The label greenlit a new record, but were unimpressed by the new songs. Frustrated by the stop-start sessions, lack of funding and curious producer choices, No Doubt went rogue, setting up a garage studio and recording songs old and new. Delays exasperated the band, but also allowed Tom and Tony to hone their songwriting skills and Gwen – whose crumbling relationship with Tony gave her plenty to write about – to step up as lyricist.
Eric, however, who had a successful side career as an illustrator for The Simpsons (he would later draw his former bandmates in the Homerpalooza episode), realised the band were moving away from his original, Specials-inspired vision, and announced he was leaving. Around the same time, Gwen and Tony split.
Once again, the end looked nigh. But instead, the band released The Beacon Street Collection on their own label. It captured a band in transition from ska scenesters to something more accessible, and sold considerably better than their debut.
It was enough to change their fortunes. No Doubt recorded Tragic Kingdom, the album that featured Eric’s final contributions and would break them all over the world, around the Beacon Street sessions. Interscope had shunted them off to an associated label, Trauma Records – also home to future Mr. Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale’s band Bush – but their new home saw ND’s potential.
By the time Tragic Kingdom finally came out in October 1995, the script had flipped. After Kurt Cobain’s death the year before, Gwen’s natural positivity despite adversity – backed by irrepressible anthems such as Spiderwebs, Just A Girl and Sunday Morning – was suddenly exactly what alt-rock fans were looking for.
“As people, we’re angry,” she said as the album was released. “We went through some really bad times and our way of dealing with that is humour.”