Out of the wilderness

By Ritchie Yorke, Sunday Mail (Queensland, Australia)

Matchbox Twenty told Ritchie Yorke their Australian tour recipe was: We bring rock, we bring a great live show, we play really well and we're very proud of how our show comes across

It's only a few hours since the last crashing chords of the Matchbox Twenty US tour finale in Orlando, Florida, and the boys are enjoying their first break after 10 weeks on the road.

But the red-hot touring band have agreed to do one last interview to support their Oz tour before a well-earned break.

In the absence of singer Rob Thomas and drummer Paul Doucette -- neither of whom can be tracked down at the last minute -- the task falls to guitarist Adam Gaynor.

A natural comedian, Gaynor is quick to insist that he's "10 times more entertaining than anybody else you could talk to -- just trust me, Ritchie".

The amiable Gaynor says: "How are you, buddy? I'm sitting at the in-laws' here in Orlando having some steamed clams and I'm watching my entire family running around the kitchen."

Life is proceeding really smoothly for the Florida-based fivesome as they chill out before departing on their third performing visit to Australia for the More Than You Think You Are tour.

It's hard to imagine things in the Matchbox loop being more upbeat. They're two singles into the More Than You Think You Are album and the second one, Unwell, has become a huge hit (currently it's No. 18 here in Queensland and No. 6 in the US).

It follows Disease, the first release and "one of the most poppy things we've ever done", in the words of drummer Doucette.

But it is Unwell which has quickly become the centrepiece of the third album.

Earlier this month, the 'Boxers became chart historymakers Stateside.

They have now scored more No. 1 hits and spent more weeks at No. 1 on both the Modern Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts than any other artist (it should be noted that these are relatively new charts, having premiered in the '90s when radio formats were re-classified).

Their previous albums were multi-platinum triumphs -- the debut Yourself or Someone Like You (nine times platinum Down Under and in the US) and Mad Season (four times platinum in both markets).

Those albums provided such memorable hits as Push, 3AM, Real World, Back 2 Good, If You're Gone, Mad Season, Long Day and Bent.

But the third album had its origins in the inspiring wilderness surrounding the Bearsville Studios in bucolic Woodstock, New York.

"The overall vibe definitely comes from what we did up there," singer Rob Thomas has declared.

Gaynor agrees: "That's the only place I've ever been where every 10 feet, you see deer.

"There's deer on the road, deer in the backyard. When you come down for breakfast, there's a deer at the grill making some bacon.

"It's pretty unbelievable. It definitely gives you a nice Zen feeling, working in a place like that."

Unwell, as it turns out, was "just a song that we all really liked".

"We'd recorded it in different ways. Sometimes if you like a song, you dissect it and try and recreate it in different styles and tempos.

"Unwell had a very good chorus so we kinda played around with it and came up with the version you hear on the record."

The third album is also notable for a more stripped-down approach, certainly when compared with its Mad Season predecessor.

Doucette has admitted: "The attitude on the second record was, 'Let's throw everything we can on there, regardless of whether or not it needs to be there.'

"We were given a rare opportunity to do that sort of thing, and I'm glad we did it, because now we're not sitting around wondering, 'What would it be like to put a 70-piece orchestra on every song?' We've done that."

Having already exhausted some of their ambitions, we wondered where Gaynor felt the band might be in five years from now.

"We're only as good as our last album. I'm sure it will continue as long as we feel like getting back together and recording again. It just depends on everybody still loving doing what we do."

We enquired what Oz audiences might expect from the latest Matchbox Twenty visit, as compared with their post-Olympics shows in 2000.

"Other than the fact that we've played hundreds more shows than our last tour?" he wonders. "I think Australia kinda knows what we bring. We bring rock, we bring a great live show, we play really well and we're very proud of how our show comes across.

"Expect two hours of solid Matchbox Twenty."

Agreeable sort of a dude that he is, Gaynor even has kind words for the hip-hop movement, against which the band competes on US charts.

"You've got 50 Cent, you've got Eminem. They'll always have a place in music. Some of the production they use on that 50 Cent album (Get Rich Or Die Tryin) is freaking amazing -- really bright, really fresh. Give or take the whether-you-personally-love-it stuff about the hip-hop lyrics, it's an art form in itself: its own thing."

Asked what he would do in his week-long break before flying Down Under, Gaynor didn't beat around the bush.

"Just to sit and eat would be the most wonderful thing ever. Just to recharge," he laughs.

"Florida is amazing at this time of year. It's hot-hot-hot. But that's great if you've got a place to retreat to."