Matchbox 20, keeping control

July 30, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,Sun Staff

Last summer, rising alternaband Matchbox 20 said no to MTV.

The network had asked the band to perform its hit "Push," a song about emotional and verbal abuse, at the MTV beach house.

"OK, 'Push' is a pretty serious song," drummer Paul Doucette recalls thinking. "Do we want to go out and play it to a bunch of half-naked people with beach balls?"

They've also said no to numerous other questionable gigs.

"We've been asked to do many a barbecue," says Doucette, 26.

"We like to say 'no.' It's our favorite thing in the world," Doucette says with a laugh. "It annoys a lot of people, but we don't care, because it's our favorite thing to do."

Still, fans have been saying yes to Matchbox 20. The band's debut album, "Yourself or Someone Like You," has been on the Billboard 200 chart for more than 60 weeks. Besides "Push," it's yielded the hit singles "3 a.m." and "Real World."

The Florida-based band, composed of Doucette, lead vocalist Rob Thomas, lead guitarist Kyle Cook, rhythm guitarist Adam Gaynor and bassist Brian Yale, is extremely careful about letting its image be manipulated by promoters and outsiders, according to Doucette.

"You could say we're control freaks," he says.

The band's obsession with control partly comes out of a sense of self-preservation. After all, the press has criticized Matchbox 20 for being generic, just another of an endless stream of angst-ridden pretty-boy whiners with a penchant for power chords.

"We get a lot of knocks," Doucette says. "Someone called Rob 'the downfall of rock and roll,'" he adds, referring to lead singer Rob Thomas. Thomas, a high-school dropout, former drifter and proto-slacker, was recently named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World."

But being in control isn't just in their own self-interest. With the power to choose which bands will share the bill with them, they've done their part to give other acts a chance. And they put a lot of thought into their selections.

"We feel responsible for everything, from the opening act to the end of the show," Doucette says. "We like the responsibility."

For the current tour, the band selected opening acts Semisonic and Soul Asylum. Doucette says he's particularly honored to share the stage with longtime idols Soul Asylum.

"They [Soul Asylum] were one of the bands that changed the way I look at music," Doucette says.

There are some aspects of stardom, however, over which Matchbox 20 doesn't have total control, such as the band's rigorous touring schedule.

The band has been on the road for the past two years. And even though it can be stressful at times, things have certainly changed with their blooming notoriety.

"Our life has become so plush it's sick," Doucette says.

Matchbox 20 and more

Who: Matchbox 20 with Soul Asylum and Semisonic

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia

Tickets: $25 for reserved seats; $20 for lawn

Call: 410-481-6500

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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