They're a Matchbox Made In Heaven

WHAT: Alternative rock.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday.

WHERE: Continental Arena, East Rutherford. (201) 935-3900.

HOW MUCH: $35.50 to $47.50. Box office or Ticketmaster.

Guitar player Adam Gaynor of matchbox twenty is in a Chicago hotel room, sipping cognac and smoking a cigarette as his fiancée emerges from the shower and starts spreading moisturizer all over her body. This is it, kids. This is the rock-and-roll life.

OK, he admits over the phone, so he's exaggerating. At least the cigarette and cognac part.

"'I never give the truth.' That's my motto. Don't tell the truth, always tell them something full of crap," he cracks. "I am THE worst publicity for Atlantic Records."

Gaynor actually is sipping a $6 glass of orange juice from room service, not cognac, he says. And as far as smoking goes, he is the matchbox twenty member known for sending lead singer Rob Thomas and his other band mates outside for cigarette breaks, because the smoke bothers him.

The part about his fiancée and the moisturizer is all true, he insists.

Gaynor is a little loopy today, as he has done seven consecutive morning radio interviews since hitting the road two weeks ago to promote the band's new album, "More Than You Think You Are." The tour will hit Continental Arena in East Rutherford on Wednesday.

Touring and promoting an album is almost enough to drive him to cigarettes, he says. He expresses relief that this is at least a print interview, so he doesn't have to feel like he's quite so "on," so to speak. "I don't have to jump on the chandelier. ... I don't have to scream in my morning radio program voice," says Gaynor, screaming like a crazed shock jock.

Gaynor, 38, is especially looking forward to the band's appearance at the Meadowlands, he says. He was born in Manhattan and grew up in Westchester, N.Y., so it's a homecoming of sorts.

"But I wasn't born with a silver spoon. I would call it more a crusty kind of linoleum," says the guitarist, who moved to Florida later in his childhood.

"I think the biggest deal was playing a New York show when we first played the Garden. I grew up with season tickets to the Rangers. I'm a die-hard New York sports guy. ... And there we are sitting there for sound check. ... It actually got me to that emotional point of being on a stage. … It did. Now I was on their court, or their ice, or their field. It was like, 'Holy ----!'" he says. "It was impressive, exciting. It made me really proud. That's when I started absorbing the actual moment of what's going on, and where my life was at."

Gaynor's appreciation of fame and fortune seems sincere and keeps with matchbox twenty's image for being the "nice guys" of rock. Indeed, this is a band that has been labeled "unapologetically mainstream" to "that VH1 group that even your mother would like." Cool, but squeaky clean. Edgy, but pop. Gaynor has gotten over the tendency to be pigeonholed. He is what he is, and so is the band.

"When 50 million kids around the world buy your album, you would be a fool to get [angry] at 50 writers around the United States," he says.

Released in November, "More Than You Think You Are" debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and has spawned the singles "Disease" (co-written by Thomas and Mick Jagger) and "Unwell." The album has been critically praised for taking an edgier, looser, at times almost garage-punk turn to their more polished works from the past. The album marks the band's first new music since the quadruple-platinum "Mad Season," released in May 2000. The group debuted in 1996 with "Yourself or Someone Like You," which sold 12 million copies in the United States.

Becoming experienced musicians with a couple of tours under their belts helped them bring something new to the table when they entered the studio for their latest recording, Gaynor says. And it seems to have paid off.

"It's more about what it's like to be at one of our shows than all slicked out in the studio. We wanted this to sound as much like a live version of matchbox twenty as you're going to hear."

Singer Thomas inevitably gets a lot of the attention, because he fronts the band. Does that bother Gaynor or his band mates?

"When you first join a band, the only thing you want to do is jump up and down and get attention. You wear these glam shirts and dress really loud. It's like, 'We're in a band! Can you tell?' Then you get some success. ... You tone down. ... Then you get to the point where you just wear T-shirts. ... So am I bitter? No. Am I angry? No. Did I want him to win three Grammys for matchbox twenty? Yeah.

"There are two kinds of people: some who would be resentful of someone's talents, or someone like me who appreciates what Rob brings to this band. I almost cried when he won those Grammys. It was like my brother being recognized for the work that he did."

Gaynor says he feels somewhat luckier playing his role in the band.

"Now we go through airports and everyone's staring at poor Rob and I'm OK, walking through the airport unscathed."

Onstage is where he's really recognized - and that's where it counts.

"There's something to be said about playing a giant festival in front of 100,000 people, where they aren't all necessarily there to see just you; there's something to be said about playing in front of 15,000 people, where they are all there just to see you; and there's something to be said about playing in front of just 400 people," he says, recalling the early days when they played small clubs.

"It's all this amazing energy you have in this building where you're throwing a rock out there and they're throwing it back," he says.

"It's a blast."