Candlebox, the pseudo-grunge act signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records, has been bad-mouthing its rock counterpart, Paw, in its own backyard.
At least that’s what lead singer Mark Hennessy hears from a bartender at their regular haunt in hometown Lawrence, Kan.
Hennessy and bandmates Charles Bryan (bass) and brothers Grant (guitar) and Peter Fitch (drums), bleary-eyed from eight months of nonstop touring in support of their A&M debut album “Dragline,” are in Austin, Texas, and someone runs in to tell them Candlebox is in town.
“No way,” Hennessy shouts to the visitor. “Find out what time they’re playing and we’ll go there and make some trouble.” Hennessy explains the situation, foggy as it seems:
“The last time we came through Lawrence, the bartender says, ‘What’s wrong with Candlebox? What happened between you and Candlebox? They didn’t stop saying bad things about you the whole time they were here.’
“We’ve never met the guys in Candlebox. We don’t know anything about Candlebox, so I’m going to threaten one of them to find out what’s going on and just make it more interesting. If there’s some animosity between us, I want it to be for a reason.”
There’s certainly no comparison between the two bands, other than both play hard-edged melodic rock and have become critical favorites this year.
Hennessy then tries to downplay the inexplicable feud with Candlebox, saying he’s a snob when it comes to bands anyway, since he personally prefers the sweet sounds of Kate Bush and Tori Amos over any rock group (excluding maybe Tad … and Paw).
Paw, above all else, isn’t afraid of anyone or anything, because it has succeeded even beyond its own wildest dreams.
With an impressive demo and an equally eye-opening performance at Austin’s South By Southwest music conference two years ago, Paw knew there was no place like home when the major labels came calling.
Is it to their advantage being away from the rock capitals?
“Totally,” Hennessy said. “Personally, it’s to my advantage because it’s a nicer place to live and breathe. It’s a nicer place to grow as a band. It’s cheaper and more comforting. I can’t think of any disadvantages, really.
“It’s happened for us, even though we live in Lawrence.”
The underlying theme of the tracks on “Dragline,” from a runaway boy’s love for his dog in “Jessie” to the sexually explicit “The Bridge,” is simple: it’s okay to love and hate a person at the same time.
“It was just a product of what was happening in my life at the time when I wrote those songs,” Hennessy said. “I’m not a chauvinist and I’m not a sadist by any means, but it seems like I’ve been in too many relationships where women make me feel sadistic or crazy.
“If the record was written today, it probably wouldn’t be written that way. Now we’ve all matured to a certain point. We’ve not as angry or out of control with some of our emotions.”