Buffalo natives play Wednesday night in Ithaca
When the Goo Goo Dolls first formed in Buffalo as a Replacements-inspired punk band — under the much less marketable moniker The Sex Maggots — Ronald Reagan was president and "Top Gun" ruled the box office.
Twenty-five years later, the trio — John Rzeznik (vocals, lead guitar), Robby Takac (vocals, bass guitar) and Mike Malinin (who replaced founding drummer George Tutuska in 1995) — has racked up 14 Top 10 singles, four Grammy nominations and more than 10 million albums sold.
Asked last week about how far they've traveled since those early days, Takac said the Goo Goo Dolls have lived several different lives.
"We've had some pretty distinguishable portions of our career that have come together to make a larger thing. Even though it's been John and I playing the entire time, we spent 10 years as an indie band — an unsuccessful indie band, which means no one knows about you and you don't make any money. Then we were a successful indie band, which means some people know about you and you don't make any money!" Takac said with a laugh during an interview from Buffalo.
"Then we had a little hit record (1995's 'A Boy Named Goo'), then we had a bus and we traveled around and we didn't make any money. We had our band and opened for some of our heroes. We were a band that was rising; then we were a band that was riding that rise (after 1998's triple- platinum 'Dizzy Up the Girl').
"Then we were a band that's had some peaks and valleys, and now we're a band that for 25 years has been moving forward, and people are still enjoying coming to our shows and listening to our music, and that's a whole other portion to our career. I think we've been lucky in that way."
Fans will get the chance to see the Goo Goo Dolls close up during a fall tour that stops at the State Theatre in Ithaca on Wednesday night. Expect the setlist to include favorites such as "Iris," "Name," "Slide," "Better Days" and "Black Balloon" as well as selections from their ninth studio album, 2010's "Something for the Rest of Us." There may even be a few new tunes in the mix: "All That You Are" (from the "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" soundtrack), "Best of Me" (soon to be heard on TV's "Hawaii Five-O") and even one or two from their album in progress, which could be released next summer.
The 12 tracks on "Something for the Rest of Us" (the first album the Goo Goo Dolls have recorded with the band they tour with) don't shy away from the difficult era we're going through. From "The Sweetest Lie" and "Notbroken" to "Nothing Is Real" and "Soldier," the songs chronicle the struggles of everyday people in dire economic straits.
Takac said that, as touring musicians, he and Rzeznik hear all kinds of stories from folks they encounter, and those heartfelt moments influence their work.
"When it comes time to make a record, we look around and see what's going on around us - at the end of our arm and at the rest of the world," he said. "That seemed to be an overriding theme for those couple of years. People are having some tough times, so I think those are the issues we naturally spoke to."
However, sometimes music can help people forget about their problems, at least for a few hours. Takac has had a stage-eye view of that magic for years, watching crowds of thousands sing along to the Goo Goo Dolls' hits.
"When people come to a rock show and they know a bunch of songs from a band, they feel some camaraderie with the people who surround them," he said. "Everybody decodes a song lyric or the mood of a song in a different way, but when that becomes something that means something to you and you share that in a roomful of people, that's always a great thing."
In between tours, Takac and Rzeznik have been writing and developing tracks for the next Goo Goo Dolls album, which is about halfway finished. Takac said the band is hoping to do better than releasing a record every four years or so, which has been standard since "A Boy Named Goo."
"I don't think you can sit around at your beachfront home in Fiji like rock stars used to, right? It's a different world these days," he said. "You've gotta be out there, you've gotta be making music, you've gotta be making it happen. I think we're following more into the idea that we're working a bit more steadily now — at a steady pace — than being able to work in blasts liked we used to."
In the past couple of weeks, "Iris" — their 1998 megahit featured in the film "City of Angels" — has surged back to the top of the U.K. charts, thanks to a contestant singing it on the British version of "The X Factor."
"That's actually the second time that's happened," Takac said. "One time, one of those English boy-band superstar guys gone solo (Ronan Keating of Boyzone) covered 'Iris' and it did really well. We ended up going into the Top 20 or something. But this time, that 'X-Factor' is such a huge television program over there that it sent the song to No. 3 on the pop charts over there. It's a crazy scene for sure. ...
"Of course, I found out with Twitter! Twitter went crazy, and I thought, 'What the hell's going on?' People in England were waking up to the news. It was funny to see."
As for the future, the Goo Goo Dolls hope to keep making music "as long as people want to hear it and as long as we feel we don't look like a bunch of jerks doing it," Takac said.
"Music takes up a different part of your life when you're 45 than it did when you were 20. It was your social scene and your chance to meet girls — that's a whole other thing! You start to see it as something different, as something you can have a different type of relationship with. As long as you can maintain a comfortable relationship with it, it can be a part of your life for a really long time."
Goo Goo Dolls Kick off Fall Tour at the Pabst, Milwaukee
Interview With The Goo Goo Dolls