No doubts at all

KIERAN GRANT

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

Dedication, loyalty, hard work.

No Doubt's Gwen Stefani says these are the things that keep a band together for 15 years.

As for her group's latest album, Rocksteady, things weren't quite so ... intentional.

"This record is a miracle," Stefani said during an interview at a downtown Toronto hotel yesterday. She was in town for a round of press prior to No Doubt's sold-out show at the Kool Haus tonight.

"It's just us as friends having a really good time together and just enjoying life. It was just us talking about music that we loved and being inspired, and working hard not for anyone but ourselves."

Heralded by some as a return-to-form for No Doubt following their "difficult" 2000 disc Return Of Saturn, Rocksteady actually breaks new ground for the veteran Southern California band. Their familiar ska and new wave leanings are shot through with Jamaican dancehall sounds -- the latter being hinted at in the album's title.

Hit single Hey Baby, meanwhile, delivers on the pop appeal of No Doubt's multi-million-selling 1995 breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom.

Things have clearly come full circle.

"It's not until the record's done and out that we start to analyze how it came about," says Stefani, who formed No Doubt with her brother Eric in 1987 and was soon joined by guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young (Eric bowed out to pursue a career as an animator prior to Tragic Kingdom's release).

"This record was really spontaneous. Even when we went in to write and we sat down for a band meeting, we didn't even know if we were going to make another record. The cool thing about our success these days is that we don't think ahead too far. Return Of Saturn was one of those records that was really laboured, it was drawn-out way too long and overthought. Not in a negative way -- we had to do that to get to this point. We had to go through a hard time to be able to sit in a room together and write fun songs. It's not like we planned it."

Stefani says Rocksteady was also the product of new "tools" -- particularly, collaborating with creative forces from outside the band. Big-name producers on the record include Prince, Ric Ocasek, techno-pop mavens such as William Orbit and Nellee Hooper, and reggae veterans Sly & Robbie. While Stefani had recently dueted with Eve on the Dr. Dre-produced hit Let Me Blow Your Mind, a No Doubt writing session with rising hip-hop force The Neptunes -- ultimately resulting in opening track Hella Good -- was also essential.

"Nowadays it's a common thing to work with The Neptunes," says Stefani. "But a couple of years ago they'd never worked with a band like No Doubt. The idea was, 'Let's see if there's any kind of cultural collision that can happen.' And I thought it was cool to sing a song with the word 'dance' in it.

"We agreed that if there was any cool opportunity to write with other people we'd do it -- not even to be on the album but for the life experiences. It used to be about not letting anyone into our world, which is foolish because you can learn so much."

Outside of No Doubt, Stefani is focussing on another longtime relationship: She and her boyfriend of six years, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, plan to marry in September.

"It's been a lot of hard work and we're reaping the rewards of that being able to get married," she says. "Being in a band that's like a family, being in a band with the same people for 15 years, is a real commitment. Marriage is going to be the same kind of work. You get so much out of it."


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