Interview: John Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls on the Band's New Album, Covering Flesh for Lulu and Listening to Arcade Fire
Nearly twenty-five years into its career, Goo Goo Dolls is one of the most consistent rock bands around. The Buffalo, New York-based band is playing at Family Arena tonight with Switchfoot and Green River Ordinance, in advance of its ninth studio album, Something For the Rest of Us. Due August 31, the record is full of the well-crafted rock the band's fans have come to expect; highlights include the piano-based single "Home" and the stomping, uptempo bar-rocker "Sweetest Lie."
Vocalist/guitarist John Rzeznik checked in from Dallas, Texas, where he was fresh off an interview that detoured into talking about the Home Shopping Network. A to Z couldn't top that, but we did ask about the Goos covering Flesh for Lulu, its new album and the difference between writing songs and being a songwriter.
By the way: The band is encouraging anyone going to the show tonight to bring some non-perishable food items for the organization USA Harvest, a volunteer-run organization that distributes food directly to shelters.
Annie Zaleski: You worked with many different people on the new album, producer- and mixing-wise [Butch Vig, John Fields, etc.]. What did you guys learn from each of them, what did they all bring to your music?
John Rzeznik: Each one of them brought a different thing for sure. It was like - they either bring a more creative thing or they're more musically based, or more technically based in their abilities. Everybody made a great contribution to the album.
I like that you wrote some songs with Andy Stochansky, I was a big fan of his solo stuff. I know you've worked with him in the past. What stands out to you about his writing?
We wrote together, a couple tunes on the album. Ever since I heard the demos for his first album that he wanted me to produce , I fell in love with his writing. I think he's great. And he's a lot of fun, he's a good friend. He's just really emotionally open, and I enjoy his company. It's fun to sit down with a friend and just write.
What were you guys going for on this album? Anything in particular you were aiming for, or wanted to change or improve from previous albums?
This album is sort of looking outward more -- it's more topical, sort of talking about other people and their situations in life, from their perspective. In a lot of spots on the album, it's really reflective of the troubled times we're living in.
There's kind of a vague floating anxiety that my friends have, and in general. It's a very strange time.
I call it "low-grade chronic fear." [laughs] Or "ambient fear." It's always just sort of there, and we're all nervous.
I was impressed that one of the bonus cuts on the record is a cover of a Flesh for Lulu song ["Postcards from Paradise"]. Listening to it, I was like, "Oh yeah, I could totally hear that." Are you guys fans?
Yeah, I was a huge fan of that band. We covered that song live many, many years ago. And it was really cool, it was great to finally get to record a version of that.
It's funny, I think there's only a small niche amount of people who remember the band. You have to be like, "Yeah, 'I Go Crazy," they were in that '80s movie. But then you have to tell people, "No, they had more than that."
Yeah, there was a lot more than that. My favorite album by them was Plastic Fantastic. But I just love that song, "Postcards from Paradise."
The new single, "Home," the keyboards on it remind me ea little bit of later-period Echo & the Bunnymen. A couple of other songs on the album have a darker, '80s-alt-rock feel to them. That really stood out to me.
Wow, that's interesting. That's kind of the music I grew up listening to.
It came through, even subconsciously.
[Laughs] But the Echo & the Bunnymen comparison, wow - I never even noticed that. I was actually listening to Arcade Fire the night before last, me and the guitar player named Brad [Fernquist]. We were sitting there listening to Arcade Fire, and I'm like, "Man, this guy sounds exactly like Ian McCulloch!" His delivery, his whole thing.
Their record sounds great, too; it's well-produced and it definitely has that '80s vibe.
Everything old is new again.
I talked to Bryce Avary from the Rocket Summer a few months ago, and he talked about touring with you guys. And you're bringing out Switchfoot this time. Both of those acts have toured a lot, but do you guys give them any advice or any sort of...
The Rocket Summer?
No, no no no no no. That kid knows exactly what he's doing. I would go to him for advice, as far as [laughs] working social media and all that kind of stuff, the Internet and all that.
Yeah, his Twitter's really active; I follow him. It is really impressive.
He's very savvy.
What did it mean to you personally to get the Hal David Starlight Award for songwriting a few years ago?
Um... you know, I don't know. It felt like, "Yeah, okay, I guess I am a songwriter." [laughs] I've been nominated for Grammys and all that, and won some ASCAP Awards, but to get that was just really...I felt like, "Wow, okay. I guess I am a songwriter." I just thought I was a guy that wrote songs, but I rarely ever refer to myself as a [affects a whisper] songwriter.
Yeah, there's a certain level of pretension if you call yourself a songwriter...
It was really an honor, because when you see who else got those awards, it's like, "Wow." I mean, I like to think of myself as a guy who writes songs more than a rock star or a musician or whatever. I'm not a technically great musician; I use the guitar or the piano to get my point across, but that's about it.