Three years ago, if you'd mentioned the band Train to a music fan, he might remember the name from an Aware Records compilation a friend had loaned him. These days, if you tell him they're the band with the song, "Meet Virginia," his eyes would surely light up in recognition.
What a difference three years make.
In that time, Train has criss-crossed the U.S. numerous times; performed on bills with the Dave Matthews Band, Ben Folds Five, and Collective Soul; toured Australia; released their self-titled debut album (which was the #1 album on the Billboard Heatseekers chart for four weeks in late summer 1999); sold more than one million records; and scored a Top Ten hit. It's been a busy three years.
Between all that touring--not to mention appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," and "The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn"--the group took six weeks out of their hectic schedule to record their second album, Drops Of Jupiter. A blend of thoughtful guitar riffs, eclectic soundscapes, earthy melodies, and great rock tunes, Drops Of Jupiter is a collection of songs that shows off a band that's coming into its prime as both a songwriting and performing entity. After three tireless years of gigging, Train has no need for filler. Each song on the album is a diamond. But even more than that, it's nearly impossible to get the songs of Drops Of Jupiter out of your CD-changer--much less your head.
"We're really proud of this album," says lead singer Pat Monahan of Drops Of Jupiter. "After years on the road, supporting an album that we wrote so long ago, we're obviously excited about getting a bunch of new material out there. But beyond that, these songs just have a quality about them. Our songwriting, our relationships, our ability to get our thoughts into songs--all that got stronger after playing in front of a live audience for so many nights."
The title track, "Drops Of Jupiter," is a watershed song, a soaring tribute to love and cosmic mystery featuring deluxe orchestration by Paul Buckmaster (one of rock's legendary arranger/conductors, Buckmaster played cello on David Bowie's "Space Oddity," a spiritual forebear to "Drops Of Jupiter").
Recorded at Atlanta's Southern Tracks Studio, and produced by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots), Drops Of Jupiter showcases Train's strong songwriting. From the opener, "She's on Fire," a rocker that'll have you rolling down the windows to feel the breeze in your hair, to the gloriously arranged title track, to the atmospheric and personal "Let It Roll," the re-recorded cult favorite, "Hopeless" (off an earlier limited edition EP), or the cautiously optimistic ballad, "Something More," it's obvious this is a group of talented musicians whose experience playing together is taking them in provocative new directions. The album's delicate instrumentation, slide guitar, hints of classic pop and moody jazz make it crystal clear that this is not some jam band content with reworking variations on a limited number of musical themes. With Drops Of Jupiter, Train explores the power and possibilities of the band's music with the ease and confidence of seasoned professionals.
The first rumblings of Train began nearly seven years ago, when Monahan met Rob Hotchkiss, the former lead singer of Apostles, while living in Los Angeles. The two moved up to San Francisco and began performing in any coffeehouse with a stage. Pretty soon Pat and Rob rounded out the sound of their acoustic act with Jimmy Stafford (lead guitar) and Charlie Colin (bass), Hotchkiss's former bandmates in Apostles, with Scott Underwood coming on-board as drummer shortly thereafter. This was back in 1994, and they've been on the road ever since, moving from coffee houses to small venues, up to opening slots on major tours and headlining their own shows.
Things really started happening for Train in the summer of 1999. Thanks in part to strategic placement on Aware 5, the fifth compilation album from the label that launched bands like Better Than Ezra and Matchbox Twenty, "Meet Virginia" reached its fingers toward the top of the charts, falling just shy of that golden number one slot, and the video (starring the stunning Rebecca Gayheart) was in heavy rotation on VH1 for more than four months. "The peak moment was when we played this radio show in Philadelphia that summer," recalls Monahan. "We were on after some band I'd never heard of, and before Sean Lennon. Just as we're backstage waiting to go on, we hear thousands of people rushing the stage and chanting, 'Train, Train, Train!' We sort of knew that there was this swelling fan base around the country, but until we had the hit on the radio, we didn't get to see it in such a ravenous way. That was such a high."
By that time, Train had sold one million albums, but they still weren't satisfied. "A few years ago, we would have thought that having a platinum album was success," surmises Hotchkiss, "but we keep raising the bar." Adds Monahan: "You reach a point where you have to admit that this is as far as you're going to take an album, and it's time to go back to the studio and write more songs." Of course, Train is a virtual non-stop touring machine, so it wasn't until eight months ago--after three years on the road supporting their debut--that the band stopped touring long enough to record Drops Of Jupiter.
Now that those 11 songs are complete, Train's looking forward to performing the new material on-stage. "For a band like us," says Monahan, "being a touring band is what this whole thing is about. It's about live music. It's about watching people experience your music. I mean, all of us started writing and playing because we saw some live show that got under our skin. For me, it was at an Aerosmith show when I was 14--where I caught a drumstick right in the chest. For all of us, we thrive off the energy exchanged between the band and the audience. And so, as long as people want to hear us play, live and on tape, we plan on taking advantage of that." Adds Stafford, "As soon as we get the music out there, we'll just pick up where we left off, and our live show will grow organically. We're that type of band."
Train fans got their first taste of Drops Of Jupiter when the track, "Respect," appeared on Songs From Dawson's Creek Vol. II, released October 2000. The group recently recorded their version of "Light My Fire," which appears on the Doors' tribute album, Stoned Immaculate. Extending the Doors connection one step further, Pat sang "Love Me Two Times" with Ray Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore on the VH1 "Storytellers" episode focused on the legendary 60's ensemble.
There's no doubt about it, Train is headed to new and exciting musical destinations. Next stop: Jupiter.
-from the official Train website
--- from the official Train website