Matchbox Twenty Is Striking Again

When it came time for matchbox twenty to begin work on the followup to its hugely successful 1996 debut, "Yourself Or Someone Like You," manager Michael Lippman didn't have to give the quintet a pep talk on how to deal with the pressures of following a blockbuster.

"We just talked about all the people who have told us we're over," Lippman says with a chuckle. "The band's and my favorite thing, if you can take this as a positive, has been listening to everyone tell us how this record is going to fail, how we're a one-hit wonder, even though we've had four top five singles. All that makes us do is work harder and come together stronger." That cohesion shows on "Mad Season by matchbox twenty," which will arrive in stores Tuesday. The 13-track project sees the band -- composed of vocalist Rob Thomas, guitarists Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor, bassist Brian Yale and drummer Paul Doucette -- bolstering their pop-rock layered sound with stronger harmonies and the addition of horns on a number of tracks.

The new project also touts the band's slight name change from matchbox 20 to matchbox twenty. "There were a lot of number bands out there -- Eve 6, Eiffel 65, Blink-182. . . . We wanted to alleviate some of the confusion," Thomas says.

While "Mad Season's" predecessor has sold 6.9 million copies in the United States, SoundScan figures show, the biggest lift for the new project has come from Thomas' success as co-writer (with Itaal Shur) and singer of Santana's smash "Smooth," from the multi-platinum release "Supernatural."

Thomas won three Grammys for his work with Santana -- and a huge boost in his songwriting credibility and, most notably, his visibility.

"I was on my honeymoon in October in Hawaii. Matchbox twenty never really made it off the mainland, but Santana is huge there. Our driver asked me if doing the Santana thing had opened any doors for me in my career," Thomas recalls with a laugh. "What do you say to that? I just said, 'It's been great!' "

Despite the increased recognition, Thomas says, he's still surprised when a stranger stops him. "I forget that people recognize me," he says. "It's such a weird thing. You just want to say to people, 'I'm such a geek, and you have no clue!' "

On the last album, the group went out of its way to project a band image, including turning down a Rolling Stone cover because the magazine wanted to feature only Thomas as opposed to the entire group.

"It may take a while to build up a band and get it noticed this way, but something like the Rolling Stone cover with just me could tear it down instantly," Thomas says. "On the videos, we're trying to focus on everyone seeing the band. It really is a great band. I wouldn't want to play with anyone else. During the whole Santana thing, it was bittersweet. I was having such a great time, but my guys that I traveled the world with and have known for years weren't there."

Thomas maintains that his bandmates have taken his "Smooth" success in stride. "They're always busting me, calling me Grammy Davis Jr. or Sir Gramual Jackson," he says. "They're proud of me, but they're keeping me in my place. They keep telling me, 'We know you're not that cool.' "

The band is now on a major-city club tour, which includes a May 30 stop at the Vic. Thomas says matchbox twenty can't wait to hit the road. "In the end, the reason you do all this other stuff is so you can play live." By Melinda Newman