Band makes case for normality

April 24, 2001|By Glenn Gamboa | Glenn Gamboa,NEWSDAY

The knock against Rob Thomas and his band Matchbox Twenty is that they are way too normal, nowhere near flashy enough to compete with Next Big Things and buzz-worthy big-timers.

Ask the guys behind chart-toppers such as "Push" and "Bent," and they will call such talk a blessing.

"We're kind of integrated into the business now," said Thomas, calling from a tour stop in Cincinnati. "We just wanted to stay in the business. We always wanted to be just another band to listen to. That was all we wanted."

Of course, the band - singer Thomas, guitarists Adam Gaynor and Kyle Cook, drummer Paul Doucette and bassist Brian Yale - became much more than that when its debut "Yourself or Someone Like You" sold 10 million copies on the strength of relentless touring and its collection of hook-heavy, radio-friendly rock.

"Selling 10 million records is a pretty big fluke," Thomas said, laughing. "We're kind of glad the eyes are off of us. There's a difference between people looking at you and being scrutinized for every little thing."

Thomas short-circuited all the "one-hit wonder" talk with his Grammy-winning collaboration with Carlos Santana on "Smooth," allowing Matchbox Twenty's "Mad Season" album to slide up the charts with no whispers of "sophomore slump."

"We had pressure on us because we didn't want to make the same record again," Thomas said about the making of "Mad Season." "As far as sales, though, you can't hold yourself responsible for the failure or success of a record. You make it and then it's out of our hands. We just wanted to be happy with the record we made when we were done with it, and we are happy."

Matchbox Twenty is also happy about taking the songs from "Mad Season" on the road, adding them to different versions of songs from "Yourself or Someone Like You."

Thomas said he feels he has changed as well on the current tour with Everclear and Lifehouse, which stops at the Baltimore Arena tonight.

"It's a whole reciprocal process with the audience," he said. "I'm not giving them something; we're building up the energy of the room with the back and forth. I try and keep that in mind."

The reminder helps him keep grounded a little more.

"I have this really great job: Every night I pretend to be a rock star," Thomas said. "But I also love getting to be Rob and playing PlayStation and going grocery shopping."

Thomas and his wife, model Marisol Maldonado, moved from a Manhattan apartment to a Westchester County, N.Y., house last year to "strive for normalcy."

"We moved so that we could have a driveway and I could take out my garbage and work out in my garage," Thomas said.

"We're making this up as we go along, man. Sometimes I go through the grocery store with orange juice in one hand and signing autographs with the other. But it's cool."

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