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Spotlights [Issue # 3 ]
The Thorns: Not Just Another Super-Group

By Lynne Bronstein


Remember the days of "super-groups" like Blind Faith and CSNY? If you miss that era - and you love harmony - you're going to love The Thorns, whose self-titled album is just out on Columbia's Aware label.

You may have also enjoyed their past work as three of the last decade's most critically acclaimed singer-songwriters. The Thorns are composed of Shawn Mullins, whose song "Lullaby" was one of 1998's big hits, Pete Droge, who wrote the title song for the 1995 film Beautiful Girls, and Matthew Sweet, who had the hit "Girlfriend."

They met up last year at the Sound Factory recording studio in Hollywood, where each of them had been recording solo projects. Droge and Mullins came up with the idea of forming a group with a folk-rock harmonic sound. After several other musicians had dropped in and out, Sweet, who shared a manager with Mullins, heard what was going on and joined them. Columbia agreed to underwrite their "experiment" but at first the songwriting proved a tough process.

"We had just started working on this song which became "I Can't Remember" (the album's first single)," says Droge. When their rep from Columbia suggested they take a break to eat, they said "We're gonna stay here and finish the song."

"We were sitting in the room, singing the song together and it was very clear to me that our voices, just out of pure dumb luck, worked great together."
After that, with a deal from Aware/Columbia behind them, the songs started to flow. One song, the garage-rocker "Thorns" suggested a name but they were reluctant to assume it-until they were erroneously introduced as The Thorns at an accidental meeting with the Rolling Stones.

Next, ace producer Brendan O'Brien stepped in. He had also produced Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, as well as albums by Droge and Sweet. "Until Brendan came on board, it never crossed anybody's mind that this could be a commercial radio record," says Mullins. "We just tried to write songs that we liked."

Apart from a few veteran studio musicians like Jim Keltner on drums and the E Street Band's Roy Bittan on piano, the Thorns play all their own instruments in addition to combining their voices in perfect three-part harmony. Not that there hasn't been some tension. What with three artistic egos at stake, "It took a tremendous amount of letting go of all our power issues," says Sweet.
For the last few months, the Thorns have been playing at conventions and private gigs, as well as a few radio shows in selected cities. They also appeared on the TV series American Dreams as an early '60s surf group. This summer, they'll be on a full tour, promoting the album and possibly spearheading a revival of that Super-Group thing.

But as Droge points out: "At the beginning, nobody knew how it was going to work…because, really, in theory, it's a disaster waiting to happen-three guys who are used to generally being dictators . . . trying to be a band. It's a miracle we actually made it happen."


The Thorns
Sony

Not Just Another Super-Group The Thorns The Thorns


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