Going into songwriting for Candlebox’s new album, Into the Sun, Kevin Martin knew how important the endeavor would be for the band.
The Seattle-based group broke up in 1999 after three albums and a couple of key personnel changes, but regrouped two years ago when Rhino Records decided to put together a greatest hits album.
The initial plan was just to do a tour to promote the 2006 collection, but the four original band members — singer/guitarist Martin, guitarist Peter Klett, drummer Scott Mercado, and bassist Bardi Martin — found their chemistry was so strong, plans for being a full-fledged band again quickly took shape. (Bardi Martin, who recently earned a law degree, has now left Candlebox and been replaced by Adam Kury.)
Kevin Martin knew the first post-reunion album would be key to the future of the group.
“Basically, between Pete and myself when it came to writing this record, there were several occasions when I sat down and said this is the most important record we’ve ever made,” Martin says. “If we’re going to come back and release something and hope that we have any sort of chance whatsoever to re-establish ourselves as a band, it better be the best fucking thing we’ve ever done.”
Such an objective is easier said than achieved. But one thing Martin and his bandmates had going for them was the benefit of hindsight and an ability to admit that the group didn’t initially make all the right musical moves. The first step in Candlebox’s career certainly worked out fine, though.
The band’s 1993 self-titled album took about a year before it began to connect with radio and record buyers. But when it took off, a trio of singles — “You,” “Far Behind,” and “Cover Me” — became huge hits. The CD soared past sales of three million copies in the United States alone.
But the band was hampered by a non-stop touring schedule and pressure to quickly finish each of its next two albums. They saw their success fade and their inner-band relationships get strained to the point that Mercado quit in 1997. Kevin Martin bowed out two years later, prompting the disbanding of Candlebox altogether.
Along the way, the music suffered, and Martin readily admits the group’s second album Lucy (1995) and third album Happy Pills (1998) were not everything they should have been. Sales of both discs reflected the flaws, and neither album came close to the success of the first.
For Into the Sun, Kevin Martin and Klett, the group’s two songwriters, were determined to play to their strengths.
“That meant no messing around, trying to be creative, and thinking outside the box — sort of making music that doesn’t represent Candlebox,” Martin says. “There are elements of every single record in this album, and we were very conscious of that. What are the core songs? What are the elements that made those records feel good? What were the best four songs from each record and what made those songs so great? What we always kept coming back to was melody on melody on rhythm. And that’s what we kind of focused on.”
Into the Sun may well be seen as Candlebox’s best record yet, featuring some of the most forceful, yet tuneful, rock the group has committed to disc, as tracks like “Stand,” “How Does It Feel,” and “Underneath It All” crackle with energy, while boasting ear-grabbing choruses and guitar hooks. Potent ballads like “Miss You” and “Surrendering” give the album a nice balance.
The band will try to spread the word about Into the Sun with extensive touring that has started with a three-month run of dates this summer. The group plans to play a song-packed 90-minute set that includes several tracks from each of the first three albums as well as a generous sampling of songs from Into the Sun.