”I’m not very competitive…yes, I am!” says Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine as he steps up to a bowling lane at the art deco Spare Room bar in Hollywood. He’s already powered through three games before meeting up with his bandmates to discuss their fourth album, Overexposed, due June 26.
In this go-round, Levine, 33, will eventually come in second behind guitarist James Valentine, 33. (Also in attendance: bassist Mickey Madden, 33, and drummer Matt Flynn, 41; keyboardist PJ Morton is out of town.) But thanks in part to his newfound TV stardom as a coach/chair-spinning talent anointer on the NBC juggernaut The Voice, Levine’s winning nearly everywhere else: The band’s current single, ”Payphone,” is one of the fastest-selling digital songs ever. Over a few tequila-heavy rounds of drinks — it’s Cinco de Mayo, after all — the guys discuss their new record, their least favorite hits, and when Levine plans on going solo (hint: never).
Round 1: Adam Levine Tequila Fortaleza Reposado; James Valentine and Mickey Madden Hot Day in South Central (tequila, cucumber, cilantro, arbol chile, salt, lime); Matt Flynn Coke
So why did you guys pick this place?
James Valentine This is our number-one drinking spot for sure.
Adam Levine Being a good bowler is both rewarding and depressing. It’s kind of a lame thing to be good at.
Valentine There’s always been a healthy sense of competition within the band. It used to be over the videogame Halo. That would actually lead to Adam and I not talking to each other for days. I’m not even exaggerating. In order for the band to stay together, I needed to quit. Now we’re talking again. Maybe not after this game.
Matt Flynn I have two little kids. We spend so much time away that when I’m home, I don’t go out as much.
You guys say Overexposed is the fastest record you’ve ever made. Was there a reason you did it so quickly?
Levine [Flatly] We desperately want to get out of our record deal.
And why is that?
Levine To be free. To make our own records on our own label. It’s what every band really wants.
Valentine But also I think we’re more focused than we’ve ever been. There was momentum from ”Moves Like Jagger.” We started working on this record before we were even done touring the last one, which is something we’ve never done.
Levine We used to meet people who would always be saying, ”I’m going into the studio.” Like will.i.am. I remember when we were up-and-coming, he would say, ”What are you doing tonight?” And I’d be like, ”I don’t know, maybe I’ll have a beer?” And he would say, ”I’m going to go to the studio.” I never thought I’d ever be that way. And now we’re all like that.
Round 2: Levine More tequila; Valentine Perrier; Madden Hot Day in South Central; Flynn Coke
Overexposed features input from Max Martin, who’s worked with Kelly Clarkson and Britney Spears.
Levine Max is like an elder statesman of pop music, and we felt like he could wrangle all the different writers and producers. It made sense for him to be at the helm.
Were you at all worried that it would change your sound too much?
Levine We’d never let that happen. We decided we could go way into rock & roll or go way into pop, and because of where we were and the fact that we were very much embracing our poppier side, it seemed like the right direction. We’re not hung up on pleasing some sort of base that doesn’t like pop music.
One thing I’ve noticed in interviews is that you’re pretty critical of your own music.
Levine My biggest problem is I don’t like enough of the songs that much. There’s only a few that I get really attached to, and the rest of it all becomes kind of middle ground for me.
Valentine We’ve all been right and we’ve all been wrong on certain songs.
Levine I’ve been right a little more.
Which songs don’t you like?
Valentine Everybody didn’t care about [2002’s] ”Harder to Breathe.” I really insisted that that be on the record.
Mickey Madden ”She Will Be Loved.”
Levine I had to take off the gloves for that one.
Flynn ”Moves Like Jagger.”
Levine So if we had listened to Matt, we wouldn’t have been very happy.
Why didn’t you like it, Matt?
Levine He’s older.
Madden [To Flynn] It’s like disco, man! That’s your era!
Round 3: Levine Nothing (”I’ve got to drive!”); Valentine and Madden Hot Day in South Central; Flynn Coke
On The Voice this season, Adam’s female fans wouldn’t stop shrieking long enough to let him speak. What’s something the rest of you know about him that would make them stop screaming?
Levine He s—s his pants! Frequently!
Valentine Well, Adam’s very messy. That’s kind of annoying. He’s very, very disorganized.
Levine [Sarcastically] That’s going to silence a crowd!
Adam, what did you make of all the brouhaha over your upcoming fragrance, after you said last year on Twitter that you’d never do one?
Levine I didn’t say I’d never do one. Let’s work on the words here.
Okay, you said that they should be ”punishable by death.”
Levine Yes, and I will die someday. No, of course I hate celebrity fragrances. They’re lame. But I was given the opportunity, and I thought, ”Well, I think that I’ve got decent taste and will be able to do it in a way that’s not offensive and maybe even cool.” And they are paying me, so that’s part of it.
When your last record came out in 2010, there was talk of it being the final one.
Valentine That was one quote that Adam said.
Levine But it got a lot of mileage in the press. I think my attitude was always, It would be silly for me to say this is going to last forever. People tend to misunderstand that. Had things not gone the way that they did recently, we probably might have considered doing other things for a second.
So this is not your last record.
Levine Maybe not. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll never be a solo artist.
Levine Being in a band is much more fun. I get enough of the ego satisfaction from [The Voice]. Look at a band like U2 that has been around forever — I’m not sure how people would react to a record called Bono. I don’t want to ever be that person. It’s much cooler to be in a band with my bros.