It’s been a 25-year journey for the Goo Goo Dolls since they first formed in 1986 in Buffalo, New York. And somewhere along the way, the band became one of the biggest hit-makers of the 1990s with 14 top-10 songs and monster hits such as “Iris” and “Name.”
The band’s ninth album Something for the Rest of Us, was released in 2010 and was immediately seen by critics as one of the darkest albums the group has ever released. The band’s frontman and songwriter, John Rzeznik, explains that the album is simply a reflection of the times we live in, but the group would never abandon the hits that made it famous. “You just play a longer show,” he laughs.
The Goo Goo Dolls appear Saturday, July 23, at the Tropicana Showroom with singer/songwriter Michelle Branch opening. Atlantic City Weekly caught up with Rzeznik recently via a phone interview.
You have a new single out on the Transformers soundtrack “All That You Are.” You also had a romantic tune in the first Transformers movie. Tell us about the new song and do you ever feel you’re in charge of romantic moods in Transformers movies?
“All That You Are” is actually a song that I wrote with another writer, a guy named John Shanks. And we wrote it just to write it as a song. We didn’t write it for the film. And the music supervisor for Transformers heard it an was like, “You know what, this is a really cool tune and we can use it for the movie.’ And I was like (chuckles) ‘great.’ I mean it’s good to have it out as a single because the movie is obviously going to be big. And it’s getting played on the radio and it’s always good to have a song on the radio when you’re going out on a tour.
As for the romance, yeah, [laughing] it’s like ‘We need a sappy song. Call Rzeznik, he’ll do it.’ But really, I’m lucky to be burdened by that.
You’re touring with Michelle Branch, which is a great combination. How did you guys get together?
Our booking agent suggested it to us. We always like to put together [a multiple band] bill for the summer, because it’s everybody’s night out. Nowadays, some people are lucky to get one night out, because that’s all they can afford. And she’s a really great artist and she has a new album out. And we’ve known her for years. So we were like. ‘Yeah, that’s great; lets put her out there with us.’ It was the best decision for us because we’re really comfortable with her and we know her. And we think it’s a great combination.
One of the things you have in common with her is that your songs, at times, almost have a singer-songwriter sound. The Goo Goo Dolls are definitely a rock band, but you have this other side as well.
Yeah, we are a rock band and I love getting the whole band together and cranking up the Marshalls as loud as they’ll go and doing that whole thing. But ultimately, it is about the songs and can I sit down with an acoustic guitar and play that song and convey the same message? That’s important. And if I can’t do that, what’s the point? I’ve been playing acoustic shows by myself lately just for fun and it’s a good feeling when the songs hold up under those circumstances. That’s what separates, I don’t know, the men from the boys. Because you’re up there and you’re completely naked and [I’ve been] pulling it off. So it feels really valid that the songs hold up acoustically.
In talking about your latest album, Something For the Rest of Us, you’ve said you feel like you had more control over the music and its direction than ever before. And many people feel it has a darker tone then most of your albums have had. How do you describe the album?
We did have more control. We basically made the album once, and we weren’t satisfied with the outcome. So we went back and redid it. And I think we put out a way better album because of it. And it was nice.
We went back to the record company and said, ‘Look, we have to redo a lot of this,’ and they said, ‘OK, fine.’ And that’s what we did.
And I do agree that it was a little more dark than usual. I think the album is a refection of where I felt people were at emotionally at the time I was writing it. I wanted the album to sort of be a reflection of what was going on out in the world. At the time, everybody was panicking and freaking out. You know I talk to a lot of people who come to our shows. And there’s a lot of stories [they tell me] that kind of moved me and sort of rattled around in my brain and were sort of processed out into the world. I mean we’re living in a world where we are involved in two wars and the economy sucks and the world is standing there going: ‘What the hell? When did we lose control?’ But I’m not a preacher. I’m more concerned with how it affects people than making some grand statement.
You’ve played Atlantic City many times before. Do you have any impressions of the city?
I always go visit the Boardwalk. In a lot of ways I have these romantic notions about the city’s past. It’s one of those towns — and we’ve also played Asbury Park a bunch — which has been mythologized by Bruce Springsteen, and I think is similar, but there are a lot of ghosts there. And it’s kind of interesting for me to take a walk up there and just kind of steal [that romance].
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