Originally created 06/17/04

Radio friendly Train works to stretch beyond the beaten track



When Meet Virginia became a surprise hit for the jangling San Francisco band Train in 1998, there was some worry among the members that their career might have peaked too soon.

But three years later, the right song at the right time offered the group some career longevity.

"Now we're afraid of becoming the Drops of Jupiter band," said guitarist Jimmy Stafford with a laugh.

The band is riding high on Ordinary, a strong, surprisingly rocky, single written for the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack, and a new focus on expanding the band's signature sound. The group will perform Friday at Fort Gordon's Barton Field.

"We're still very much a work in progress," Mr. Stafford said. "Every day is a different direction. It's really fun being in this band because we don't pigeon-hole ourselves. I mean, the industry might label us as pop, but we don't. We just enjoy our freedom."

A band that has succeeded largely because programmers consider the easy, loping tempos and strumming guitars radio-ready, Train has surprised many fans with heavier live sets and the Spider-Man 2 single, which features an unusually muscular guitar riff.

"We've been stretching out quite a bit live, in particular," Mr. Stafford said. "Changes in the lineup have really allowed us to open up and experiment. It's all part of the new direction we want to take the band in."

Still, Mr. Stafford acknowledges that there will always be a place for the pop jangle of Meet Virginia and, in particular, Drops of Jupiter.

"That's still a really special song," he said. "What's funny is Pat (Monohan, Train's singer) called us after that album was finished and turned in and told us he had good news and bad news. The good news was the record company thought Drops was going to be a huge hit. The bad news was, we hadn't recorded it yet. It was truly a last-minute addition."

Mr. Stafford acknowledged that the band does suffer a little under the reputation of being focused on writing radio-friendly hits. He said that anyone who tries to write a hit will inevitably fail.

"We've just been fortunate in that we've surrounded ourselves with good people who work with us and for us," he said. "We have a really good team that fires on all cylinders, so it never becomes us against the Man. The truth is, we like the Man and we value his opinions. When we write a song the first thing we do is send it to our management company. At this stage in our career it isn't something we need to do, but we've discovered that's what works."

In concert

WHAT: Train, the Graham Colton Band

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Barton Field, Fort Gordon

PRICE: $15 advance, $20 the day of the show; call 791-6779

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.