Infant death and screwing up inspire Rob Thomas on Matchbox 20’s debut



Multitudes of new rock acts release their debut albums every year, but only a small percentage of them garner extensive airplay or achieve major sales figures. So it helps if a baby band gets a hand from a capable producer its first time out.

Orlando, Florida’s Matchbox 20 was fortunate enough to have Collective Soul coproducer Matt Serletic at the controls for its premiere release, Yourself or Someone Like You, and according to vocalist-songwriter Rob Thomas, Serletic was like a sixth member of the band.

“He’s like one of our best friends,” reports Thomas from an L.A. hotel, “and it was such a collaboration that we were all just foamin’ at the mouth makin’ it. Aside from understanding the technical aspects of the recording process, he’s an unbelievable arranger, and he just has a knack for pulling out great sounds. There’s a million different tones that you can get off the guitar, and he’ll find just the right one.”

Matchbox 20 will attempt to re-create some of those Serletic-enhanced tones when it plays the Starfish Room next Saturday (July 12). The quartet’s melodic, southern-tinged jangle-rock sounds a bit like a cross between Counting Crows and Seven Mary Three, with catchy tracks such as “Busted” and the album opener “Real World” coming off particularly well. When asked to pick his own favourite among Yourself’s 12 tracks, Thomas fluctuates between “Kody” and “Back 2 Good”.

“ ‘Kody’ is a real personal song,” relates the 25-year-old tunesmith. “It deals with my ex-girlfriend’s family and the death of an infant. I went to the funeral and I came back and wrote it right there that day. And ‘Back 2 Good’, that’s just a song about fucking up good situations. I’m really good at that.”

Thomas claims that writing songs is almost medicinal for him. “It’s a cathartic experience to be able to scream out what you’re thinking every night,” he says. That idea of songwriting as therapy is a common one, of course, so what sets Matchbox 20 apart from the scads of other new rock bands screaming out what they think?

“In a lotta ways, nothin’,” replies Thomas. “We’re just a band out there playin’ like anybody else. But to us, our songs really mean a lot. They’re personal and we think that they’re sayin’ something, if only from an emotional standpoint.”


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