It's been a decade since Matchbox Twenty released a new studio album -- though the band's pleased to feel like they never left. "We got mentioned on 'Parks and Recreation' [and] 'The Simpsons' in the same week, and I was like wow, we haven't made a record in 10 years," guitarist Paul Doucette told Billboard.com. "We still exist for some people."
But when the group gathered to begin work on their next full-length, they didn't want to just offer up another fan-friendly helping of past hits.
The productive two-year writing and recording sessions led to over 60 ideas that longtime producer Matt Serletic helped the group chop down to the 12 songs that will make the band's "North," due Sept. 4. Billboard.com joined Matchbox Twenty in the studio to listen to several in-progress tracks from the album. Here's what we heard:
"She's So Mean": Between the guitar sound and big chorus, the "North" lead single recalls the band's late '90s early days. With lyrics about a bad girl who "drinks Bacardi in the morning," it's ready to soundtrack a future "Jersey Shore" episode, or at least a summer at the beach. Thomas says the song's about "the wrong kind of girls that we've probably all dated," though as a band of mostly married men for the last decade, they turned to other sources of inspiration. "Luckily, you have single friends who are making really bad decisions, so you can draw on their experiences," he laughed.
"Our Song": A track that sounds impressively current, thanks to the addition of synthesizers to the mix. "I'm gonna set things right again/ this can be our song, this can be our song," Thomas sings on the radio-ready hook. The track adds a wild bridge and handclaps for good measure.
"Overjoyed": This one opens as an acoustic ballad before the band comes in, launching into a yearning but catchy chorus: "I will be overjoyed."
"I Will": The track borrows a name from the a Beatles classic, as well as some of its sensitivity. It finds Thomas gently singing at the top of his range over fingerpicked acoustic guitars, with a piano adding flavor on the bridge. It's miles away from some of the group's more gritty, energetic new material, a split Thomas said the full album will connect.
"If you play [those tracks] and then "I Will" back to back, you're like, whoa, whoa, whoa," Thomas said. "When everything's done with the whole 12 songs, there's a couple songs in there that bridge that gap a little better, without being so stark."
See the full tracklist for "North" below:
2. She's So Mean
4. Put Your Hands Up
5. Our Song
6. I Will
7. English Town
8. How Long
10. The Way
11. Like Sugar
12. Sleeping at the Wheel