H.E.A.R.honors No Doubt
In an era where the majority of bands are caught up in aggro
posturing and the spewing of songs that have degenerated into
teen-angst-recitation-by-numbers, No Doubt is something of
an antidote, a beacon of hope for those tired of every-day,
Drawing from a palette of new wave, guitar-rock, ska, dance,
reggae and pop, vocalist Gwen Stefani, bassist Tony Kanal,
guitarist Tom Dumont and drummer Adrian Young stand as tribute
to the fact that music can be fun -uplifting, even -- without
sacrificing raw power and drive. With their latest Trauma/Interscope
release Tragic Kingdom, No Doubt furthers their penchant for
Gwen's rich voice growls, struts and glides its way around
a kaleidoscope of sound and emotion: from the reggae sounds
of "Sunday Morning" to the dance beat of "You Can Do It" to
the Spanish guitar sound of "Don't Speak" to the ska-tinged
horns of "Different People," to "Excuse Me Mr.," a volatile
cocktail of edgy punk guitar and booming horns. And then there's
the New Wave vibe of Tragic Kingdom's first single "Just A
Girl," a tongue-in-cheek litany on the perils of being: a
girl. "I got the idea when my dad would yell at me for going
to Tony's house and coming home real-late," chuckles Gwen.
"I really don't think a lot of guys know what a burden it
is to be a girl sometimes."
Despite No Doubt's musical inclination toward that which
is upbeat, Gwen is quick to point out that what goes into
inspiring the music isn't necessarily all sweetness and light.
"You know what the thing is? As people, we're angry," she
laughs. "We went through some really bad times the past couple
of years -- personally and bandwise -- and our whole way of
dealing with that is humor and I think that's really apparent
in the record. Even though things may have been bad, and some
of the songs are sad if you really listen to them, there's
still an element of humor to it all." Perhaps one could say
No Doubt embodies the celebratory side of Orange County (you
know, land of scathing punk rock?).
Whatever it is, it's become readily apparent that plenty
of people are ready to hear something other than teen angst-fueled
grunting and screaming as No Doubt has become something of
a west coast phenom. Fans plaster their cars with No Doubt
stickers, their bodies with No Doubt tattoos and turn the
band's shows into one seething, hyperkinetic party. "Live,
something happens that really transcends all the music," explains
Tony. "What's cool is that because we have a female singing,
Gwen gets the girls into it, lets them participate. With a
lot of other bands, it's just a testosterone thing. But when
you come to a No Doubt show, the audience is spread across
the board. Gwen will definitely get the girls involved, give
them songs that are their songs and it's their time to get
boosted, be in the pit whatever. Everyone feels like they're
part of it, nobody gets left out." "But it's not just this
energy where it's a loud, fast beat and you can slam around,"
explains Tom, "there's a real emotional thing that comes from
the songs because they're so melodic.
When Gwen sings she's just incredibly gripping and fascinating
to watch. There's something magical about her." Unsurprisingly,
the eclectic mix that makes up No Doubt's sound is the direct
result of the band members' cornucopic musical tastes and
experiences. While Gwen admits to "worshipping" Madness in
high school with her brother Eric (and declares The Sound
of Music as "the big influence in my life as far as music
goes"), Tony claims Prince as the first "big thing" for him.
Adrian's roots were grounded heavily in 70's rock (Hendrix,
Steeley Dan, Journey), but he adds, "but by the time junior
high came around, ska, new wave and punk became my life."
"For me, the first band I ever liked was actually KISS," laughs
Tom. "I ended up really getting into Judas Priest and Black
Sabbath -- I was very much into the rock guitar thing and
that's the kind of bands I played in at first. But I got fed
up with the whole heavy metal scene in Orange County -- it
was such an unhealthy scene, people weren't there for the
music, they were there to wear tight spandex and get chicks."
No Doubt's first incarnation included Gwen's brother Eric
(an avid cartoonist who's worked on The Simpsons) an accordian,
and Gwen, a skeptical female lead-vocalist who was, in the
first year, accompanied by an animated, HR influenced Bad
Brains enthusiast whose kinetic stage style and contagious
energy finally broke Gwen's reluctance. Things quickly evolved.
Eric traded his accordion for keyboards and Tony -- who'd
lived in London until the age of 11 and was also a fan of
the English ska bands -- was enlisted on bass. Eventually
the trio was joined by drummer Adrian Young and Tom who, thanks
to their love of '70s arena rock, brought a distinctive rock
edge to the "two-tone ska" sound of the fledgling No Doubt.
The band's reputation for outrageous live shows netted them
a wildly dedicated following, while their unique sound landed
them opening slots for such diverse artists as the Red Hot
Chili Peppers, Urban Dance Squad, Mano Negra, Ziggy Marley
& the Melody Makers and Fishbone. RHCP's Flea eventually produced
a demo for No Doubt which gave the band one of its first studio
experiences. No Doubt then went on to self produce some additional
recordings which they were ready to release themselves, until
Interscope Records entered the picture and snatched them up.
Interscope released their eponymous debut in 1992, which
was followed by a period of extensive touring and intense
song writing. In early 1995 the band self-released The Beacon
Street Collection ("We had so many songs we knew weren't going
to make it onto Tragic Kingdom -- we'd written about 60 --
that we just decided to put a CD of some of the stuff out
ourselves," explains Tony of the latter disc). While Tragic
Kindgom, their first album under the aegis of Trauma/Interscope,
marks the departure of Eric (whose gone on to cartoon full
time) it also hails the band really coming into their own
as songwriters and musicians. "Before I just didn't have the
experience to get too involved in the songwriting," says Gwen.
"But with this record I got really involved in the writing
of songs and expressing myself, putting my personality into
things. I think that's what makes tkis record so meaningful;
it's really personal.
No Doubt albums
Rock Steady 2001
Return of Saturn 2000
Tragic Kingdom 1995
Beacon Street 1995