This post originally was featured as the cover story in the June 11 edition of The Aquarian Weekly, Vol. 2-768.
Music does many things for people, but perhaps the most significant part of its art is the connections we make, to others, and to times in our own lives. The Goo Goo Dolls are synonymous with radio royalty. In the ’90s it was hard not to get to know their music. From the omnipresent “Slide” to the smash hit “Iris,” their catalogue is a significant piece of pop rock history.
Founding members vocalist and guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac started the band with drummer George Tutuska in the summer of 1986 and produced five studio albums before Mike Malinin replaced Tutuska as drummer in 1995.
Their sixth studio album, 1998’s Dizzy Up The Girl, propelled the band into superstardom. Tracks like “Broadway,” “Black Balloon” and “Iris” make this album still one of the group’s most successful releases.
In a time when on demand music didn’t exist, and the radio turned us on to new tunes, lyrics like, “What you feel is what you are, and what you are is beautiful” (“Slide”) provided the soundtrack to our lives. It’s one thing to stay relevant, but it’s significantly challenging to thrive and draw crowds out, year after year.
But after nearly 30 years this band is not tiring out. While Malinin exited the group in 2013, the multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated band Goo Goo Dolls, Daughtry and Plain White T’s are on the road for an extensive summer amphitheatre and arena tour.
The Goo Goo Dolls are touring in support of their 10th studio album, Magnetic, released in June 2013. The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard Top 200 chart and at number two on the Top Rock Albums chart, propelled by the red-hot single “Come To Me,” the fastest-growing single in the band’s history.
We caught up with bassist Robby Takac right before the group kicked off its summer tour for his two cents on today’s music business and what he loves most about being in one of the world’s most popular bands. The transcription is below:
So is it true that you guys formed the band on Memorial Day back in 1986? That means you just marked your anniversary as a band together!
Yes, actually, it’s 28 years! ‘86 is when we started. Pretty nuts that I’m standing here in Sacramento 28 years later waiting to do a rock show.
That’s the life! You’re out on tour with Daughtry and Plain White T’s. What is most exciting about going out on the road?
Obviously summers in general are just amazing for tours. Many dates are outside, and people are hanging out having a great time and enjoying summer. It’s nice to bring the big guns out. It’s a big show and that’s always exciting. When this bill came together, we had been talking with Daughtry about doing something for the past couple of years and it hadn’t happened, and so everyone finally locked up for it.
We got to hang out with them during the Super Bowl. They seemed like cool guys. The timing was right. So the show got put together and by the time we were looking for a third band, Plain White T’s came to us and suggested it and we were pretty blown away by that. Obviously they do pretty well in their own right.
All of the sudden it turned out to be an awesome bill, and great day of music for people. It’s a great tour with a lot of fun people.
The Goo Goo Dolls are one of the most radio-friendly bands ever, so it must be a trip for these two bands to tour with you, simply based on the timeline of when they each came up.
We were pretty ubiquitous on the radio back in the ’90s so if you think about that, people didn’t really have to “discover” us. We were in their houses already. I think that’s a pretty cool place to be in at this point in your career.
To that end, the Goo Goo Dolls’ catalogue is so immense at this point! How do you settle on a setlist?
Well there are about a dozen songs that we’re afraid we won’t get out of the building alive if we don’t play (laughs). So we base the show around those songs. Then we like to do a good chunk of the new record, because that’s what we’re out promoting. And then there are just some songs that we love to play. They make their way in and out of a set as we move along throughout the tour.
For years very early in the set we tend to do the song “Slide,” and that’s the first time during the show that you’re pretty sure that every person in the building knows what you’re doing. So that’s always a great moment, when you finally get everybody on the same page. It’s just a big that song tends to get people together.
It’s a unifying moment. 10-year-olds know it. Current fans know it. Casual fans know it. Everybody knows it. You take that energy form that moment and try to grab a hold of it and carry it with you the rest of the show.
What do you think is the Goo Goo Dolls’ most defining part of the sound repertoire?
John’s voice is the thing that ties this together. We can go off in all different directions, but when someone hears Johnny’s voice, they immediately know. Certainly his voice is the immediate identifier.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ career has spanned across nearly three decades, so you’ve seen a lot of change in the music industry. In all the experiences you’ve marked, what has been your proudest moment?
In a large scale I guess it’s just every single time we’re able to walk out on a stage and people are still interested. That’s a huge moment. It’s those daily victories. Like you said, the industry has changed dramatically. This is not the music industry we grew up in. You can’t look to record sales for validation anymore. You need to look at the fact that what you do is appreciated by people. And then you figure out how to make a living after that. The victory these days with the measurement of success is whether or not people are interested.
When we started, for the first 10 years of this band, our favorite bands were selling 30,000 records at best. That’s when we were selling five to 10 million records, so our measurement of success was probably very different than a lot of bands. We knew that we had energy within us and we knew that we could go out and make a good rock show for people, but we had no idea that someday it would be like this.
The Goo Goo Dolls are playing at Nikon At Jones Beach Theater on June 14, PNC Bank Arts Center on Aug. 12 and the Susquehanna Bank Center on Aug. 17. Their latest album, Magnetic, is available now through Warner Bros. For more information, go to googoodolls.com.