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By Marijke Rowland

And then there were two Dolls.

After nearly 20 years as a trio, the Goo Goo Dolls have become a duo with founding members John Rzeznik and Robby Takac carrying on the band’s musical legacy. Earlier this spring they released their 11th studio album, “Boxes,” which band bassist Takac said finds the musicians breaking out of their own metaphorical boxes.

That means working with other producers and writers, both past collaborators and new partners. It was a trend that started with the group’s last album, 2012’s “Magnetic,” which still featured its longtime drummer Mike Malinin. The new project includes work co-written by Drew Pearson, who has worked with the likes of Katy Perry, OneRepublic, Zac Brown Band, and Gregg Wattenberg, whose credits include Phillip Phillips, Five For Fighting and Rascal Flatts.

Previously, frontman Rzeznik wrote most of the band’s biggest hits – from the once ubiquitous radio single like “Iris” to “Slide” and “Name.”

“I think we learned a lot about working in that way from that (album). It wasn’t something we were ever familiar with. So when I listen to that record next to this record, I feel like there were some growing pains. We were just figuring out how to do this,” Takac said in an interview from the road in Las Vegas. “This time we went in knowing what to expect and had more of a game plan to keep things more in our arena.”

Also very much in the band’s arena is its first single off of the record, “So Alive.” Rzeznik and Takac went back to Buffalo, where they were both born and raised, to film the video. The project was shot in and around the Buffalo’s Central Terminal by a director and crew from Buffalo and features a young female boxer from – you guessed it – Buffalo.

“We came up with this really cool concept of this ‘We’re up against yourself leading up to an eventual victory’ kind of thing. We liked the idea, but we wanted to keep it kind of close,” he said Takac, who also moved back Buffalo seven years ago. “It pretty much ended up being a super home-grown piece of work for us.”

The band brings its Buffalo roots and popular sound to the Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphys on Friday, July 15. The group is touring all summer with fellow 1990s breakout band Collective Soul and up-and-coming alternative band Tribe Society.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary the Goo Goo Dolls’ founding. It’s a milestone Takac said he never expected to hit, not out of any band acrimony, but general youthful lack of forethought.

“I don’t think 20-year-olds think about being 50-year-olds. You are lucky to get to the end of that year and reassess things. So I don’t think (going 30 years) was ever on our minds,” he said. “I can just speak personally, but since we started, I have never had anything in my mind except figuring out how to make things work. How to wake up another day and feel good about this. To hang onto a decent group of people who all love what we do.”

Part of that feeling good is the fact that Rzeznik has gone sober since the band’s last album. The 50-year-old singer-songwriter, who lives cross-country in Los Angeles, gave up drinking and got married over the past few years. Takac said what has been key to the band’s longevity has been a shared goal.

“I don’t think John and I ever thought that the core of this was much different than it is right now. We just do what we need to do to make sure we still have a Goo Goo Dolls to wake up to,” he said.

That means knowing what fans want. This summer the group will be touring with its core duo, as well as a drummer, keyboardist, guitarist and sax player. He said people can expect bright lights, loud drums and all of the hits.

Takac said while it is easy to complain – or even nitpick – when playing some of the same songs for 20 years, he never takes them for granted.

“When you listen to them now, especially after playing them for 20-plus years of playing them, you do go, ‘Oh man, I wish I had done this.’ Or, ‘Oh man, I do that so much better now.’ But those were all some pretty huge songs that came at a time for us. They lifted us up to a point where we can do what we do today. It’s been awesome. They’ve been a pretty long and wide shadow to get out of sometimes. But it’s nice to have a shadow at all.”

And, he said, he never tires of seeing audiences enjoy the music.

“I feel like there is a completion of the cycle when you are standing up there and they’re looking back at you and singing the songs back to you,” he said. “For songs like those, obviously there’s a connection. And that feel great.”
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