How many experiences during my high school or college years were marked by a Goo Goo Dolls song? A lot. The band provided a soundtrack for the late ‘90s and early millenium. So, it is surreal to be on the phone with bass guitarist Robby Takac, talking about his old Pittsburgh haunts, his regrets about being hammered through the “big” years, and how his band has managed to stay relevant.
“You know, Pittsburgh was one of those places that, when we first started out, was a van-ride destinations for us,” he says. “We were there an awful lot, and we ended up doing a lot of shows at Graffiti.”
The guitarist also remembers playing The Electric Banana. “It was hanging off the side of a cliff on, like, a couple of sticks,” he says. “I think everybody would jump up and down and try to knock it off.”
Goo Goo Dolls keyboard player and vocalist Korel Tunador is actually from Pittsburgh, and won an endowment from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in 2001 for his achievements as an emerging artist. “We have been saying that when you go to your hometown and play, you become a super hero.”
Takac says that the Goo Goo Dolls fame actually hit in Pittsburgh first. “We were a little bit of a bigger band in Pittsburgh before we were in a lot of other places,” he says. And then he makes a joke, “You know, when I say ‘bigger of a band’ I mean we could draw about 150 people or whatever.”
But in the height of Goo Goo Dolls glory, during the reign of the triple-platinum album Dizzy Up the Girl, the band would sell out First Niagara Pavilion (Star Lake, as we all remember it) and amphitheaters just like it all over the country. Four Grammy nominations, 13 consecutive top 10 multi-format hit songs, and more than 10 million albums later, the band marks its 25th anniversary.
“I think a lot of that is being lucky,” Takac says. “But I think the other thing is sheer momentum. We have been moving forward in varying degrees. Sometimes rocketing forward, sometimes not so quickly. And the fan base grows and fluctuates, but it’s still big enough to keep us out there doing our thing.”
The founding band member concedes that some of that momentum is a little fuzzy.
“There was a time when we would go out for three months, and we were pretty much hammered for three months — you know, mambo dancing up and down the aisles. But, now that we’ve been touring for two years straight, it’s like, you’ve really got to watch yourself because the bus ends up being like your sanctuary, and the last thing you want is someone mambo dancing in your lounge.”
Takac admits regret for years he feels he wasted.
“If I thought about all those shows that I was doing 40 percent because I was so ripped up from the night before, it kind of bums me out a little bit.”
Angst can be heard on the recent release of Something for the Rest of Us, but the album solidly delivers for faithful fans. The Goo Goo Dolls are playing Stage AE on July 27.
Takac promises that, this time, he’ll give 100 percent.
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