Maroon 5 mixes rock, pop, soul, rhythm, blues
April 13, 2005 - With three singles "This Love," "Harder To Breathe" and "She Will Be Loved" becoming major hits from their debut album, "Songs About Jane," fans of soul-tinged guitar pop have fallen for the group Maroon 5 in a big way.
What fans are hearing, though, is a group that is enjoying a second life as band. But you won't hear the four members of Mar-oon 5 touting their previous history as Kara's Flowers. They consider Maroon 5 to be virtually a new band.
That much is obvious when listening to "Songs About Jane."
Where Kara's Flowers was a straight-ahead guitar-based pop-rock band, Maroon 5 have carved out a distinctly different and more original style by incorporating strong elements of funk, soul and hip-hop into their catchy rock sound.
So how did a conventional rock-pop band like Kara's Flowers morph into an enticing rock/pop/soul group like Maroon 5?
The story begins several months after the 1997 release of "The Fourth World," the debut CD of Kara's Flowers. At that point, the group's label, Reprise Records, was going through a shakeup and the album was going nowhere fast.
So band members — singer/guitarist Adam Levine, drummer Ryan Dusick, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael and bassist Mickey Madden — cut short touring and went home to reassess their options.
"It was clear that nothing was happening, that the label was in disarray and that they were firing everyone," Dusick said. "The album was just not happening."
Unfortunately, the band struggled to create new material, and with things stagnating, they put Kara's Flowers on hold.
Dusick and Madden enrolled in UCLA in the band's home base of Los Angeles, while Levine and Carmichael headed east to State University of New York. The group planned to get together on breaks in hopes of getting back on the same page musically.
What no one predicted at that point was that college, especially for Levine and Car-michael, would put the group on an entirely new path.
At the dorms at State University, Levine and Carmichael were surrounded by students who were listening to hip-hop, R&B, soul and gospel. They became infatuated with those sounds and Levine, in particular, found his voice well suited to these types of music.
Fortunately, the urban influence wasn't foreign to Dusick and Madden, who had been delving into similar types of music.
"I was really getting into a lot of '70s soul and stuff like that," Dusick said. "It was really a breath of fresh air when Adam and Jesse came back from New York and (showed) an interest in black music."
The new influences brought what would become the Maroon 5 sound into focus.
"We had this one magical week or so when we were in rehearsals and we were trying to get together material for this new demo we were making," Dusick said. "And we wrote like three or four songs in one week that were all sort of the way we de-fined our new sound."
It was at that point that Kara's Flowers officially came to an end. The group added a fifth member, guitarist James Valentine, recorded a new demo and arrived at a new band name, Maroon 5.
"We had this new batch of material that just sounded like a different band to us," Dusick said.
The new sound won Maroon 5 a deal with Octone Records, a new label affiliated with major label J Records.
But the band still had a few struggles finishing the "Songs About Jane" CD.
In particular, there was debate about how much of a hip-hop/soul influence to bring into the production of the CD.
"We were all very into a lot of hip-hop kind of production styles at the time we were just starting to make the record," Dusick said. "And the label, I think, was very concerned with us going to far in that direction, even though they liked that in-fluence. They wanted us to be a rock-and-roll band."
Initially, though, the group did pursue more of a hip-hop style, piecing together rhythm tracks that had been spliced and looped. But Dusick said the tracks sounded stiff and rigid, so a compromise was reach-ed, and live drums were recorded to add more of a rock feel.
"In my opinion it (hip-hop-styled production) wouldn't have necessarily been playing to all of our strengths," Dusick said. "I love hip-hop, but I love R&B and I love those styles of music, and they were definitely a huge influence on the songwriting this time, but I don't love them more than any other style of music."
Maroon 5 plays at 7:30 p.m. April 21 show at the Savvis Center. Tickets cost $33.