Gabbing with Goo Goo Dolls

InterviewNovember 5, 2011The Morning Call

Since reaching its commercial peak with its 1998 triple-platinum album “Dizzy Up The Girl,” which produced the hits “Iris,” “Slide,’ “Broadway” and “Black Balloon,” Goo Goo Dolls has taken four years between each of its subsequent discs.

But just since the release of its 2010 album “Something for the Rest of Us,” the band has released two new singles: “All That You Are,” a Top 15 hit from the soundtrack of this summer’s movie “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” and “Best of Me” on the “Hawaii Five-0” TV soundtrack released Oct. 4.

And after touring through 2010 to support “Something of the Rest of Us” — including headlining Philadelphia’s Fourth of July celebration — the band has just started another tour that brings Nov. 8 brings it to Sovereign Performing Arts Center in Reading.

And bassist Robby Takac says in a telephone call from group rehearsals in Los Angeles, says he and singer/primary songwriter Johnny Rzeznik already are working on material for the next disc. Rzeznik has said he doesn’t want there to be four years between discs this time.

In a recent telephone call from Los Angeles, where the band was rehearsing before kicking off its tour, Takac talked about the band’s newest songs, its past and its future.

Here’s a transcript of the call:

LEHIGH VALLEY MUSIC: Let me jump right into this. I did an interview with you back in ’06, so it’s five years ago. But at that time, we talked about the band’s sound changing from when you guys basically were a punk band to where you were at that point. And I refreshed myself by listening to “Something for the rest of Us” again, and I’m wondering:  Are you guys still going through an evolution of maturity as you were when your music last changed? That your sound will continue to change as you mature as people?

ROBBY TAKAC: “Yeah. That’s a great question. Yeah, I think, um, when you listen back to stuff – obviously for us it’s a little bit more of a document of things we associate with it, as most people do when you hear a song that’s a few years old. They listen to it and think to themselves, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember this and that,’ and it sort of spawns these emotions, I guess. Maybe it’s a little hard for me to look at it in a artists sort of flow or something like that, because I think it does seem  a lot different to me from the earlier stuff, just because I was there when it was happening and life was so different then.”

OK, so obviously you had reached a point where you were no longer a punk band – not really, in the songs you were putting out. But now, from the time your sound sort of evolved until today, do you think it’s still changing? Do you see a process that’s going to take you even somewhere else?

“Yeah. I think as long as you leave your process open to influences that enter your life, I think that process can grow. And I think that as long as you give it a fertile atmosphere to work in, I think we’ll keep moving forward, and keep trying to do the reinventions along the way that have led us to where we are now.”

Yeah. Again, I listened to “Something for the rest of Us” again, and it seems like a more serious disc, and also sort of introspective – the sort of “looking at self” type of disc. Am I reading too much into it?

“Yeah. You know, I think a lot of stuff is expressed in the first person. I don’t know that it’s always scenarios that are actually happening in the first person. I think sometimes you take your glance around – and I’ve heard John speak of this, too -- and  you think to yourself, ‘Oh, I wonder what that person might be thinking,’ and you put yourself in their place. And you know, I think I probably said the exact same thing to you last time we talked, but when you’re writing songs and you’re looking around you, if you’re in a true place, you’re going to be affected by what’s going on around you. Because if you’re not being affected by what’s going on around you, you’re a robot. [Laughs] Yeah, so we got thousands of people sitting on the front steps of Wall Street right now. People aren’t that happy. And that was part of the process, I think. [Seeing] where people are at right now.”

A couple of more questions about the disc. So I listened to songs like “As I Am” and other songs, and there actually seems – and maybe I’m reading too much into this – there actually seems to be a spiritual element. Am I taking that too literal?

“Um, well, I guess that if you are, then that’s what it means to you. And that’s sort of the magic of this whole thing. Is that it’s a suit that’s made to order [Laughs]. You just apply your own patterns to it, I guess. But yeah, it’s funny – there’s been many, many times, actually that I’ve come across stuff, like in Christian magazines and stuff, like that. And  quoting things from songs – especially Johnny’s song lyrics and stuff. And we’ve definitely never considered ourselves that type of band or a band that really goes out there and does that kind of thing consciously. But I guess we were both brought up Catholic, and so I guess it’s in there. [Laughs] I guess it might be in there a little.”

Alright. I also wanted to tell you this: “Now I Hear” is certainly one of my favorite songs on the album, if not my favorite song on the album. (Takac wrote the song)

“Oh, Thank you.”

And so that and “Say You’re Free” are your songs, and three’s clearly still a difference in the sound of the songs that you write from the songs that are primarily written by Johnny.

“Yeah, yeah. Yeah.”

And I wonder – tell me about that sort of dynamic in the band. Where you’re still writing songs that, to me, still have that early sound to it. Or more of that earlier sound to it. Tell me about how that works – how you guys co-exist.

“Yeah, well, we wrote songs primarily together early, early on, when we were just learning how to write songs. And within the framework of the band, we started writing a little bit more separately and we’d come back and it would make this awesome combination of styles, you know. But it I think the kind of songs I write and the kind of songs John writes – and John writes many more kinds of songs than I do – I think they all come together to make something that’s a little bit more than a whole record full of ballads. You know, we do some ballads and I love those songs, and people love those songs. But I think that would make us a very one-dimensional band if that’s all we did. And I think that’s the difference between this band a lot of bands, that we’re traipsing around in the late ‘90s – and I don’t know, still traipsing around now, I guess – and I think that’s what made us a little bit different. That we did grow up from being a garage – for lack of a better term -- punk rock band to learning how to be something that’s a lot different than that over the years. And oddly enough, putting out records that people said sounded just like the last one [Laughs].”

It’s interesting that you talk about avoiding being more than one dimensional. ‘Cause as I’m listening to the record – and not that I don’t love those songs, ‘cause I do, I love “Home.” But I’m listening to that, and all of a sudden “Now I Hear” comes on, and it’s a real change. And so it does sort of change it up, and make the whole record listenable as an entire record.

“Yeah. Some folks think it’s a bit of a shock to the system, but, you know, I think that that’s part of – like you said – that journey you take through an album. Which seems to be less and less crucial these days, in a lot of ways. People don’t listen to music like that – they tend to buy a song here, a song there, as opposed to sitting in a room, staring at their LP cover and listening to the record from start to end, with the door locked. Like it doesn’t happen as much now as it used to. These days, you’re lucky to get on peoples’ play lists, you know? [Laughs] And stuff like that. And that’s a song at a time. So I think that’s changing .But when you get enamored with a band and their personality, it’s great to be able to explore, and to go deeper. Sometimes that’s when things get really interesting.”

Yeah, and you’re absolutely right about the dynamic in music today, where albums just aren’t the thing anymore. It’s just singles or single songs, at least.

“Yeah, and everybody’s trying to be a dance band now. Which is cool. You know I love – we’ve incorporated some of that sort of feel to some of the stuff we do, because we  like what it sounds like. But it feels like a lot of stuff it really pointed to get on the radio right now. And that’s just the kind of music that’s getting played right now.”

Tell me the story behind “All That You Are,” and how you guys had a single song on the “Transformers” soundtrack. How’s that come about?

“You know, anytime we get asked to do something like that – a movie or a TV show – we obviously are one of those bands who understands the value of that type of thing, being that “Iris” (which was used in the movie “City of Angels”) was really the thing that put us on the map after a fluke hit single with “Name” before that.”

Good point.

“Yeah, you know. So I mean we really know the value of that kind of thing. So when those opportunities come around, we try to seize them, for sure.”

So did you write that specifically for the soundtrack?

“Yeah, yeah. John wrote it with a friend of his – John Shanks, a songwriter guy.”

I read a little while ago that John said he was already writing for a new disc and doesn’t want to take four years between discs again. Are you writing, too?

“Yeah, yeah.

 And is the writing you guys are doing seeing any kind of fruit at this point?

“I think that what we’re doing now is pretty smart. I think we started collecting ideas kind of earlier on. But we grew up in a music era where you toured for a year and a half, and then you went home for a year and a half to cut out and had fun. And then you wrote a record and recorded it for a year and went back out on tour again. But it’s not really like that anymore. You know, out of sight, out of mind. There’s so much information out there now. So for us, things like this ‘Hawaii Five-0” thing that we just did, it’s like they’re not big singles; we’re not going out and working them to radio like it’s going to be our next huge hit.  It’s just keeping ourselves out there, writing the songs. You know, being in front of people.  So like there’s way more touring than there used to be. It’s just you got to be out there, man. And we’re beginning a six-week tour right now, and we’ve been on the road since April of 2010, pretty much. We just took the majority of the last two months off. But now we’re right back out again. But you got to be out there. You got to keep the machine running.”

Yeah. I read on your Twitter account that you had some kind of surgery around your birthday?

“Oh, yeah, man. That was a great birthday present, wasn’t it? Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was great, man.” [Laughs]

If you don’t mine me asking, what was it?

“Oh, I had a kidney stone, actually.”

Oh gosh.

“Yeah, yeah. I ended up having to get that removed. But I’m all healed now. Doing jumping jacks already [laughs].”

[Laughs] You guys did the July 4 show in Philly in 2010.

“Yeah, that was crazy, man.”

I just wondered whether you had any recollections or memories from that.

“Yeah, yeah. Well, number one, it was pretty amazing playing with The Roots in their hometown. It was pretty nuts, man. Like the tons of people – more than I ever knew. I walked out on the stage and it was sort of like a general area. All you could see on the other side of that was drive-in screens, like everywhere. [Laughs] I was like, ‘Wow, I think there’s a lot of people here. I can’t see that far, but if there are people in front of all these screens, there are a lot of people.” But yeah, it was a great show – it was awesome. And I remember this little kid jumped up on the stage with us and he was dancing around to a lot of the songs. It was kind of fun. And then that ended up on – oh, I forget what it was; it was some incredibly popular sports page for some reason and that YouTube thing ended up getting like a quarter-million hits or something like that in a week, it was funny. But yeah, that was a great experience.”

Anything else I should have in my story?

“We’re having a food collection for USA Harvest Drive at the show. We’re asking people to bring as many nonperishable food items as they can, and whoever brings the single most amount of donations gets a meet-and-greet and gets to hang out with us.”  

 GOO GOO DOLLS, 8 p.m. Nov. 8, Sovereign Performing Arts Center, 136 N. 6th St., Reading. Tickets: $40.75-$54.85. Info:, 610-898-7469.