By Mark Brown, Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
When the whole band writes songs, it can have mixed results.
On the upside, George Harrison added classics to the Beatles canon. On the other hand, Creedence Clearwater Revival disintegrated when bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford decided their contributions merited as much room as those of band leader John Fogerty.
"That's a good point," matchbox twenty guitarist Adam Gaynor muses. "You don't want that crap where you have to have your song on the project, because you'll dilute the project."
Still: "The Beatles did pretty well. I'm not trying to compare us to the Beatles. But if you have four people in the band who can write good songs, it's not good to not dip into that well."
The result was More Than You Think You Are, matchbox twenty's third and most collaborative album. Singer/hit machine Rob Thomas is still the creative force behind the songs, but band members had more input than ever. The band headlines the Pepsi Center on Friday along with Sugar Ray.
"Not every one of us has won three Grammys for a song before," Gaynor says, alluding to Thomas' honors for Smooth, his collaboration with Carlos Santana. "But it would be detrimental to the band if people weren't able to exercise their creative thoughts."
And though he's loathe to name names, he vows matchbox twenty won't go the CCR route.
"There's no charity rule. You're not going to write a song just because you're a member of the band. It has to be approved by five people," says Gaynor, who knows from experience: His biggest contribution to the disc was axed days before it went to press.
"As a band member I'm proud of my contributions. I'm proud of what Rob has written," Gaynor says. "It's our background melodies, our extra hooks, our guitar tones, our drums and bass that make Rob's stuff into matchbox twenty stuff."
While not selling as many copies as the debut, Yourself or Someone Like You, or the inspired follow-up, Mad Season, the new disc has spawned the hit Disease. "We went back to the roots of what we are as a live band," Gaynor says. The result is a more stripped-down rock album as compared to the intricate production of Mad Season.
"Going into Mad Season, after our success on our first album, we did have free rein," Gaynor says. "I think we showed it in positive and in wacky ways with the massive mounts of production."
"All of us got a little too excited and threw in the attic, the basement and the kitchen sink. We wound up with some wonderful songs and some amazing production, but that was definitely a case of 'The band has ideas and here they all are.' "
Still, it worked, spawning If You're Gone, perhaps the band's biggest single.
Fans were there for Orlando-based matchbox twenty from the start, selling out live shows from the get-go.
"I wish I could figure out the formula to that," Gaynor says. "I say this in all sincerity, no (butt)-kissing, but any success we have starts with Rob's songs, the wonderful melodies and wonderful people-related scenarios that he paints."
"We had 12 songs on Yourself or Someone Like You. I think there's only one song on there that I personally would have skipped over. And that's where it starts," he says.
"Then it goes to word of mouth - people start telling other people, 'Check out this band.' We just were very fortunate to have loyal fans who stayed with us now for seven years."
Over the years, critical reaction to the band has gone from blistering to a grudging respect.
"I don't know how much good press we're getting. The press hasn't been as harsh. But critical acclaim? I'm not sure," he says.
"I'm a 40-year-old guy who doesn't (care) what people say. If 15 million-plus have bought our album, I'm gonna be OK. I'm not gonna cry that 50 people on the planet had nothing better to do than slam it. I think you have to keep it all in perspective. I'd be a different, more bitter person if I'd sold 100,000 copies and I was working back at Starbucks."
Indeed, for a relatively new band, matchbox twenty's members are older than your average pop stars.
Guitarist Kyle Cook "has two kids, and a wife and a nanny. For the first month of the tour, he's rented his own bus and he's trying to keep it together and have everybody with him," Gaynor says.
"That's really admirable. It's not fun or easy for him to be on the road, trying to watch his kids grow up or having to leave them behind. That's gotta be harrowing and psychologically upsetting to go through something like that.
"At the same point, he has a wonderful job and will be able to take very good care of his children. So there's your tradeoff. I'm not going to be sitting here whining about having to be on the bus."
With Sugar Ray
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Pepsi Center
Cost: $31 to $53.50
Information: (303) 830-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com
Band does about-face on cover shot
The cover photo for matchbox twenty's latest CD, More Than You Think You Are, is what the record label has always wanted and the band has always resisted - a picture of the five members.
But they're all covering their faces.
"They were like, 'You're kidding, right?' " says guitarist Adam Gaynor.
"We spent $100,000-plus on a photo shoot and voted out most of the pictures.
"(So) we took an Instamatic camera and our art director literally took two pictures of everyone up against the wall."