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Members include Charlie Colin, bass, guitars, background vocals; Rob Hotchkiss, guitars, bass, background vocals, harmonica; Pat Monahan, lead vocals, trumpet, saxophone, percussion; Jimmy Stafford, guitars, background vocals, mandolin; Scott Underwood, drums, programming, keyboards, percussion. Addresses: Record company--Columbia Records, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3211; 2100 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Management--Bill Graham Management, P.O. Box 31505, Oakland, CA, 94604-1505. Website--Train Official Website: http://www.trainline.com.
Success has been a slow but steady climb for the San Francisco, California, rock group Train. It took more than two years for momentum to build behind the group's self-titled debut and its first single, the melancholy "Meet Virginia," but the story surrounding the group's sophomore effort, Drops of Jupiter, is much different. When the premiere single, the title track, began radio play in the spring of 2001, it instantly garnered attention from music fans. The notoriety catapulted the album to number six on the Billboard Top 200 chart within the first week of its release. "It's pretty different because we started off without a record deal, toured and toured and had that hit ['Meet Virginia']. It's been gradual. This record has been well received from the get-go. It's amazing," bassist Charlie Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
Extensive touring has been the driving force behind Train since the group's formation in 1994. Train is basically the melding of two Los Angeles-area groups. Guitarists Jimmy Stafford and Rob Hotchkiss as well as Colin performed as The Apostles, who were signed to Polygram in 1991. Meanwhile, singer Pat Monahan fronted the band Exit. When the Apostles broke up in 1993, Colin packed up and moved to Singapore to write commercial jingles while Hotchkiss relocated to San Francisco where he met Monahan. The two founded a folk duo and traveled the coffeehouse circuit playing cover songs and original material.
Wanting to expand the duo into a full-size band, Monahan and Hotchkiss recruited Stafford and called Colin, who had since moved to Colorado. After hearing demo tapes, Colin and his then-drummer, Scott Underwood, headed for San Francisco. "I heard Pat sing once with Rob and Jimmy and I said, 'Forget it.' I packed up my stuff and moved. It was obviously a good thing. The chemistry was immediate. Once we started playing, we immediately started getting good shows. There was no guess work. It was obviously the right band," Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
Having experienced dealing with a major label with The Apostles, Colin encouraged his Train bandmates to hone their live skills and build a following before signing a deal. He said it worked out for the best: "We were playing two to three times a week, and we were really prolific. We just focused on playing live shows and writing a lot so we'd try out new songs all the time. We'd rehearse a couple nights a week, so basically we were playing like six nights a week because we were rehearsing and playing live shows," Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
Fans responded favorably, allowing Train to become self-sufficient. Within two years, the group had enough original material under its belt to start recording, but money was a problem. The group's family members helped fund the recording of Train's self-titled debut album. To polish songs for their debut, Train recruited Counting Crows' guitarist David Bryson to mix the album. Creating Trainon its own allowed the band to explore the music without the interference of a record label. Impressed by what it heard, Columbia picked up the group and the album. "We made the album completely unsigned and Columbia bought it from us. We didn't give them the opportunity to let them be the boss. We were completely autonomous. Had I not been signed previously, we would have done it differently. We would have thought we needed to get a record deal and then go [into the studio]. We thought, 'Let's do it ourselves and if people want to hear it, they'll come. If record labels want it, they'll call.' It worked out great for us," Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
Train was released by Aware/Red Ink/Columbia Records on February 24, 1998. It received positive reviews, but radio and the record-buying public were slow to make it a hit. In a review for Amazon.com, Jason Josephes compared Train to Georgia's R.E.M., writing, "Ballads like 'If You Leave' and 'Homesick' could be mistaken for early demos by Athens's most beloved sons, but when the guitar solos kick in, it's classic Southern goodness. Luckily Train don't derail themselves by sticking solely to greasy jams and high-wire guitar acrobatics. The San Francisco-based five-piece keep their slice-of-life sound simple and lean, never overdoing what doesn't need to be overdone."
One year later, Train got a boost from Aware Records, a small label that is credited with discovering the likes of Hootie and the Blowfish, the Dave Matthews Band, and Better Than Ezra. It decided to put Train's single "Meet Virginia" on Aware 5: The Compilation, part of a series of CDs meant to give fans exposure to new music. It worked, pushing the single into the top ten and eventually helping to drive sales past one million. "The peak moment was when we played this radio show in Philadelphia that summer. We were on after some band I'd never heard of, and before Sean Lennon. Just as we're backstage waiting to go on, we hear thousands of people rushing the stage and chanting, 'Train, Train, Train!' We sort of knew that there was this swelling fan base around the country, but until we had the hit on the radio, we didn't see it in such a ravenous way. That was such a high, " Monahan said in Columbia Records press materials.
After three years of supporting Train, the band took a six-week break to record its sophomore album, Drops of Jupiter, at Atlanta, Georgia's Southern Tracks Studio. The group worked with producer Brendan O'Brien, whose credits include work with Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. "We're really proud of this album," Monahan explained in Columbia Records press materials. "After years on the road, supporting an album that we wrote so long ago, we're obviously excited about getting a bunch of new material out there. But beyond that, these songs just have a quality about them. Our songwriting, our relationships, our ability to get our thoughts into songs--all that got stronger after playing in front of a live audience for so many nights."
Fans got their first taste of Drops of Jupiter when the song "Respect" appeared on Songs From Dawson's Creek Vol. II, released in October of 2000. Like the previous effort, Train wrote the album together, with individual members contributing songs. "It's really interesting how we're extremely close friends and musically, we couldn't do it without each other. There's no way we could have another person come in and be trained. Our drummer, for example, he plays keyboards and writes songs. I play bass predominately and I also play three songs on this record on guitar. We all sing. Everybody writes. Everybody brings in a large amount of material. I don't think we're one of those bands that can afford to lose a member. We wouldn't be a band anymore on any level," Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
The plan seems to have worked. In a review for the CDNow website, Paul Semel wrote that "such tunes as 'She's on Fire' and 'Let It Roll' boast just a few simple chords and rhythms, and yet are still solid and infectious. There are occasional variations in the formula; 'Hopeless,' for example, finds Train adopting a stripped-down approach, while the title track finds it employing a sweeping string section and some piano in an impressive impersonation of Elton John."
Just as much as the band missed the road, the fans were yearning for a new record. It became obvious when the single, "Drops of Jupiter," was sent to radio. "There are a lot of people out there who had seen us in small clubs and bars and got to hang out and meet us. We have a really strong grassroots following. They were really eager for the record.... Pat has a way of writing lyrics that are genuine and personal to him. When you listen, you can relate to it. They feel the same way. They kind of attach it to their lives," Colin told Contemporary Musicians.
by Christina Fuoco
Group formed in San Francisco, CA, 1994; released debut LP Train, 1996; signed with Aware/Red Ink/Columbia/Sony and re-issued Train, 1998; contributed to Aware 5: The Compilation, 1997; and Songs From Dawson's Creek Vol. II, 2000; released Drops of Jupiter, 2001.
U.S. gold certification for Train, 1999; U.S. platinum certification for Train, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Train (includes "Meet Virginia"), 1996; reissued, Aware/Red Ink/Columbia/Sony, 1998.
- (Contributor) Aware 5: The Compilation Aware, 1997.
- (Contributor)Dawson's Creek Soundtrack Volume II , Columbia, 2000.
- (Contributor)Stoned Immaculate (includes "Light My Fire"), Elektra, 2000.
- Drops of Jupiter (includes "Drops of Jupiter"), Columbia/Sony, 2001.
October 25, 2004: Train won the Radio Music Award for modern adult artist of the year. Source: USA Today, www.usatoday.com/life/people/2004-10-26-rma-winners_x.htm, October 26, 2004.
- Billboard, July 24, 1999, p. 79.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 30, 2001, p. 68.
- Guitar Player, August 2001, p. 39.
- Variety, April 10, 2000, p. 79.
- Bill Graham Management, http://www.bgmsf.com (June 4, 2001).
- "Train," Amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com (May 28, 2001).
- "Train," Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (May 28, 2001).
- "Train: Drops of Jupiter," CDNow.com, http://www.cdnow.com (May 29, 2001).
- Additional information was provided by Columbia Records publicity materials, 1996 and 2001, and an interview with Charlie Colin on April 27, 2001.
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