music (2006-31)

I Love the ’90s

Candlebox returns with a new sound, the same music

by John Sewell

I remember a conversation with a fellow writer, early in my never-ending stint as a music hack: We were comparing interview experiences, and my more experienced colleague offered sage advice about how personality types correlate with where a rock musicians are in their career trajectory. “If they’re on the way up, they’re OK to deal with. If they’re at the top, they’re a pain in the ass. And if they’re on their way back down, they’re the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”

Although Candlebox’s Peter Klett’s career might not be in the declining stage, the Seattle-based guitarist has certainly seen greater heights of fame in the past. His band reached its apex in the 1990s, delivering a radio-friendly variant of the grunge sound that scored hits with the songs “You” and “Far Behind.” Candlebox later disbanded as the popularity of guitar-based rock packaged as grunge waned, with its members resurfacing in their own bands, none of which were very successful. So, perhaps predictably, the band has reconvened as kinder, gentler and wiser musicians, and is pushing a newly released greatest-hits collection on Rhino Records.

“The best-of compilation was coming out and I said, ‘Well, why don’t we just go tour?’ Things just kind of snowballed from there,” says the affable Klett, who is clearly in the nice guy mode. “Now I think we all realize what we had before. Basically, we’d all done our own bands and kind of grown up and learned how to live life and do our own thing. I think we all just matured.”

While Klett claims that playing other styles with other groups served to reinvigorate Candlebox’s members, the group’s sound is essentially the same. For the current tour, the band is giving the fans what they want by revisiting its classic material. “We kind of threw this whole thing together at the first of the year,” says Klett. “Right now, we’re really just getting to know each other again. As a band, I think we’re a lot more cohesive these days. Our relationship as people and as musicians is much tighter than it was before.”

In retrospect, Klett feels that the band’s classification as a part of the grunge movement might have proven an albatross that shortened the lifespan of the group’s first incarnation. But then again, Candlebox members had all of the trappings of grunge; they had long hair, they wore flannel shirts, they infused classic guitar rock sounds with a hint of punkish sensibility, and hey, they were from Seattle. At the time, belonging to the second wave of Seattle-based grunge bands was an effective marketing strategy. And contrary to Klett’s revisionist take, Candlebox prospered from the association.

“We never considered ourselves a grunge band, ever ,” says Klett. “We weren’t riding the wave of grunge. And for people to say that, well, that’s just untrue. I think that today, grunge is just so far in the past. It’s kind of like we’re reinventing ourselves and shedding the grunge baggage.”

With high hopes for the rejuvenated band, Klett says that Candlebox mach II will release a new album sometime next year. “We don’t have a record deal and that’s kind of nice because we’re not under any pressure,” the guitarist says. As for the present, the band is content to rehash its catalogue, albeit with new musical textures and more confident playing. Klett says the new Candlebox sound will be different, although no new music has been written.

“We really like playing in clubs again because it’s more intimate,” says Klett. “A lot of the old faces are showing up at the shows and it’s exciting to reconnect with them. And we’re also getting a lot of new people that are just ecstatic to finally be able to see the band.

“I’d like to take this as far as possible,” Klett continues. “This is our job. And we’re doing our job so much better these days. We’re coming out fresh and new. I want to go with this as far as I can, to be like Aerosmith and build a lifetime career. This time around, our personal relationships are so much stronger. We’re embracing the old-school Candlebox material, but this time we’re mature and we don’t take things for granted. And the warm reception that we’re getting every night has been a great surprise.”

What: Candlebox, w/Driveblind