The first band signed to Madonna’s Maverick Recording Company, Candlebox’s career grew from a spark to a multiplatinum flame with their self-titled debut. The group remained a viable force for nearly seven years, but never matched the success of their first release. The band dissolved in 2000 following the release of their third album, Happy Pills, in 1998.
The group’s original members—singer Kevin Martin, guitarist Peter Klett, bassist Bardi Martin, and drummer Scott Mercado—all hailed from Seattle, Washington. Kevin Martin moved to Washington from Texas at the age of 15 where he formed a friendship with the other members. In December of 1991, the foursome decided to start a band together. They named themselves Candlebox after the lyric “boxed in like candles” from the song “Tin Legs and Tin Miles” by Midnight Oil.
During this time, Seattle was a breeding ground for hit bands. Record company executives were flying to the city to discover the next popular band to come out of what was known as the “grunge scene” of the Pacific Northwest. Local bands faced a highly competitive environment in the club scene, and Candlebox could not get invitations to play in the hottest clubs. Instead,
Members include Peter Klett, guitar; Dave Krusen (joined group 1997), drums; Bardi Martin , bass; Kevin Martín, vocals; Scott Mercado (left group 1997), drums.
Band formed in Seattle, WA, 1991; signed recording contract with Maverick Recording Company, 1992; released three albums, 1993-98; disbanded, 2000.
they poured their savings into an eight-song demo, produced by their longtime friend Kelly Gray.
In 1992, Guy Oseary, an A&R representative for the Maverick Recording Company, arrived at a showcase at Los Angeles’ Club Lingerie. He was there to see Green Apple Quickstep, but showed up early enough to catch a performance by Candlebox. Oseary signed Candlebox to the first contract on the Maverick label. Since the company was owned by pop sensation Madonna, Candlebox received a great deal of attention—both good and bad.
Candlebox was released in 1993 and included the singles “You,” “Change,” and “Far Behind.” Many critics bashed the band relentlessly. Some accused Candlebox of trying to cash in on the grunge movement. Almost a year after the album’s release, sales picked up, and it was certified gold. Not long after, the album burned up the charts, selling four million copies in the United States alone. “We’ve been pretty spoiled,” Klett told Chris Gill in Guitar Player. ”It’s been very easy for us, but that’s due to the fact that the music’s good and people like it. It just seemed to click.” Klett wrote most of the songs on Candlebox.
Despite brisk sales, critics did not give the band a break. The members of Candlebox soon learned to ignore the bad press and all of the comparisons to what were then considered “uncool” rock bands. “We’ve been compared to Kik Tracee, and we’ve been compared to Saigon Kick,” Mercado told Alec Foege in Rolling Stone. “When people say we sound like an honest rock band,” Kevin Martin continued, “that’s what we are.”
After the release of Candlebox, the group embarked on an 18-month, 400-show tour. They opened for several different bands including Rush and Metallica, and they were in the lineup for Woodstock ’94. “We have fun onstage; we goof around,” Kevin Martin explained to Jason Cohen in Rolling Stone. “We want people to have a good time.”
The band headed right back into the studio after their tour ended to record their sophomore effort, Lucy. ”Being on the road for 18 months straight taught us a lot about ourselves—the inner mixing of the band and crew,” Klett told Gill. “We’ve grown up and experienced life. I think that shows on this record.” Despite the growth the band felt they had accomplished with the album, many critics continued to give them bad reviews. In Entertainment Weekly, Jim Farber called Lucy “fat-bottomed and lifeless.”
Candlebox followed the release with its first headlining tour. In 1995, the group recorded a cover version of John Lennon’s “Steel and Glass” for Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon. In 1997, Mercado left the band and was replaced by Dave Krusen, who played drums on Pearl Jam’s Ten album. “We wanted to find a drummer who is as excited about music as we are,” Kevin Martin told iMusic online. “Dave was the first guy I thought of. I’d seen him play, I’d known him for many years, and I knew he was an exciting drummer. He came in and made everybody comfortable with their ability.” The day Krusen joined Candlebox, the group wrote four songs together and soon headed back into the recording studio.
In 1998, Candlebox released their third and final album, Happy Pills. It was produced by Ron Nevison, who had also produced for Led Zeppelin and The Who. “It’s Alright” was the first single released from the album. By this time, the members of Candlebox were fully prepared for the press bashing that they had received with their first two releases. “I don’t think the record is going to be readily accepted by the media, and that’s fine,” Kevin Martin explained to Michael Moses at Launch.com. “We don’t sit down and write a record to please the critics, or to please Details, or Rolling Stone, or Spin magazine. We have a solid fanbase…. Those are the people we care about.”
With Happy Pills in stores and on the radio, Candlebox headed out on tour that same year. In January of 1999, Krusen left the tour and the band with very little notice. Krusen was expecting his second child and decided that he needed to stay home with his family instead of continuing the tour. The remaining dates were postponed until the band could find a replacement. A month later, they recruited Shannon Larking, who played drums for Ugly Kid Joe. Larking agreed to temporarily fill in until the end of the Candlebox tour when the band could begin searching for a permanent replacement.
Neither Lucy nor Happy Pills came close to reaching the success of Candlebox. The group had gone through two drummers, and Kevin Martin and Klett decided to leave the band. Klett left Seattle and moved to Southern California to pursue a solo career.
Candlebox (includes “You,” “Change,” “Far Behind”), Maverick/Warner Bros. Records, 1993.
Lucy, Maverick/Warner Bros. Records, 1995.
(Contributor) Working Class Hero: A Tribute to John Lennon, Hollywood Records, 1995.
Happy Pills, Maverick/Warner Bros. Records, 1998.
Entertainment Weekly, September 23, 1994; October 13, 1995; July 24, 1998.
Guitar Player, July 1994; January 1996.
New York Times, December 7, 1995.
People, November 6, 1995.
Rolling Stone, January 27, 1994; February 23, 1995; November 2, 1995.
Stereo Review, January 1996.
“Candlebox,” iMusic Modern Showcase, http://imusic.artistdirect.com (January 13, 2001).
“Candlebox Continues Tour with Ugly Kid Joe Drummer,” MTV News Gallery,http://www.mtv.com (January 13, 2001).
Candlebox Virtual Museum,http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Venue/7607/cboxinfo.html (January 13, 2001).
“Don’t Box Them In,” Launch.com ,http://www.launch.com (January 13, 2001).
“Drummer Dave Krusen Leaves Candlebox,” MTV News Gallery,http://www.mtv.com (January 13, 2001).