Matchbox Twenty: Recording and learning

By Eyder Peralta, The Florida Times-Union

When Matchbox Twenty came on to the music scene with its ridiculously popular 1996 debut album, Yourself or Someone Like You, it was immediately thrown into the future Where Are They Now? bin.

With the release of its sophomore album, Mad Season, the band sort of shrugged off critics. With this year's More Than You Think You Are, which has already spawned a couple of solid hits, Matchbox Twenty proved them wrong.

'We were actually talking the other day that we have enough [hits] that we could put out a greatest hits, if we wanted to,' said Paul Doucette, the band's drummer.

'I don't know,' he said. 'The funny thing is that we don't judge our success on having hit singles. People have always kind of doubted us, and we've gotten so used to it, so we just do our thing. But our goal is to make what we feel are great records. I mean, if people like them, great.'

During the recording of the band's last record, Doucette said, the musicians were having problems. So much so that band members recorded their parts almost independently.

'We weren't getting along at that time, and I remember we also did it in such an assembly line way. We would work together in the studio on Monday, and I would come in on Tuesday and cut my drums and then Brian [Yale] would come in on Wednesday and cut his bass and then the rest of the days everybody would cut guitar. And none of us were in the studio at the same time, and I actually left for like a couple of months and then came back. And I just thought, 'Well, they're just doing guitars, I'm done with my drum parts, so I'm just gonna go home.' It was very much, 'I'm the drummer. You're the guitar player. You're the bass player. Why don't you just do your part.' '

Before Mad Season was released, lead singer Rob Thomas had made a name for himself by penning and performing the catchy Latin-tinged Smooth with Santana. It catapulted Thomas into the rock-star stratosphere and made Matchbox Twenty his backing band.

'I think what it did was that it gave a face to Matchbox Twenty. It gave it a leader. I think that's a good thing. I think at the same time it became a kind of a hinderance. You know, it sort of became the Rob Thomas show for a little bit, and it's very much not that way in the band. And so it got a little annoying, until we all kind of realized what difference does it make? Do I care if some guy in Chicago thinks that Rob Thomas is all Matchbox Twenty?'

Now on its third release, the band has learned a lot from those first two albums, Doucette said. 'I think every band goes through a learning experience and a learning curve, and I think people forget that. U2 made Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree -- they made a couple of records before they did that. The Police made a couple of records before they made Synchronicity. And these are like their definitive records.

'I think now people expect bands to be great on their first record. It's not that way. . . . I mean, you have to go through a learning experience, and I think that's exactly what we've been doing.'