December 1, 2017
During polarizing times, musicians find they often need to walk a fine line.
While the Goo Goo Dolls aren’t known for socially conscious songs, front man John Rzeznik felt compelled to weigh in on the state of things. The rocking title track to the recent EP, “You Should Be Happy,” finds him singing about saving “what’s left of the American dream.”
“An opinion has become poison in this country,” affirmed bassist Robby Takac, who co-founded the Buffalo pop/rock band with Rzeznik in 1985. “You’re going to lose half your support if you [take] one side or the other. Personally, I just think you live your life the way you want. You don’t have to tell people which side you’re rooting for. It’ll just be obvious.”
Initially drawing national attention via the Nineties tunes “We are the Normal” and “Name,” the Goo Goo Dolls really blew up later that decade with “Iris.” That big hit was followed by four more and helped propel 1998’s “Dizzy Up the Girl” to triple platinum status. Since then, the group has charted a dozen more prominent adult pop radio singles.
Lately, Goo Goo Dolls followers have had plenty of material to savor, including 2016 studio album “Boxes,” the superb limited-edition vinyl box set “Pick Pockets, Petty Thieves and Tiny Victories: 1987-1995” and the latest EP sporting four new tracks and a remix.
“Boxes” featured some surprises, notably the orchestrated “Flood,” a duet with Echosmith singer Sydney Sierota and an EDM-leaning “Reverse.” The latter was created around the same time as Rzeznik’s guest appearance on “Lightning,” by New Jersey electronic music group Cash Cash.
“I’m sure it opened his eyes to some things,” said Takac. “If you listen to the first records we put out in the ‘80s, you’d have no idea it could’ve been this band. Somewhere in the context of ‘Boxes,’ it all makes sense.”
Additionally, regular TV viewers should recognize the hip-hop leaning “So Alive,” the band’s most recent top 20 adult pop chart hit, which is heard in a ubiquitous car commercial for BMW.
When the Goo Goo Dolls headline Dec. 10 at the Fox, the performance will be a rare treat.
Having completed a summer amphitheater tour, where everything was nondescript, Takac can’t wait for a change of scenery. “It’s that part of the year where we do interesting venues again and it’s awesome to play theaters.
“This is an all-acoustic trio show. We don’t do a lot of these — maybe four or five a year,” he admitted. “The show itself is pretty special and unique for us, quite honestly.”
Takac didn’t know whether any holiday-themed selections would make it onto the set list in Riverside, but did cite a favorite among past songs they’ve done live.
“We covered ‘A Holly Jolly Christmas’ at Rockefeller Center [for NBC’s tree-lighting ceremony special in 2013] and got a chance to share the holiday experience with everyone in New York. That one stands out.”
Besides his bassist and songwriting duties for Goo Goo Dolls (Takac typically sings lead on a pair of tracks for each album), the musician has also run independent Buffalo, N.Y.-based Good Charamel Records since 2003. The label specializes in Japanese rock acts — the most prominent being the highly popular female punk/pop group Shonen Knife, which toured with Nirvana and played Lollapalooza in the 1990s.
“All these bands are like family to us,” said Takac. “They hang out with my kid. My wife is from Tokyo. So, we go over there and visit a lot. We make records here and there. I’m not an aficionado on the Japanese music industry or anything, though I probably know much more than the average American.”
In 2011, Takac co-produced the tribute album “Osaka Ramones” for Shonen Knife and once drove a tour bus for them.
“They’re the real deal. I love them. To me, it’s really fun. After working so long with John, it’s amazing to get in and do this kind of stuff.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the winter 2017 issue of Riverside Magazine.