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Although the music industry has changed much in 25 years, the Goo Goo Dolls, music titans in the 1990s, are weathering that change by reaching out to old fans and creating new ones. The band is touring its current – and ninth – album, Something For The Rest Of Us, in 40 venues and 21 states this spring and summer – and will perform at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez on Thursday, May 26.

Applause and requests for encores still spark the group that began as a punk-leaning garage band in Buffalo, N.Y., and the trio, comprising lead singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik, singer-bassist Robby Takac, and drummer Mike Malinin, wants to use this album and tour to connect with their loyal fan base, but also to reach new audiences.

In a phone interview with the Journal, Takac said, “I can’t believe we’re still doing this.”

“We were all 20-year-old college students making punk rock music who created a band, did a string of tours around the U.S., and somewhere along the way we learned how to play our guitars and put out some songs,” he added. “Here we are, 25 years later.” The current tour offers new venues and music but also a rush of nostalgia for older fans, especially those who never got to see the group perform up close at the regal amphitheatres, civic centers and sports arenas during the height of the Dolls’ fame. They will perform mainly small venues such as arenas, theatres, art centers, pavilions, parks, ski resorts and fairgrounds.

Takac said fans can expect them to play their popular songs along with their new material. Although he accepts their past hits are what draw a lot of people to them, he insists the group isn’t pining for the old days.

In contrast to its previous efforts, the new album has a more serious lyrical tone wrung out of the 24-hour news cycle. Takac said the band wants to connect with people by reflecting on the world around them. The new music has a social awareness absent from the band’s early records.

“The world’s in an odd place right now. There’s a lot of hurt out there,” he said. “The economy is horrible. We’re in a couple of wars it looks like we’re never going to get out of. These problems have taken up such a huge part of people’s lives,” he added. “When you’re 22 years old, you’re thinking about the girl you want to meet and how it’s unfair that the world around you is judging you unfairly. That’s a big deal when you’re young and people are throwing cash around like it’s nothing. Things are a little different. We have different concerns.”

Barely a blip on the music industry radar when the guys released their first album, the punk-inspired 1987 self-titled debut, the Dolls continued to more effect with two more albums until propelling themselves to international fame with 1995’s “Name.” Their sixth album, Dizzy Up The Girl, firmly cemented their status in the late-1990s alternative rock scene with such hits as “Slide,” “Black Balloon,” and the ubiquitous “Iris,” which topped the billboard chart for 17 weeks.

“It all happened in the blink of an eye,” Takac said of the group’s meteoric rise to megastar status.

The it was 13 consecutive top-10 hit songs, more than 10 million sold albums and four Grammy nominations.

“We basically started out wanting to make money to buy some beer and meet some girls. There were no expectations, so there was no possibility for disappointment,” Takac admitted. “I think now, we try to make the best of every opportunity that comes. I think that’s been our attitude for a while.”

For Takac, that mentality allowed the band to avoid the burnout and disinterest that plague many groups when the odds are stacked against them.

More than a decade before American Idol became the chief mainstay for millions of would-be stars, most promising artists had to launch their music careers on a longer but no less dizzying path.

Takac and others had to work odd jobs to support their shows. Eventually, they developed a following among local college students and punk venues. Their punkish sound eventually incorporated elements of heavy metal and pop rock, evident in their 1991 song “I’m Awake Now” recorded for the soundtrack of the film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare.

The Goo Goo Dolls surge of success hit a plateau with Dizzy Up The Girl, but two more records released in 2002 and 2006 brought them two more top-10 hits, putting the group’s then-flagging career back on track.

Yet, Takac notes, virtually nothing comes easy these days. The music industry is mercurial and the band members are struggling to keep pace with the changes caused by illegal downloading and the Internet’s decimation of popular radio, among other things.

“It’s really become much more of a performance-based industry,” Takac said, with a laugh. “You’ve got to be out here playing in order to make it happen. Records sales are down – I don’t have to tell you – it’s difficult. You have to be creative to survive, and I think in the past there was a glut of cash in the record industry to spend on crazy rock videos, trips, lunches and promotions.” There is also the pressure of competing with the likes of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, who have set the pop trends for the music-consuming public.

“John probably is having a harder time with that sort of stuff than I am,” notes Takac, who writes less material than he had in the past. “I’m looking at him to come up with the next song that’s going to compete with Rihanna.”

Takac welcomes the demand for more touring – something the group plans on doing for another year before going back to work on a new album. For him, the mission of the band becomes clear when he’s on tour: to create memories rather than merely invoking them.

He also doesn’t spend too much time thinking about the future. “You can become obsessed if you look past the present,” he notes. “All I know is that I still love doing what I do. I love performing in front of a crowd of people. It sounds corny, but there’s a certain magic that happens. I love that feeling.”

“For many people, we will be primarily remembered as the band that did ‘Iris,’” Takac said. “I’m not sure that’s how I want to be remembered. I want us to be remembered as a great American rock band. That’s all we’ve ever been trying to achieve.”
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