'Of course it's cheesy!': Goo Goo Dolls don't play it 'cool' on unexpected new Christmas album

NewsOctober 15, 2020USA Today

In the ever-surprising game of Mad Libs that is 2020, the Goo Goo Dolls are releasing their first Christmas album.

Yes, you read that right: The earnest alt-rockers behind late '90s hits (and now-karaoke staples) "Iris" and "Slide" are here to help you ring in the holidays with "It's Christmas All Over," out Oct. 30. A track from the album, the band's dulcet cover of "Let it Snow," is premiering exclusively on usatoday.com.

The sheer randomness of the Dolls' releasing a holiday record is part of what appealed to lead singer John Rzeznik, who leans into the gooey, sentimental spirit of the season.

"It's pretty unexpected for us to do this kind of thing," Rzeznik says. "But it's fun to embrace it, and people could use a little bit of happiness right now. Pat Monahan from (rock band) Train was like, 'Of course it's cheesy! It's a Christmas record.' And he's absolutely correct: There's no room for trying to be cool at Christmas."

Unlike head-banging Christmas efforts from Cheap Trick, Twisted Sister and Weezer, the Dolls take a classic approach to holiday standards. Rzeznik, 54, lists crooners Louis Prima, Dean Martin and Nat King Cole among his chief inspirations, favoring brass horns and Mellotron keyboards over squalling guitars and thrashing drums.

"It's Christmas All Over" was recorded in the spring in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, in an old studio outfitted with Christmas lights year-round. That's also where they shot the retro cover for the 10-track album, which includes yuletide favorites "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Let It Snow."

" 'Let it Snow' came out very polished," Rzeznik says. "That was the song we were doing when we first started this. I worked really closely with two of the guys in our band, Brad (Fernquist) and Jimmy (McGorman). They're really schooled musicians, and Jimmy is like this crazy jazz pianist, so he did all the horn arrangements."

The album also includes two original songs: The anthemic "This is Christmas" and bluesy "You Ain't Getting Nothin'."

"' 'This is Christmas' is a more traditional, sappy Christmas song, but it's Christmas – you're supposed to be sappy and sentimental at times. It's good for you," Rzeznik says. " 'You Ain't Getting Nothin' ' is basically the song every parent wants to sing to their kids but can't. It's just a song about a little boy that wound up on the naughty list."

Rzeznik and his wife, Melina Gallo, live in New Jersey with their 3-year-old daughter, Liliana. They typically spend the holidays volunteering at local food banks, visiting family in upstate New York, and throwing a small party for Liliana, whose birthday is just a few days before Christmas.

"She isn't writing a letter to Santa herself yet, but we're preparing her for this Christmas by telling her, 'Santa is watching everything, so you've gotta be a good kid,' " Rzeznik says with a laugh. "You know, the traditional Christmas threats."

To commemorate the album's release, the Dolls are playing two virtual shows: an immersive concert on live-streaming platform FanTracks on Oct. 24 (9 EDT/6 PDT), featuring their rock hits and another in December that will spotlight their Christmas songs.

In the meantime, Rzeznik is working on a follow-up to the band's "Miracle Pill," released last fall.

"I've got about half an album's worth of material," he says. "I'm a very brutal editor, and I only let myself indulge myself in ideas for so long before I just start cutting stuff and throwing it away. So we'll see what happens."