When it comes to rock and roll survival, the Goo Goo Dolls are a rare breed.
"I was ticking off the number of groups that came up at the same time as we did, wondering how many are still making records. Or how many of them still have songs on the radio. And there aren't too many ... barely any. There's like no one left," says Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik.
Over their 25-year career, the Goo Goo Dolls — band founders Rzeznik and bassist Robby Takac, and drummer Mike Malinin — have continued to flourish, owing in large part to a combination of tenacity and obstinance.
"We came out of a scene where it was like, 'You can't do this, you can't do that' — there were so many rules," says Rzeznik of the band's early indie/alt-rock rooting. "We just kind of said (screw) it. If we get a chance to do something, we'll do it. We're not here to fail. And we don't give a (damn) who thinks we're cool. I think that's why we managed to survive."
Tonight, the Goos arrive in Memphis to headline the final show of the Memphis Botanic Garden's "Live at the Garden" summer concert season. It will also be one of the final shows of the Goos tour, a yearlong run in support of the band's ninth album, Something for the Rest of Us.
Though four years passed between each of the band's past two studio albums, Rzeznik is hoping to turn around the next record much sooner. "I think the way the world works now, if you're going to try and remain relevant, you have to speed the process up," he says. "The whole world is sped up. You have to roll with that or get left behind."
Rzeznik says he has already penned the bulk of the next album — much of it in collaboration with new songwriting partners.
Over the years, he says, the writing process has evolved dramatically. "When I was young and writing songs, up until maybe (1993 LP) Superstar Carwash, it was all just sort of a goof," Rzeznik says.
"But there comes a point when somebody actually comes up to you and says, 'You know, man, that song meant a lot to me,' -- it kinda gets you thinking, 'maybe I can be good at this. Maybe I can do something that means something.' And everybody wants to do that. Everybody wants to do something meaningful in their life."
Since the mid-'90s, the Goos have been an undeniable force in radio, starting with hits like "Iris," "Name" and "Slide," and more recent fare like Something's "Home." In total, the band has scored 14 top-10 hits in the Adult Top 40 format.
"Over the years, I've learned writing is as much of a craft as an art thing. You get inspired, or a situation comes along that makes you think, or moves you in some kind of way, and you write about that. But the inspiration lasts maybe a minute or just a few seconds, and then you gotta get out the tools and just start hammering the song into shape," says Rzeznik.
Starting out in the late-'80s as a scruffy underground band from Buffalo, the Goos enjoyed the favor of critics. But since the massive mainstream success of the band's 1995 album Dizzy Up the Girl — and more than 9 million in subsequent album sales — that kind of support has been scarce.
"As you get older, you get more comfortable with yourself and who you are. So I have no desire to impress anybody anymore," says Rzeznik. "I'm gonna say what I'm going to say whether people — writers or critics or whatever — like it or not. Being upset about that stuff is like complaining about the weather: You can't do anything about it."
That the group has endured the roller-coaster nature of success has proven to be an achievement in itself. "If we would've been successful on our first or second record, like some bands, it probably would've killed us," Rzeznik admits.
"A lot of it is luck. Some of it is being from Buffalo, which definitely has an effect on your psyche and work ethic," he says, laughing.
"Having people around you that you can actually trust is crucial. As you get a little bit of success, people start telling you how great you are. That's the hardest thing to survive. You have to have a real understanding of who you are because that (stuff) will pollute you and (screw) you up and ruin your career instantly."
As the Goos enter the next phase of their career, they find themselves working in a radically changed music industry — one where record sales and radio play have been diminished by the role of the Internet and iTunes.
"It used to frighten me, like, 'Oh, my God, no one's buying records.' But we stayed out on the road for years and years and years, working. We're lucky we have enough of a fan base where we can make a living playing music live, and that's so important now," he says. "We've built that, and it's something that can't be taken away from us so easily."
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