchbox 20.

The band members don't have well-known faces or any compelling idiosyncrasies that land them in the gossip columns. All they do is sell records -- 7 million copies, in fact, of their debut album, "Yourself or Someone Like You," which has outsold the latest discs by Puff Daddy, the Dave Matthews Band and just about anyone else this side of Celine Dion.

"We're just normal guys playing normal music," says singer Rob Thomas, whose Orlando-based band headlines a Pine Knob show tonight that includes Soul Asylum and Semisonic. "We're confident, but we never make any claims about how great we are. There are a lot of bands that we like more than we like us," says Thomas, 26.

As to whether Matchbox 20 will try to blow away Soul Asylum and Semisonic, Thomas sticks to his populist mode by saying, "It's not about competition. A lot of people are just coming to see a show. For them it's just a night away from everything, a night away from work. It's going out and having some beers with friends. I think that's how you have to look at it."

Matchbox 20 has adroitly straddled the line between mainstream rock and alternative rock. The band's lyrically driven guitar pop has resulted in such smash hits as "Real World" ("I want the real world to stop hassling me!" Thomas sings), "3 A.M.," "Long Day" and "Push." All the while, the band has kept its humility.

"We don't know what's hip," says Thomas. "So we're just going to stick with what we do -- and hopefully we'll pull a Tom Petty and manage to continuously make good records, fanfare or no fanfare."

Thomas almost takes pride in declaring that he and his band mates are not known visually, despite extensive play on MTV.

"I just think we have these forgettable faces," he says. "I went to Universal Studios with my girlfriend recently and we went through all these lines and not once did we have any hassles. And I think that's great. I don't think it's good when everywhere you go, you have people who think they know you. I think we're better off this way."