Candlebox’s Kevin Martin Talks ‘Disappearing in Airports’ Album, New Members + More
Candlebox are back with their sixth studio album, Disappearing in Airports. The album, out today (April 22), has already spawned the radio single "Vexatious," with plenty of other solid cuts just waiting for their turn.
The album comes from a more direct place with singer Kevin Martin more openly sharing a point view with his lyrics, and we recently had a chance to chat with Martin about the creation of the album and some of the disc's key tracks. Check out the chat below, as Martin also discusses the addition of two new band members, some of his non-rock influences, his most rewarding album/tour cycle and what fans can look for from the band's touring:
Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do going into this record and how did the creative process evolve as you went along?
Well, we didn’t want it to force the creative nature of the band so we limited the time we were going to be in the studio. Other records, we’ve spent two to three weeks working on and I always felt like that was too much time for distraction. So, with this record we forced ourselves to do it in basically six days, six to seven days musically. They would develop the songs so that I could write lyrics to. I only had lyrics to three of the songs on the album and then they guys had another project they had to do which allowed me the month to dial in lyrics and even then when I got into the studio to do vocals, I wasn’t entirely finished.
It really pushed us to make the record that we wanted to make, and not overthink it. I think that we’ve been at times, guilty of overthinking parts and changes and interesting things that we thought we wanted to do a song rather than just letting the song be what it was supposed to be. And we didn’t want to do that with that with this record. So we consciously went in with really only five songs that were written. The rest were developed in the studio and we actually wrote three songs in the studio. So, I think that’s exactly what we needed to do and it worked.
You have a few new band members, Mike Leslie and Brian Quinn, coming in. Did that change the creative process at all or the mindset of putting this all together?
I think it really enhanced it. Mike is a really incredible blues player and he’s got a crazy library of songs that he can play. I think that he was able to draw from that in the studio to give us kind of movements and chord progressions that set up choruses and stuff. And Brian is just as talented with riffs so, I think that is why we were able to get these songs to kind of feel urgent and excitable rather than the basic mundane G C B chord progressions. So I think they really sparked that energy that I was so happy to have in the studio. You're sitting there working through a song and the next thing you know you’re like that takes done. What do you want to move on to? And you look at each other and say, "Wow, that’s how it’s supposed to be" and it came a lot from Mike and Brian’s talents.
You mentioned not necessarily having all the lyrics to the songs while you were putting the songs together. Obviously you had the music, but what was inspiring you as you went along? And what was the reaction from the bandmates once they heard what the final lyrics were going to be?
Well, I think everyone was really happy. I’ve always let the music kind of dictate where my lyrics would go. That’s why I don’t write lyrics before songs -- because I need to be connected to that music to let it tell me what it wants me to say, and I’ve always been that way. I think that gives me more of a connection to what we write. I’ve felt that at times I’ve been a bit vague in what what I was trying to say. With this record, I wanted to make sure that I was very poignant with what I was writing about that I’m affected by everything on a daily basis and my mind is constantly moving at a million miles a minute so, when it’s time to write lyrics I have to be affected by that music, If I’m not affected I won’t be able to write to it. For me, it's a real catalyst for a lyric and it’s also a way for me to express myself opinion wise, a little bit more literally rather than veering away. I’d rather make you think about something yourself than tell you what my thoughts are and with this record it was really about telling you about what my thoughts were and letting you know where I'm at. It was cathartic [laughs].
Thank you for premiering "I've Got a Gun" here at Loudwire earlier this year. Can you talk about that song? People might look and see the title and think, "Oh he's weighing in on the gun control debate," but there's more to it than that.
It was written from the perspective of the gun owner who feels as though their second amendment rights are being taken from them. It's simply not the case. I was so tired of these arguments that I was seeing on a daily basis. Frankly it's total bulls--t. This is a country where you're free to do what you chose to do. You have these rights, they are protected by those amendments. Again, they're called amendments because they can be amended. No one is trying to take your guns. What we're trying to do, those of us that chose not to own those weapons want to be protected from them. That's why I call for gun control.
Something needs to change. In my opinion it needs to be a nationwide law, not a state by state law. Unfortunately that's not the society we live in. But, it made me want to say what I said in that song. Starting it with the news clips is yeah, maybe it's a little bit gratuitous but I wanted it to start with that because I wanted people to know that this s--t is happening all the f--king time. There are people being affected by this that should not be affected by it. Parents of children. These young black kids that are being shot by cops on a daily basis, families that are grieving. Yeah, I'm sure that they're guilty of doing something to harm someone else, that's who we are. We're humans. We hurt one another. But when you cause death, because you medically should not be allowed to have a gun, that's a serious issue and that's where the song came from.
No one is trying to take your second amendment rights, no one is trying to take your guns. Should assault rifles be banned? Absolutely. But if you own one and you legally own one, then lock it away. Don't let someone get it and get their hands on it, especially someone who is medically not capable of understanding the damage that they are causing with that weapon.
"Vexatious" is doing very well for you guys right now. Can you talk about that track?
That was inspired by a trip I took to Bali last summer. I was sitting on the beach with the sun setting, and it was absolutely one of the most picturesque peaceful and beautiful places in the world. There's this young girl who has a full face of makeup and a tight dress laying in the grass just selfie, selfie, selfie, totally oblivious to the world around her and oblivious to the people staring at her. She's totally oblivious to this incredibly beautiful place that she was sitting in that was created hundreds of millions of years ago. It was all about her. I was so disturbed by that and it sparked that thought of where did this sense of entitlement come from? Why, as a society, are we OK with this? Why are we allowing ourselves not to be empathetic? Why are we not allowing ourselves to not to be compassionate? Where does this come from?
Then I start to read these bickering back and forth bulls--t tweets between rappers and pop stars, rock stars and it was just, you know, a means to irritate. Vexate, it's a legal term and it's generally when a prosecutor or a defense attorney just for the sake of f--king argument does it to cause distraction. I thought, can I use that word to describe my emotions? To describe what i'm feeling? I looked up Vexatious and it fit syllabically to what I was trying to sing. It also described the song in its entirety and that's where the song title came from. There's this lyric in the chorus that's "Can you do what's been done / Can you shine in the sun?" That's really what it's about. Can you be in the moment, rather than being so self absorbed that it's going to pass you by and before you know it you're going to be laying on a bed breathing or being fed through a tube and you're going to miss it.
I'm sure you're going to be hearing this but "Supernova" has "hit" all over it. Can you talk about that one?
I love that song. It's a song about sex. It's a song about that moment when you're so rattled by that partner that you just can't get enough and it literally knocks you into outer space and some cases, that's how you fall in love. You get absolutely blown away by that experience. That's where the concept of the song came about, and I wanted it to be feel kind of in that sense of "Emotional Rescue" by the Rolling Stones meets KISS' "I Was Made for Loving You." I wanted it to be a combination of those two. The sexuality of The Stones versus that great lock down groove that the song by KISS had. That's how it came about, really.
We just really wanted to make something that was sexy, slithery. I'm a huge Lenny Kravitz fan. I love how he always uses the word "mama" when he's talking about the love of his life. It's a very old school R&B, Otis Redding used to use it all the time. It's a very affectionate term for a woman and it's very sexual, not in the sense of motherhood but that great cultural R&B vibe. That's what we were looking for, I absolutely love that f--king song. I was so happy with it. I hope that it becomes a second single, because I think it's got everything in it to rock and roll.
People might think you primarily draw inspiration from hard rock and rock music. But, you discuss bringing an R&B vibe into it. Can you tell me some of your influences that maybe aren't necessarily in the rock genre?
Otis Redding has always been my favorite singer. I have every record Otis has ever released. And frankly, when I started singing back in '89 in bands, I was a drummer previously. That's the first person I thought of. How would Otis Reading approach this type of rock and roll? He was so about his phrasing and the way he would find a position to put a word in the middle of a melodic movement. I think hands down, he's one of the greatest songwriter / lyricist / singers in the history of rock and roll. That's where I pull my R&B from entirely.
Am I a fan of a lot of R&B? Yeah. D'Angelo has always been one of my favorites. Sly and the Family Stone, Lenny Kravitz. The list goes on and one. That first Lenny record to me was one of the greatest R&B / rock and roll records ever made. I've always, always just loved R&B, man. It's one of those things that I can't get enough of. I'm talking traditional R&B. I'm not really a fan of any of the contemporary ones. I think it's watered down pop R&B. But, there's something about, every now and then, someone comes along. The Fugees, man. I loved them when they came out. I think there's a place for that in rock and roll. It's what The Stones lived on for literally 7 or 8 albums, was just R&B / rock and roll and I love it. That's where I pull from.
You guys get ready to hit the road. As you get ready to hit the road, what song are you most interested in playing live?
Last night we played "Alive at Last" in El Paso and it went over great, we also played "Supernova." We played "Vexatious," we've been sneaking crazy in. We're going to start sneaking "Keep on Waiting" in. "Spotlights" we've played, we played "I've Got a Gun." I would love to play this record top to bottom. That's not going to happen, but it's going to be interesting to pick those songs every night that flow in the set because we've got such a catalog of music and I'd like to play 2.5 hours but we can't do that in these environments that we're in, so we gotta squeeze what we can into an hour forty five or a two hour set. That's hard, because we want to play stuff off of our older albums, so it's difficult but I think eventually we'll sneak "I've Got a Gun" and "God's Gift." I like the way that song moves and it's a good uptempo track, so it's really about keeping that flow of the show going, the ups and downs and a little bit of that roller coaster ride that keeps the audience interested.
It's a great album cover that you have for Disappearing in Airports. I know you have ties to artist Scott Rivers Fisher. If you'd like to talk a little bit how Disappearing in Airports became the album title and also how Scott came to be the person who did the cover.
Years ago I had asked him to paint a cover for Love Stories and Other Musings and he did this real amazing piece. The label felt it was a bit too artistic. They wanted something that was a bit more simple and of course you can fight certain fights and certain battles you're going to win and that's one of the one where I wasn't willing to fight. So, when it came time to do this one, I reached out to him again and he was like, "Man, I'd love to." So I sent him the songs. Sadly about a week into it, when he started painting he had a massive heart attack and died. He was only 41 years old, and I was devastated.
I got a phone call from his sister and she said I know Scott was working on this piece for you, and it's not finished but we have something of his that he's never shown. He absolutely loves it and it's one of our favorite pieces, can we send it to you? I said I'd love to see it, and that picture came through and the title was Disappearing in Airports and I felt it really represented this album because there are so many colors, so many textures. There are so many different things going on in this piece, and you can look at it from so many different angles and see so many different things going on there. I felt it really represented the music. I called her and said listen, "We'd be honored to make this album together. We want to put something inside the jacket that tells people who he was and what his loves were, what his passions were and what his website and information was." If they'd allow us to do that, it'd be our honor. So, that's what it's about. It's really saying goodbye to a friend but hopefully creating something historically for him in a world of art. Because I think he definitely was a force to be reckoned with and was going to really stir things up in the art world. It's always hard to say goodbye to a friend. This is really my way of saying thank you for being such an incredible talent and human being.
In the history of Candlebox, for you what was the most rewarding album / tour cycle personally and creatively for you?
Wow. Good question. There are so many. I'd have to say the first [self-titled] album because of touring with Living Color, Rush, Metallica, Henry Rollins, Flaming Lips in that two year period was just so f--king mindblowing and the experience of things that you dream about as a kid. Then you're out there and pinching yourself because you're standing on the side of the stage with Rush and with Corey Glover and Living Color, Metallica and you're hanging out with Wayne Coyne and talking to Henry Rollins about punk rock. That's just real special. It's a magical record, it launched us into a 25 year career and I just love that opportunity so much that I would have to say that cycle really was the greatest for me.
What are you looking at over the next few months?
I think going after another single probably in May. We're going to be touring the world, we're going to be doing a lot of music over the next few months. We really want to capitalize on the momentum we have right now so we'd like to get into the studio at some point in the fall and start the next record. Again, limit the time that we do it in so that we aren't forcing songs that we don't want -- that we're allowing them to open themselves up to us. It's really just about being creative and going to see parts of the world that we haven't seen and sharing this record with an entire community of rock and rollers.
Our thanks to Candlebox's Kevin Martin for the interview. The band's Disappearing in Airports album is available at Amazon and iTunes. Additionally, Candlebox just released their video for "Vexatious" that can be seen below, and you can catch them on tour at these locations.