Love Stories & Other Musings, the fifth studio album from Candlebox (released April 3 on AudioNest/Fontana/Universal), evidences a new found level of maturity for the band, formed at the dawn of the grunge era in Seattle. At the same time, listening to it with the volume knob cranked up emphatically reveals that frontman Kevin Martin, lead guitarist Peter Klett, drummer Scott Mercado, and their band mates, remain filled with the youthful exuberance that marked their first go-round in the 1990s, a decade during which they ran off a string of alt-rock classics while selling north of 5 million albums.
“At a time when it’s more difficult than ever for bands to find their niche, it’s nice to have more than 20 years of history as a band to draw on,” says Martin. “We don’t have to find our footing—it’s been there the whole time. We’re rebuilding the style and structure of the band, not to reinvent ourselves but, thanks to our growth and the accessibility of the music we’ve been making during the last couple of years, to allow ourselves to reach a new audience.” “I haven’t felt this strongly about a Candlebox record since our first one,” adds Klett.
Produced by Ken Andrews (Pete Yorn, A Perfect Circle, Tenacious D, Beck), Love Stories & Other Musings features nine new songs, along with crisp re-recordings of five of the band’s best-loved ’90s hits, including the classics “Far Behind,” “Cover Me” Change, and “You,” comprising a bountiful bonus for their legion of diehard fans.
After splitting up at the tail end of the ’90s, Martin and Klett were reunited with original drummer Scott Mercado via the 2006 Rhino/Warner Bros. retrospective The Best of Candlebox. Despite being absent from the scene for nearly seven years, the band was readily embraced by their fans and invited to play radio shows across the country. Subsequently, these longtime compatriots - augmented by two new full-time members, bassist Adam Kury and guitarist Sean Hennesy - discovered that the time apart and collective personal growth had resulted in enhanced chemistry among them. Since recording 2008’s Into the Sun, they’ve spent much of their time on the road both in the States and abroad, playing for the troops and appearing at festivals. Candlebox will hit the road this spring in support of the new album.
No modern-rock band combines aggression, melodicism and towering hooks more authoritatively than the current Candlebox lineup. They’re in peak form throughout Love Stories & Other Musings, from the unbridled dirty blues (as Klett refers to it) “Lifelike Song” to the cascading “Baby Love” and the throbbing, anthemic “Believe in It,” the album's first single.
“Believe In It” had its genesis in Klett’s Seattle home studio, as his mind wandered back to his formative years. “I was playing guitar one day and thinking about Black Sabbath when I came up with this riff with a heavy, Sabbath-y feel,” he recalls. “So I sent it down to Kevin in L.A. He really liked it and started building a song around it.” But from there, the partners’ creative process took a circuitous path, yielding unexpected results. “I’m the only one hearing this,” Martin admits with a laugh,” but when Pete grabbed that riff, I fell in love with the Jackson 5 element of it. I immediately started thinking of Michael Jackson as a young boy, and that in turn led me to think of my son Jasper. What kind of life is he going to grow into? Is he going to learn from his father? The song is not about Michael Jackson at all, obviously, but it keyed this thought about Jasper, and the things that were never told to me as a teenager by my father, who was a traveling salesman so he was never home. That’s really the story behind the song: I’m singing to my son, ‘If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything. Your dad is a perfect example of someone who, against the odds, has continued to make music 20-plus years, has had great success and great failure, and learned from each of them. That’s the beauty of life.’ I wanted to share that with my son.”
Martin tends to pull from personal experience in his writing, but there are a few songs on the new record written from the perspective of other people. “I have to cop to the fact that ‘Them Eyes’ was inspired by the movie 'Crazy Stupid Love',” he says, “in the sense of what each character was going through, but primarily the struggle that Steve Carell was having in his relationship with Julianne Moore after she told him, ‘I don’t love you anymore.’ I imagined myself in that position: if I ever heard those words from the person I loved, what would I do? There’s that moment in many relationships when you realize that something’s slipped, and you’re still in love with that person, but it’s just not working.”
Another highlight is “She Come Over Me,” which builds from a delicate acoustic intro to a full-throttle rocker kicked into overdrive by Klett and Hennesy’s harmonized guitar runs. “People are obviously gonna think ‘She Come Over Me’ is a love song to my wife, but what it’s fundamentally about is the beauty of music,” Martin points out. “When I wrote the lyrics, that simple little intro guitar pattern Sean was playing was all it took to remind me how special music is, and how meaningless life would be without it. The song is also sexual, obviously, but that’s what music does—I can’t tell you how many times people have told me, ‘Dude, I got laid to “Far Behind.”’ Music has the power to bring on the whole gamut of intense emotions.” The ecstatic “Sweet Summertime,” with its widescreen, life-embracing payoff, is indeed about Martin’s wife, though it turns on the aching loneliness that ensues when relationships are conducted from a great distance. “Everybody’s had their road song, from Journey to Kid Rock,” he says. “But this one is about not just the difficulty of going on the road but also the passion of being on the road. The line ‘Summertime is my lover’ refers to the time of year when we really get into touring. And as painful as it is being separated from my family, at the same time, this is what I do—this is my job. There’s another line, ‘Lightning’s waiting time,’ which refers to the gap between the lightning striking and the sound of the thunderclap. It’s a metaphor for that moment when you’re about to step onstage, the lights go out and the crowd begins to roar.”
It’s been a long and often arduous journey for Candlebox to get to this point, in large part because the band was misconstrued. Martin acknowledges, “We were so much younger than the other bands in the scene during the ’90s that everybody thought we were a coattail band who’d moved there. That made it difficult, but it toughened us and made us that much more determined to carve out our own path.” Klett seconds that emotion. “We’ve always been seen as the red-headed stepchild,” he says. “But that doesn’t really matter to me anymore; I know how good our band is. We’ve got great fans who’d do anything to support us.”
Thankfully, the wrongheaded snobbishness that beset the band throughout its youth has receded into the past, while Candlebox has earned widespread respect and admiration for having always gone its own way, refusing to jump on any bandwagon while making music on its own terms, without an iota of pretense or compromise. At its core, this is a rock band, pure and simple, with no modifiers needed. And what was once a point of contention is now a matter of pride for these single-minded musicians.“After all the ups and downs this band has been through, we’ve come to realize what a great gift we’ve been given,” says Martin. “I really love these guys, and I love the music we make together. This record represents a new direction for us, and I can’t wait to share it with our fans.”