Mad For It

The first Matchbox Twenty album might have shot five American hopefuls from anonymity to international fame and fortune, but apparently it wasn't really them.

The band's second album, Mad Season, is the best reflection of the "real" Matchbox Twenty, according to drummer Paul Doucette. "Mad Season is a great record, I like it a lot," Doucette says.

"I think it's the first time we've made a true Matchbox Twenty record. With the first album we weren't really sure what we should be. It was a learning experience."

Some learning experience.

In fact, the saga that followed the release of Yourself or Someone Like You in 1996 is the kind of learning curve that most bands can only dream of.

Among the lessons: How to sell 10 million records in the US, how to reach No 1 in the Australian charts, and how to sell millions of records in countries like New Zealand, Canada and the Philippines.

But Doucette says they walked away from the almost surreal level of success on that first album with a new maturity that is evident on Mad Season.

"I think it's a good representation of how Matchbox Twenty has grown," Doucette says.

"There are a lot of things on this record that I really love, but there are a few things that I'm not really that fond of although I understand why they're on there.

"My favourite song is a track called The Burn. I wanted to release that as a single but no-one else would agree."

And his least favourite?

"I'm gonna have to say it's Black & White People. I don't know what it is about it. It has been around for so long -- Rob (Thomas) wrote that song eight years ago.

"But a lot of people really like it. What do I know?"

Actually, Doucette and his chums in the band, Thomas, guitarists Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor and bassist Brian Yale, know a thing or two about struggle, even if some people might think they were some kind of overnight sensation.

Even to get as far as forming Matchbox Twenty was a long slog.

After dropping out of high school, Thomas drifted around, hitchhiking and crashing where he could, before settling down in Orlando, Florida, where he met Doucette and Yale.

The three played in bands for a few years without a sniff of what was to follow when they recruited Gaynor and Cook and took on the name Matchbox Twenty.

Even recording Yourself was tough work for Doucette, who at one time lost the sight of an eye during pre-production due to a rare form of stroke.

Recording his drum tracks didn't go smoothly either -- at one time he had chicken pox and had to stay out of the studio for two weeks.

Still, good things come to those who wait, with songs like Long Day and Push connecting them with a bigger audience than they had ever dreamed of.

And a life they had never dreamed of, especially with Thomas' elevation to celebrity status after winning three Grammys for his mega-hit collaboration with Carlos Santana, Smooth.

Which is when you get an inkling about the title of their second album, released this year.

"The title was Rob's idea," Doucette says. "I fought him on that because I didn't really like it as a title until I saw the picture on the cover.

(The cover features a man dressed in a flowing frock, wearing rabbit ears and blue ballerina slippers while walking a peacock on wheels.)

"He wanted to describe the period of time from when we were a bunch of guys from Florida to when you know, when we're doing interviews in Australia. It's changed our lives so drastically."

Of course one of the downsides of touring is missing the family. All of the members of the band are either married, engaged or with a long-term partner.

The other downside is the constant rumours, although sometimes you just have to laugh.

"The best rumour I've heard? It was that Kyle was dating Winona Ryder and she dumped him to go out with our other guitarist Adam. That was a good one!" -- Allison White