Candlebox: Whatever happened to Madonna’s Band?

Candlebox Would Sell 4 million copies of their debut record

Back in 1993 the Seattle band Candlebox seemingly came out of nowhere and shocked everyone. Critics and fellow musicians didn’t seem to give them a lot of respect. Today we explore whatever happened to Candlebox, a band that was signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records label. Check it out below!

Candlebox was a band that critics, fellow musicians and some in the music industry wrote off as being derivative or even taking advantage of the popularity of the Seattle music scene in the early 90’s. But one thing that people may often miss about Candelbox is that the band’s members mostly hailed from seattle and they were living in the city long before alternative music blew up the early 90’s. Frontman Kevin Martin perfectly summarized the early part of the band’s career telling author mark yarm “we were the redheaded stepchild. We were in the right place at the right time. Fortunately our music had its own voice. Unfortunately, everybody believed that we had moved there to steal the sound. And today, we’re going to talk aboutwhatever happened to the band candlebox.

Candlebox was made up of vocalist Kevin Martin, guitarist peter klett, bassist Bardi Martin and drummer scott mercado as part of their original lineup. All of hte band members grew up in and around seattle, with the exception of singer Kevin Martin who hailed from San Antonio Texas. He would move out to seattle at the age of 14 in 1984, long before grunge took over the world. It’s important to note that the members of candlebox were on average 5 years younger than a lot of the other bands who were popular from seattle in the 90’s. And during his time in texas, Martin was influenced by punk bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys’. And By Martin’s own admission he would claim that moving to seattle was like culture shock because of the type of music people were playing there.. And prior to forming Candlebox the members were already playing in different bands around town and given that the music community was pretty small, they frequently crossed paths.

The origins of candlebox started with Kevin Martin and scott mercado who started a band named uncle duke. Soon enough peter klett and bardi martin joined and they would soon change their name to Candlebox. It seemed like from the start though, the band gelled pretty quickly since the bands inception in 1990.
But one of the questions you may have about candlebox is what kind of relationship did they have with their counterparts like pearl jam and alice in chains and soundgarden. Well in an interview frontman kevin martin gave to german website grungery he talked about it in detail revealing how he used to work at a shore store at the age of 16 where coincidentally enough Chris Cornell’s first Susan Silver also worked. She managed the shoe store, while having her own music management company behind the building. That’s how martin met chris cornell. He would reveal in the interview

She managed a shoe store called {John} Fluevog, Susan did.. So, that’s I met Chris. That’s how I met Andy Wood That’s how I met Layne Stanley. It’s how I met Jerry Cantrell. It was really amazing for me to meet guys that I admired musically and at the same time I was playing drums in a band. I never thought it would turn into friendship because I was so much younger. Layne and I hadbecame really good friends just through parties and stuff and we rehearsed next door to them at the Music Bank. He and I would sit and shoot the shit all the time about singers and rock and roll. And Andy was the one who would come into the shop and would love to talk about music when he did come in he’d say.
Bardi Martin recalled the early rehearsals with the band and writing some of the band’s hit songs telling author Mark Yarm in the book ‘Everybody Loves Our Town’ “I was the last person to join. What ended up being “you” which was one of the songs that did really well happened when we were improvising, the first hour we were together. I had a rough song idea that became far behind and i think we worked on that that night too. It felt pretty magical early on he’d say.

While it appeared that people in seattle liked the band, it would be local rock jouralists and established bands who hated on them for coming at a time when grunge was popular and they were frequently accused of riding other more established band’s coattails. The band would soon play sold out shows at some of seattle’s most popular music venues some of which held upwards of 600 people before even signing a major record label.
Producer Kelly Gray and Queensrcyhe guitarist would help the band cut their first demos. He would tell author mark yarm“when kevin was singing far behind” at the studio i looked at their then manager and i said “these guys are gonna make us rich. It was obvious.”
In late 1992, The band would partake in a broadcast music incorporated showcase at the off-ramp in seattle where basically a series of bands would play and label executives who were in attendance would decide who to sign. The label EMI initially showed interest in the band and they flew them down to los angeles in october of 1992. The band would play a show at club lingerie, but the rep from EMI never showed up, but one person who was there, was guy oseary who worked for Madonna’s label Maverick records who ended up signing the band
Once the band signed to maverick records there was a lot of jealousy against the group because it seemed to their peers that they literally had overnight success. Some accused them of sleeping with madonna to get on the label, while others thought that the band was originally from LA and moved to seattle to get signed. It probably didnt help that courtney love kept saying in the press that the band was from LA even though they weren’t. Kevin martin told mark yarm
“we ‘d been a band for a year and a half and some people felt that wasn’t long enough. Which never made sense to me. The biggest detractors. The young bands that weren’t successful. They felt like we didn’t really deserve it. We took a lot of shit in the city and nobody ever f**** stood up for us he’d say.
The band would release their self titled debut album in July of 1993. The album was a massive success selling over 4 million copies just in the US and spawning 3 big singes including cover me, you and far behind. The album would remain on the billboard charts for two years.
Maverick records attributed the success of the band to it’s crossover appeal to college, alternative, metal and album rock formats. The band could also thank independent and college radio stations for helping build buzz for the band. In may of 1993, a few months before their debut album came out, Maverick records sent out a sampler CD of Candlebox to radio stations who quickly added the band to their lineup. . In addition to that Maverick discounted the price of the band’s first 150K copies of their debut album to 11.98 on CD and 6.98 on cassette which helped spur initial sales Helped by MTV, the band’s music videos were quickly adopted by both Headbangers Ball and Alternative Nation. Soon enough, rock radio station would help the band gain traction in Seattle, Baltimore, Boston, Denver and Tampa Bay according to billboard magazine. Local radio station KISW helped promote the band from the beginning heavily playing the group’s singles .A spokesperson from the station would tell Billboard magazine at the time “people respond to candlebox because their very passionate. The music is raw and real and it’s not a formula their going by and people can read that” they’d say.
But critics, weren’t kind to the band as even Billboard Magazine’s review of their debut album would say the following “The band doesn’t know whether they are soundgarden, extreme or led zeppelin. They have no commercial success headed their way” they’d write.

Kevin Martin would tell billboard in early 1994 the biggest misconception of the band revealing “We were the second coming of the seattle bands and people don’t know we’re from seattle until they ask. We write basic chord structures and don’t detune our guitars. We’re a straight ahead honest rock n’ roll band that happens to come from seattle” he’d say.
By early 1994 Candlebox would play three sold out shows at Seattle’s paramount theatre, setting a box office record at the time The band’s label was so ecstatic with the success of the group’s debut album, that they pressed a limited edition vinyl EP featuring 4 tracks from their paramount theatre shows
According to billboard, Of the four million copies candlebox sold of their debut album, 10% of those sales came directly from New York City. But outside of america they weren’t a huge success moving only about 100,000 copies. But Candlebox was successful for another reason that’s often overlooked and that can be attributed to fellow seattle band alice in chains.
1994 was going to be a massive for Alice in Chains. They toured extensively the two previous years to support their sophomore LP Dirt, which sold upwards of 6 million copies. And they would start off 1994 releasing the Jar of Flies EP which topped the billboard album charts which was a 1st for the band. The group was offered a highly coveted spot opening up for Metallica on their summer tour, in addition to playing woodstock 94. But it wasn’t meant to be as infighting and drug addiction cannibalized the band and they broke up for a period of 6 months prior to hitting the road with Metallica This resulted in Candlebox stepping in and having a phenomenal year on the road, further helping push album sales.
In early 1994 Candleboxfound themesleves opening for Rush and playing Madison Square Garden in New York City. Soon enough Candlebox was headlining it’s own tour with groupslike The Flaming Lips opening for them. Wayne Coyne the frontman for the Flaming Lips would tell author Mark Yarm “Candlebox wasn’t just a nail in the coffin for grunge, to me they arrived as the coffin for grunge. We toured with them for 3 months at the end of 1994 and at the beginning of that phase they were playing 4 to 5000 people a night. And by the end they were playing giant arenas hockey rinks forthe most part that hold 10,000 people and they are selling them out a couple of nights in a row. “We saw the clumsiness of their shows and their songs and everything about it seemed damn was this is too much too soon. Candlebox really had nothing he’d remember.

Almost immediately after the band got off the road they headed back into the studio to record their highly anticipated follow up record, but the band was burned out. Kevin Martin would tell author mark yarm “the making of candlebox’s second album was a disaster. Scott wanted to quit the band but he wasn’t telling anybody so he was playing drums like a robot. Everybody was really unhappy and tired and overworked. The label and management were like, ‘we need to make this record.”
But the band struggled to even show up in the studio as it’s members now had money and in some cases drugs affected the members commitments. Guitarist peter klett would reveal in the same book “by lucy id be high on coke and all jittery and wanting to get my tracks done just so i could go. I was definitely guilty of calling in sick because i’m hungover.
The band soon started to clash in the studio as the members felt stifled by Martin’s stubbornness and dominating demeanor. The band would eventually finish their second album Lucy and it would be released in October of 1995.
According to producer Johnathan plum record stores anticipated the album to be a huge seller pre-ordering a million copies which meant the album was technically certified platinum before it sold one copy to consumers. But back in those days record stores could ship back copies that didn’t sell and that’s exactly what happened. The album would end up going gold selling about 500,000 copies a fraction of what the band’s debut album did. Lucy would have two modest hit singles on the record including Simple Lessons and Understanding both of which were top 20 hits on the mainstream rock charts. But once again critics didn’t find themselves fans of the band as entertainment weekly would give the album an F rating stating the following about the record
“At least Candlebox’s unadulterated terribleness offers the public a sad, necessary lesson. For those who believed the human race would never again endure anything as awful as Journey and Foreigner, Candlebox prove it can happen here. F”
The band’s follow up album Happy Pills would come out in 1998 and it was a tumultuous time for the group . They underwent lineup changes with drummer Scott Mercado leaving the group and being replaced by former pearl jam drummer dave krusen. Partway through the tour to support happy pills, krusen would leave and be replaced by former ugly kid joe drummer shannon larkin and Bassist bardi martin would also leave the group in 1999 to attend college. The tour to support the record would also be hampered by health problems as frontman kevin martin would burst a blood vessel in his throat forcing the band to cancel some dates. But the band also got some pretty amazing touring offers opening for Aerosmith.

By 2000 the band was done, but it really appeared to be more of a business decision as Kevin Martin would reveal to Garage Radio Magazine in 2008

“We tried to get out of our contract by breaking up the band but it didn’t work. So it was a bit of a catch 22. When you breakup a band there’s always one member whose considered the key member of the band and with that they’re locked into the contract . i was that guy and i didn’t deliver that fourth record. After battling with them for 2.5 years i told them to go f themselves and i was terminated. Martin would go on to claim that during that time battling with the record label the other members drifted into other musical projects and career goals like attending college so they had other priorities in life.
In 2006 when their old label released a best of compilation meaning they finally contractually delivered a fourth album. Free and clear of legal headaches, the band reformed the same year and in 2008 released their comeback album into the sun which was more politically charged and peaked at number 32 on the billboard charts. The band would also perform overseas for members of the military during that tour. The band would release two more including 2012’s Love Stories and Other Musings as well as 2016’s disappearing in airports. By 2015 the band underwent numerous lineup changes leaving kevin martin as the only original member. The lineup changes though appeared to amicable as peter klett and bardin martin focused on their own band lotus crush. In But by 2018 the original lineup of the band temporarily reunited to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the group’s debut album.In a 2020 audio ink rock interview frontman Kevin Martin revealed that the latest candlebox record is in fact finished but with all the craziness going on in the world right now, they are holding off on releasing it for the time being. The band did release a new song this past august called let me down easy. That does it for today’s video guys. Thanks for watching. Be sure to hit the like button and subscribe and we’ll see you again on rock n’ roll true stories. Take care.