Candlebox, the Seattle-based band formed in 1991 by singer/guitarist Kevin Martin and drummer Scott Mercado, have pursued their craft with dogged determination and single-minded dedication every step of the way. They financed their first demo in 1991 by pawning off some cherished gear. Shortly after Candlebox, their eponymously-titled debut album, was released by Maverick Records in 1993, the band which also features guitarist Peter Klett and bassist Bardi Martin (no relation to Kevin) immediately hit the road for almost two solid years, generating glowing reviews and growing sales with every whistle stop.
"We performed about 450 shows in 18 months, with The Flaming Lips supporting us on the last leg of the tour," says Candlebox guitarist Peter Klett. "It was brutal. At one point we did 12 shows in a row . We were all pissed about it at the time, but looking back we realize that all of the touring is what helped sell the record." The band's relentless road regimen paid offtheir first album sold almost four million copies worldwide, and continues to be a steady seller. "Far Behind," one of three powerful singles from the album, entered Billboard's Top 20 in July of 1993 and didn't drop off the charts until January '94. The videos for "Far Behind" and "You," the two break-out songs on the record, were in seemingly perpetual rotation on MTV and became two of the most requested videos of 1993. The album fared equally as well, steadily gaining momentum over the course of the year and finally peaking at Number 7.
By year's end, the band was featured at Woodstock '94; Peter Klett nabbed Guitar World's Best New Talent prize in their 1994 reader's poll, while Scott Mercado won Modern Drummer magazine's Best Up And Coming drummer award. Clearly, this was one band that wasn't content to kick back and wait for the royalty checks to pour in. "You can't let up," says Kevin Martin. "We know how fortunate we are to be in this position, and you don't want to start taking anything for granted. We've seen where bands sit back thinking that they've got it made, and somebody else comes along to take their position. That can happen easily when bands now routinely take three years between albums."
"We had seen a lot of bands that had been thrust in the spotlight right away and weren't able to cope with their success," says Klett. "Our success was a gradual thing, and it allowed us to deal with it in a more level-headed way."
But with massive success comes the pressure to duplicate, if not surpass, what came before. And given the frequently fickle nature of rock audiences, Candlebox knew it was essential to follow-up their first album with something they felt was really special. "We really enjoy what we do, so making music, whether it's on stage or in the studio, is enjoyable to us," says Kevin Martin. "But working on an album is hard work. After you've poured so much energy into being on the road, it isn't easy to shift gears and go back into the studio. But we had been writing all along, so we knew we had material that was really solid. In fact, I think recording this album has been a litle easier than making the first one."
Although Lucy, the band's second album, captures much of the heart-rending passion and epic drama of Candlebox, the band consciously avoided trying to replicate the sound of their debut, opting instead for a raw, pared-down approach. "Lucy doesn't have the massive sound of the first record," says Klett. "We wanted to get a more natural sound this time. The other album was so slick and big, and it was hard to duplicate that live. This time, all we did was plug in. We were much less anal about the recording process."
Lucy (which, like the first album, was produced and engineered by Kelly Gray and Jon Plum and recorded at Seattle's London Bridge Studios) packs a formidable, ferocious wallop. On Songs like "Simple Lessons," "Drowned," "Become," "Best Friend" and the title track, Klett's swirling, meaty guitar hooks and the Martin/Mercado rhythm axis provide a sturdy sonic bailast for Kevin Martin's soaring vocals and searching, elliptical Iyrics. "Kevin really shines on this album," says Klett.
But while Lucy shares many of the same virtues that made Candlebox such a huge hit, it also represents a great musical leap forward for the band. Just check out the subdued, almost Santana-like interlude that appears in the middle of "Understanding," or the delicate flutter of Klett's guitar on "Butterfly." According to bassist Bardi Martin, Lucy's musical maturity has everything to do with the fact that the record was more of a collaborative effort than the hrst album. "A lot of the songs on the new album started off with either a bass line or a guitar line Kevin had, and Pete was the one who would take the ideas and push them through," says Martin. "Everybody had input. We took each others ideas and made them into the songs you hear on the record."
"It's not really a guitar album like the first one," says Klett. "There was so much guitar playing on the first album, I was starting to feel selfish about it. This time, I thought I would just write a song without thinking about where the solo is gonna go. We all wanted to the be true to the songs this time."
"When the first album came out we really had no idea how people would react to it," says Kevin Martin. "We were confident in it, and in ourselves, but so were a lot of other bands we knew. That didn't mean that our album was going to be successful, or that people would even listen to it. We were a little lucky, but we also felt that we were pretty good. This time, we know there's an audience out there that likes what we do. That's a great feeling to have. All I can say is that they won't be disappointed."