The good oil on Matchbox 20

By Katherine Tulich, Sunday Mail (Queensland, Australia)

What a difference a year makes. Now the band that has become way bigger than a matchbox can afford to look after themselves. KATHERINE TULICH spoke to Matchbox 20

When Matchbox 20 first visited Australia in September last year, they happily crammed themselves into tiny backstage areas the size of shoeboxes and played their hearts out in sweaty clubs choked with sceptical media folk and a handful of fans.

What a difference 6.5 million album sales makes.

That's how much their debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, has sold worldwide.

Matchbox 20 are now undisputedly the new kings of mainstream rock. In Australia alone, the album spent 11 months in the top five, making it the biggest-selling album of the year.

Backstage at the newly built Coors Amphitheatre in sunny San Diego, the members of Matchbox 20 are on their final tour whirl before wrapping 21/2 years on the road in Australia this month.

The band are certainly enjoying the organic fruits of success, not to mention the herbal teas and homeopathic potions.

No crates of beers or lines of coke backstage. Instead Cindy, their massage therapist is redecorating the dressing rooms with candles, soft pillows, draped wall hangings and inspirational signs like "Passion". And then there's the "Therapy" room.

Inside incense burns, soft lights ignite and a table is filled with herbs, homeopathic treatments and special massage oils. Each band member is pampered with a one-hour massage before going onstage.

Cindy even watches the boys every night to advise whether they are using particular muscles in a certain way which will lead to problems later on.

"When people see 'therapy' they think we have a shrink backstage, that we tell our problems to - y'know my mum's not talking to me, or I wasn't playing too well tonight," joked raspy-voiced lead singer Rob Thomas.

"But so many bands now tour with a massage therapist - it's all about looking after yourself while you're on the road. But this is the first time we've been able to afford a massage therapist to tour with us."

Thomas sits in his personally decorated backstage area chain-smoking Marlboros.

While he's no stranger to late night partying, he admits it was time to pull on the reins.

"We used to be very excess. I was drinking every night and hardly had a voice the next day.

"We figured we've trashed ourselves enough, we might as well get all the help we can get."

The itinerant Thomas, who was born on a military base in Germany, grew up in Orlando, Florida and left home at 14, is happier to have more familiar surroundings around him these days.

"By decorating the dressing room each night the same way, it gives you the feeling that it's your room, a piece of home everywhere we go."

While he's looking forward to buying a New York apartment when he gets off the road, Thomas says that other than the backstage massages he's had little opportunity to enjoy his new high-profile status.

"About the only thing I've bought is a watch," he said, proudly showing it off.

"It's the first watch I've had since I was 17. I always thought that having a watch was submitting to The Man, but I've gone and done it. I've bought a Gucci watch, so I guess I am The Man now."

But he admits mega-success hasn't really changed his life.

"You are still just running your everyday life. About the only thing I notice now is I can't walk into a 7-Eleven without getting recognised."

The songs on Yourself or Someone Like You are mostly personal, telling of his troubled emotional life, which he wrote through his teens and early 20s.

"It is weird to have songs that you wrote in your bedroom and sang to a few close friends, suddenly become so popular that you have a whole arena of people sing the lyrics back to you.

"This record isn't really about anything other than relationships with people and that's something that just makes sense to everyone."

Matchbox 20 tours Queensland this week.