(Robby Takac and John Rzeznik photo courtesy of The Goo Goo Dolls)
The Goo Goo Dolls have played together for almost thirty years, but still love the thrill of summer tours. The band plays at The Wharf on Saturday, June 21 with Daughtry and The Plain White T’s.
I interviewed Goo Goo Dolls’ bass player and co-founder Robby Takac by phone while the band was in pre-production for the tour. He was spending time at home with his two-year old daughter who wrote him a song that morning, “My Foot. My Mouth.” “She is already a good songwriter,” laughs Takac.
Pre-production is the time to build new stages, a new video show, and to decide which songs to add or leave off the set list. “There are some songs like ‘Iris’ that we always have to play or we wouldn’t get out of the building alive,” says Takac. “We play five songs from the new album (Magnetic) and we are also working in a few of the old songs that we rediscovered during the acoustic tour.”
Takac and lead singer John Rzeznik recently finished their first acoustic tour, playing unplugged for smaller audiences in smaller venues. “Night after night we told stories and spoke off the cuff,” says Takac. “It was a bit frightening and we felt very exposed. Doing something like that makes you start from zero all over again. We reinstrumentized the songs and had to listen from a different place. It forces you to look at a song from a different angle and see something you haven’t seen before.”
Simplifying the music and opening up to an audience for the acoustic tour was a challenge and a recharge for the Grammy-nominated band that has sold more than 10 million albums with 14 Top 10 radio hits such as “Name,” and “Slide.” Their biggest song “Iris” was featured in the movie City of Angels and blew open doors for the band. It spent 12 straight months on the Billboard charts and was No. 1 for 17 consecutive weeks. Sixteen years later, The Goo Goo Dolls are still making music that people want to hear like the recent hit “Come To Me.”
The Goo Goo Dolls have good memories of their first time to play in Alabama at the Tip Top Café in Huntsville in 1986. “There may have been four people there,” says Takac. “Or that may have been my youthful optimist nature—it was probably only us there that night, but it was a rocking set. That was our first tour and we played about 30 shows that were more like rehearsals for ourselves because no one else was there, but that tour led to the record deal and everything else that came after that.”
“We were too busy to realize the moments that it was coming together but that tour was one of them,” says Takac. “When it takes off, all you can do is hang on and think of how to do 18 shows and then do 18 shows again. It is a lot of work and you are so busy when it actually happens that there is not time to step back and enjoy it and know that the music is good. You are so worried about what is next. Next show. Next record. My song “Happiest of Days” (on Magnetic) is about the struggle and difficulty to see the fortune and good things around you. Things happen around you but you have to make time to enjoy life.”
Persistence and chemistry have kept the Goo Goo Dolls together for almost three decades. ”Everyone has to get what they need out of the band and we give each other the space to do that,” says Takac. “Our fans have been unbelievably loyal. Starting out, we were just in the moment. We never thought it would last for 30 years.”
The Goo Goo Dolls have stepped onto the stage and into the spotlights thousands of times, but the thrill of that moment never fades. “My favorite moment of the show has always been the dark seconds before the lights go up,” says Takac. “It is that moment of nervousness when you don’t remember what is next or what key to begin in. Am I going to trip as I walk out? It is unbelievably terrifying, but I love it.”
“I am ready to do it again on this summer tour,” says Takac. “We tour all year long, but we can’t wait for the summer tour to bring out the big guns with the sound and lights. We still take everything, one show, one tour at a time and make it the best we can do.”