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Maroon 5
If this is your first introduction to the LA based quintet, consider yourself two years late. Few of us exposed to entertainment media over the last year have been denied a taste of Maroon 5. Then again, consolation might come from the fact that the band took a near decade to introduce themselves to us. From Karasí Flowers to Maroon 5, Reprise to Octone Records and from The Fourth World to Songs about a girl named Jane. Enter Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael, James Valentine, Mickey Madden and Ryan Dusick Ė Maroon 5. And what an introduction it has turned out to be.

It could be that destiny changed in their favour when they decided to switch names from a typically bad one, Karasí Flowers (a thought: who decided on the name Hootie and The Blowfish) to the more appealing Maroon 5(reasons for the name remain vague and mostly unknown). But it was Karasí Flowers comprising of school friends Levine, Carmichael, Madden and Dusick that lead to the release of their first album, The Fourth World (1997). By then just seventeen years old on an average, the band was signed onto Warnerís Reprise Records and went on to record the album The Fourth World with producer Rob Cavallo (of Greenday, Alanis Morissette and Goo Goo Dolls fame).
Hitting the big time seemed nothing more than a blink away. But destiny (or their name) did them a bad turn and a great deal of critical acclaim did not translate into hefty debut album sales. Resulting in Repriseís decision to drop them. Having landed out of their lucrative record deal the Karasí Flowers chapter ended with little more than an album behind it. With their shot at hitting the rock and roll highway having fallen through the band members took to their own separate ways for a bit. While Madden and Dusick enrolled at UCLA, Lavine and Carmichael decided to make their way to the real city. The State University of New York plays an integral role in the Maroon 5 story and proved the real grooming ground for the band.

Living in a dorm, gospel and soul music interspersed with Stevie Wonder and beats from Missy Elliot, Jay Z and Aaliyah served as background music to their dorm life. Being white boys from LA the Beatles, Dylan and newer acts like Weezer were commonplace inspirations. But the urban sound was what seemed to take profound effect on the band. With Carmichael taking up keyboards and Lavine wanted to sing a lot more like Stevie Wonder the real change was, in fact, only a small way off. Urging them to re-think their own musical abilities and conventions, the band re-grouped in LA two years later, this time with additional guitarist James Valentine on board. They decided to call themselves Maroon 5 but more than any other, the biggest change came with their decision to lay focus on the bands new musical direction. The dorm music in New York merged with their already well-exercised rock skill was to be used their greatest advantage. Developing a sound that was both funky and rocking and using all their influences seemed to come naturally to a band that knew that they had grown since their unforgettable debut.
In 2001 the newly formed Octone Records (distributed by BMG Music) signed Maroon 5. The band went into recording with producer Matt Wallace (Faith No More, Blues Traveler) in 2001. With Lavineís set intention to make a straight on R&B and Funk record and with the band held firm on their rock abilities, Songs About Jane turned out more or less something of a pop record layered thick with R&B and funk inputs with touch ups from their well used rock brush. Lavineís soul filled voice supported by the bandís tendency to flip from their rock stance like on Harder To Breathe to a more sould filled ballad like She Will Be Loved to a funkier Sunday Morning or This Love is what sets the band apart from comparisons. And does stand well amongst the best of what the last two years has to offer.

Songs About Jane was actually the bands second album released in 2002. And with it Maroon 5 was ready to get back into the marketing - tour process. Having been burnt their first time around held no sway for the band who went at it with just as much zeal as would a fresh act. Despite this, recognition continued to come slowly. The band had been able to build up a sort of a following but heavy touring followed the release of the album through 2002 and 2003. It was only when the band began opening for acts like Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and the Counting Crows that Maroon 5 began to really etch their own space on the surface. This is when the real introduction came though. With their sound being typically modern rock with something of a cross between Jamiroquai and Stevie Wonder working as their unique blend, Maroon 5 was able to appeal to audiences all over. And playing to people between the ages of 14 and 40 was considered rather commonplace by the band. It was probably itís ability to appeal to both quality conscious music lovers and pop enthusiasts that created for Maroon 5 their all encompassing fame. Songs About Jane, written from Lavineís experiences with his ex-girlfriend was turning out to achieve everything that the band hoped it would. And Maroon 5 was basking in it. The first single from the album, Harder to Breathe rescued the band from their fall into nothingness. While the single broke into the higher regions of the charts, in doing so it was able to charter the course that the bands next to singles, This Love and She Will Be Loved were to follow. Songs About Jane climbed steadily on the album charts before it peaked at #6.

You can read the rest of our feature on Maroon 5 in the January 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.

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