YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

For Now, Hootie & the Slowfish

Pop music: Latest album falls short of 1994's 'Cracked Rear View,' but Darius Rucker says the current situation suits him fine. The quartet performs Sunday in Irvine.


The roller-coaster trip that took Hootie & the Blowfish to the top of pop music stardom two years ago seems to have bottomed out for the moment, and no one seems more pleased about it than singer Darius Rucker.

"It's starting to level off now, thank goodness!" Rucker said in a recent phone interview. "We did the big climb and the thrilling ride, and now it's just time to get on with our careers again. I never expected things to happen the way they did. We always thought if we had a chance we could sell some records, but we never dreamed about as many as we did. I really couldn't even begin to explain what happened because I have no idea."

Rucker didn't even flinch when discussing the commercial disappointment of its latest album, "Fairweather Johnson," which was released in April, was met with a slew of nasty reviews and sold a respectable 1.8 million copies but nowhere near the 9.1 million (both figures according to SoundScan) sold by its predecessor, "Cracked Rear View."

"I don't know what it's sold, but it hasn't sold nearly what the first one did," he said. "And I'm sure it won't too. It just wouldn't happen. The first time around there was the newness of it and all that stuff, but Americans are a very fickle group. You have the true fans who buy everything you ever put out, but you also have people who will only buy your first record. We know that. So we knew it wouldn't happen again. If we can sell a few million records every time we put one out, we'll consider that an amazing accomplishment."

Hootie & the Blowfish, who play Irvine Meadows on Sunday, was no overnight sensation to begin with. The group--Rucker on lead vocals and guitar, guitarist-mandolinist-pianist Mark Bryan, bassist Dean Felber and percussionist Jim Sonefeld--have been performing together for more than a decade, when the group members were all students at the University of South Carolina, Columbia.

Three independent releases preceded "Cracked Rear View" and the hoopla that ensued.

Thinking about the years of paying dues is one thing that gets Rucker steamed when he considers all the sour grapes that have been thrown in his direction in the wake of that breakthrough CD, which held the No. 1 position on the album charts for eight weeks, remained in the top 10 for well over a year and subsequently picked up two Grammys.

"I guess somewhere along the line all the writers decided our album wasn't a cool little thing after all, it was garbage," Rucker said. "That was fine, the critics and whatever. What bothered us was when we'd be reading a magazine and there's other bands taking shots at Hootie & the Blowfish. How many other bands out there would have gone through all we did to get where we are now? We played 11 years.

"Everybody cops that famous phrase, 'indie-rock [credibility].' Well, what's more cool than playing in bars together year after year, never giving up or going from band to band?"

None of that makes any difference anyway," he continued. "We're still going to have fun, sell out shows and do a lot of things these people would like to be doing themselves."


Rucker may seem stung by the arrows of criticism, but his feet are on the ground. If body piercing, facial tattoos and drug problems are what's in style these days, he's more than happy to be perceived as square.

And even though he and his band mates have made enough dough to retire, they continue to tour like dogs. Why?

"We still have the same feeling when we play together," Rucker said. "We've gotten better as a band. We're probably tighter now than we've ever been. We still love to play for that two hours or whatever it is we play for. It might be a lot bigger, but it's still just the four of us up on that stage, and no one can ever take that away from us."

* Hootie & the Blowfish play Sunday at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive. 8 p.m. $25.50. (714) 855-4515.

Los Angeles Times Articles