Goo Goo Dolls picking up speed as it rounds 'Home'

InterviewNovember 4, 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," the Goo Goo Dolls has taken four years between each of its subsequent discs.

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.

The band toured throughout 2010 to support "Something for the Rest of Us" — including headlining Philadelphia's Fourth of July celebration. And it just started another tour that brings it to Sovereign Performing Arts Center in Reading on Tuesday.

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

"We started collecting ideas kind of earlier on," Takac says. "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 have 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."

Nowadays, he says, it's "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."

Takac notes that Goo Goo Dolls broke through when, after having what he called a "fluke hit" with the song "Name" in 1995, its song "Iris" was prominently used in the movie "City of Angels." "Iris" had a record run of 18 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 Airplay chart.

"Any time 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' was really the thing that put us on the map," he says. "We really know the value of that kind of thing. So when those opportunities come around, we try to seize them, for sure."

The band also is touring "way more" than it used to, he says. "It's just you got to be out there, man. … You got to keep the machine running."

That work ethic isn't the only thing that has kept the Buffalo-bred Goo Goo Dolls commercially viable, nearly 25 years after its debut.

Over that time, the band also has evolved from the punk rock of its early discs to its current mainstream pop/rock.

But there remains a dichotomy in the band's writing. The two songs on "Something for the Rest of Us," written primarily (and sung) by Takac — "Now I Hear" and "Say You're Free" — have the band's edgier early sound, while the rest of the disc favors Rzeznik's penchant for radio-ready ballads.

Takac says the tension that diversity causes is a good thing.

"When we started writing a little bit more separately, we'd come back and it would make this awesome combination of styles," he says. "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.

"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 and a lot of bands. … We did grow up from being — 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."

Besides, Takac says, cohesion of an album is far less important now, in these days of iTunes, than it once was.

"That journey you take through an album … seems to be less and less crucial these days, in a lot of ways," he says. "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.

"These days, you're lucky to get on peoples' play lists," he says with a laugh. "But when you get enamored with a band and their personality, it's great to be able to explore, and to go deeper."

The maturation process that has brought Goo Goo Dolls to where it is today continues, Takac says.

"I think as long as you leave your process open to influences that enter your life, I think that process can grow," Takac says. "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."

Told that "Something for the Rest of Us" sounds both more serious and more introspective, Takac agrees. But he says listeners shouldn't necessarily think it's autobiographical.

"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. 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," he says with a laugh.

"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."

One specific subject that hasn't entered — at least not consciously — the Goo Goo Dolls' thoughts is spirituality, Takac says. But if songs on the disc such as "As I Am" and "Nothing Is Real" sound like they're addressed to a higher power, he says "then that's what it means to you."

"That's sort of the magic of this whole thing — is that it's a suit that's made to order," he says with a laugh. "You just apply your own patterns to it … But I guess we were both brought up Catholic, and so I guess it might be in there a little."

On the negative side of maturity is having to deal with physical problems. For example, Takac had to have surgery for a kidney stone on his 47th birthday Sept. 30.

"Oh, yeah, man, that was a great birthday present, wasn't it?" he says with a laugh. "But I'm all healed now. Doing jumping jacks already."