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Q&A

More than 20 years into their career, the Goo Goo Dolls have no problem circling back to the smaller markets that supported them in the late ’80s before they ever had a hit.

“That’s where the real people are. That’s where the real fans are,’’ said frontman Johnny Rzeznik. “You’ve got to get to everybody.’’

Does that mean the trio so often heralded as the hard-workin’ band out of blue-collar Buffalo, N.Y., is just as true to its Teflon work ethic now as it was back then?

“You mean have we become fat, lazy rock stars?’’ Rzeznik said, laughing. “No, we haven’t really. We’re probably not as skinny as we used to be, but you’ve got to work. I grew up in Buffalo. Everybody went to work at the factories. The most important thing was having a job. We have a really great job. I get crazy when I sit around at home.’’

The well-polished trio of Rzeznik, Robby Takac and Mike Malinin are out on the road taking their emotional anthems to college campuses and theaters in support of “Something for the Rest of Us’’ and its lead-off single, “Home.’’ Rzeznik, who lives in Los Angeles (and was looking forward to a taste of Wisconsin fall during Sunday’s stop at the Weidner Center), took time last week to talk by phone.

“Something for the Rest of Us’’ debuted at No. 7 on Billboard in August. Is there the slightest bit of nervousness anymore that comes with releasing a new album?

It’s exciting, but it’s a nervous excitement as well, because you don’t know if it’s going to be accepted. I was really surprised that we debuted that high, and was really grateful for it. I know what we do. I know what we’re capable of doing. I don’t ever try to intentionally chase that big hit when I’m writing. I don’t pollute the writing process with thinking about the outcome.

You’ve said you wanted to speak to “everyday people’’ with the music on this album. What did you want to say, and what about the times we’re living in inspired your songwriting?

We all have friends who have been affected negatively by living through what I’m calling the “Great Recession’’ and two wars. We’ve all been touched by that. We’ve been living in a country that has been on high alert for the past decade, and I think it causes this kind of chronic anxiety in people. I think people are kind of fed up about it.

The thing that struck me most was … (what happens) when people have what they perceive their purpose to be taken away from them, because we’re all so wrapped up in our public persona. “Hi, my name’s John. I’m a musician. Hi, my name’s Steve. I’m a pipe fitter. My name’s Bob. I’m an IT guy.’’ When those things are taken away, what a lot of people seem to feel, as I have in the past, is am I losing my purpose? What am I going to do with myself? … But there’s always that hope in the songs that the real important things come back to us — family and home and, not material possessions, but actual human connections, which is something I think we’re really lacking in society now.

There’s always a hopeful element to Goo Goo Dolls music. What does it mean to you when that gets embraced by people?

It’s always pretty moving to me, and it happens almost every day. I meet people when we’re out on tour and somebody comes up to you and says, “My wife and I danced at our wedding to that song.’’ Or “I was going through chemotherapy, and I always listen to your music to get pumped up and get through it.’’ It can be any of those things, and it’s an awesome feeling that people are connecting with something that you’re saying. I feel really proud of that.

What goes through your mind when you think that your band is now in its third decade?

It’s a combination of feeling incredibly blessed and not knowing what else to do with my life. (Laughs.) I’m kidding about that. It sort of shocks me that, wow, I’ve been doing this band longer than I haven’t been doing this band. For the first like nine years we were part-timers. When we were lucky enough to have a hit, a door opened up for us and we ran through it and kept going.

Because the band is so synonymous with the ’90s with hits like “Iris,’’ “Name’’ and “Slide,’’ is it a challenge to have one foot in that decade and one foot moving forward?

It’s a blessing that we had so many big hits. It’s also a blessing that we’re still pretty relevant, although maybe not as commercially successful as we were before. Those songs really, really are the reason we can still be here today. And to get up in front of a room full of people and just turn the microphone around and let them sing all the words to a song — and they know all the words — that’s an incredible feeling.
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