Match­box Twenty’s al­bum North has been a decade in the mak­ing, and it’s been worth the wait, writes Neala John­son

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Strike up the band

IT’S mid- April and get­ting dark in Cal­abasas, Cal­i­for­nia. This is not a part of LA fre­quented by tourists, but it is home to Matt Ser­letic’s Em­blem Stu­dios.

Gold and plat­inum discs line the walls, most of them for Match­box Twenty or front­man Rob Thomas’s solo re­leases, many of them from Aus­tralia where the band has gone plat­inum 21 times since

bust­ing out with Your­self in 1996 or Some­one Like You.

But it’s a non­de­script white­board in a room to the left that re­ally catches the eye. On it is a list of songs vy­ing for a place on Match­box Twenty’s fourth al­bum proper, North.

They’re split un­der head­ings such as ‘‘ Sin­gle con­tenders’’, ‘‘ Great al­bum’’ and ‘‘ The rest’’. At one stage there were two boards – ‘‘ Gi­gan­tic, dou­ble- sided, ridicu­lous,’’ says Match­box’s drum­mer-turned- gui­tarist ( and now back to drum­mer again) Paul Doucette.

But then, ex­plains Thomas, ‘‘ we had the ‘ kill night’, where we culled the songs that weren’t gonna make it’’.

‘‘ This is what made it past,’’ nods Doucette.

What of the ‘‘ sin­gle con­tenders’’? Is the next Push, How Far We’ve Come or Dis­ease among the eight songs listed?

‘‘ We think all eight of ’ em,’’ says Doucette.

Thomas: ‘‘ Sure, I’ll stand by that. At least six of ’ em.’’ Doucette: ‘‘ Maybe one.’’ Thomas: ‘‘ There’s def­i­nitely one or two.’’ As they mull over fu­ture hits, they’re in­ter­rupted by the ar­rival of sev­eral friends. Ear­lier in the day, record com­pany reps heard their new mu­sic for the first time. Tonight it’s their mates drop­ping by for wine, nib­blies and new tunes.

When pro­ducer Ser­letic pushes play on our ex­clu­sive pre­view of North, the first song to blast out of the speak­ers is a sur­prise. Put Your Hands Up fea­tures dou­ble- time drums, its dance- floor vibe matched by lyrics about stay­ing out all night.

Then comes She’s So Mean – now or­dained as the first sin­gle from North. Doucette and gui­tarist Kyle Cook will be in Aus­tralia this week to launch the song on ra­dio.

It’s ev­ery­thing you’d want from a Match­box Twenty sin­gle plus a few curve­balls, about a girl who drives you mad but you still want her any way.

There’s also Over­joyed, a coun­try- ish bal­lad; a beau­ti­ful pi­ano bal­lad penned by Cook; and Sleep­ing at the Wheel, which has a Joshua Tree feel.

The songs go down a treat – the vibe is clas­sic Match­box, with added left- turns. But the four­some – com­pleted by bassist Brian Yale – had to ride out some bumpy patches to get this far.

They’d last recorded together in early 2007, com­ing up with seven new songs to tack on to great­est- hits set Ex­ile

on Main­stream.

But it wasn’t un­til Thomas was in the fi­nal stages of tour­ing his sec­ond solo al­bum,

Cradlesong ( 2009), that Match­box Twenty be­gan dis­cussing plans to fi­nally fol­low up

More Than You Think You Are ( 2002).

Af­ter week- long writ­ing ses­sions in each mem­ber’s home base and armed with 40 partly formed ideas, they set up shop in a re­mote cabin in Nashville with a stu­dio at­tached. That’s where the trou­ble be­gan.

‘‘ We were sup­posed to be just shoring up ideas, some­thing to bring to a pro­ducer,’’ Thomas ex­plains. ‘‘ But we were get­ting bogged down and drink­ing ir­re­spon­si­ble amounts of wine and fight­ing . . .’’

Doucette: ‘‘ Nashville def­i­nitely turned into a gi­ant mess. But it was a nec­es­sary dis­as­ter. We did have to fig­ure out how to be together as peo­ple again.’’ The fights weren’t per­sonal. ‘‘ It should have been a re­al­ity show, it was pretty funny,’’ Doucette says.

‘‘ At the heart of it, it’s a bunch of guys who re­ally wanna make some­thing great and don’t know how we’re gonna do it.’’

It took the wran­gling of Ser­letic and his white­boards to fi­nally give the band a fo­cus.

North is the re­sult. Thomas says the al­bum was made by ‘‘ dif­fer­ent hu­mans’’ than those who made that last long- player 10 years ago.

‘‘ Hope­fully you get bet­ter with age,’’ agrees Doucette.

‘‘ It’s about al­low­ing ev­ery­body to have the space to do what they do. Like, ev­ery­body has a su­per­power . . .’’

‘‘ We’re like The Avengers,’’ Thomas in­ter­jects with a grin.

‘‘ We’re just like that.’’


Out on Au­gust 31 ( Warner) Match­box Twenty is ex­pected to tour be­fore the end of the year

DOU­BLE TROU­BLE: Front­man Rob Thomas and drum­mer Paul Doucette are ready to launch a new sin­gle in Aus­tralia.

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