Candlebox

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September 23, 1994 at 04:00 AM EDT

Critics may still be debating whether Nine Inch Nails or Metallica walked away with Woodstock ’94. Record buyers, however, had cast their votes by the time they got to Woodstock. Candlebox, the hard-rock/pop band from Seattle, was, at that moment, the only featured act with an album in Billboard‘s top 10.

And what a long, strange trip it’s been. Candlebox’s eponymous debut (the name is from a Midnight Oil lyric) had flickered unnoticed for nearly a year before its ascent up the charts. ”It was a hard-won audience,” admits drummer Scott Mercado, 29. ”I think maybe being from Seattle and being on Madonna’s label (Maverick Records) worked against us.”

Coincidentally, Madonna’s self-titled 1983 debut also lingered for a year at the bottom of the charts before making her an ”overnight” success. Perhaps her experience helped Candlebox’s marketing? ”No, she wasn’t really involved,” $ insists guitarist Peter Klett, 26. ”She’s not in there every day making decisions.”

What they credit instead is constant touring with such disparate acts as Metallica, Rush, and Green Day, combined with heavy rotation of their grungier ”Far Behind” video on MTV. ”I think we finally crossed over because we blend a bunch of different sounds in one style,” says Kevin Martin, 25, the band’s throaty lead singer. ”There’s ballads, hard tracks, and metal.” Certainly Candlebox has enjoyed an unprecedented penetration of album rock, alternative, and metal radio markets.

And as they begin their first headlining tour of the U.S., the band would like to get one other thing straight: If they are enjoying belated fortune, it’s no thanks to critics, who have overwhelmingly panned the group as hard- rock poseurs. ”We got a D in your magazine,” laughs Klett. ”Certain people are trying to give us a bad name. But critics don’t ever want to get it-that’s why they’re critics. I don’t care. I didn’t get into this so everyone would like me.”–Corey Levittan

Candlebox

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Candlebox

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