GOO GOO DOLLS
Last year, Goo Goo Dolls singer and guitarist John Rzeznik was thinking a lot about
change. “I was listening to a lot of David Bowie and thinking about how he went from
writing ‘Scary Monsters’ to ‘Let’s Dance’ and what an insane, radical change that was.
He totally reinvented himself every time. And it dawned on me that that's what you
always have to do. You have to change.”
So when it came time to think about making a new Goo Goo Dolls album, Rzeznik realized that he didn’t want to sit in a room by himself and try to write songs. “I’ve been doing that for years and it would have resulted in the same old stuff,” he says. “When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you need outside input. Not just to keep you relevant, but to keep you sane, creative, and humble.”
With the goal of pushing himself past his comfort zone, Rzeznik enlisted some of his favorite songwriters and producers to collaborate with on the band’s new album Boxes, including Gregg Wattenberg (with whom Rzeznik wrote four songs on the Goos’ 2013 album Magnetic), Wattenberg’s production partner Derek Fuhrmann, and Drew Pearson (who has worked with Phillip Phillips and OneRepublic). Rzeznik was also inspired by a 2014 collaboration he did with dance duo Cash Cash on a song called “Lightning.” “I had always been really interested in how they make that kind of music, so I went and sat with them and watched and it’s impressive,” he says. “I was just so excited by the process and how different it is.”
The result is a vibrant, sonically forward-looking album that manages to retain what their legions of fans love about the Goo Goo Dolls — indelible melodies, intimate, heartfelt lyrics, and the anthemic, uplifting vibe of their songs — while pushing new boundaries in terms of sound and production. “That's the dance, isn’t it?” says bassist Robby Takac, who wrote Boxes’ “Free of Me” and “Prayer in My Pocket,” and co-wrote “Over and Over.” “How do you move forward and keep as many folks who love your band as you can? I think we’ve actually done a pretty great job of that. If you listen to our records from 1986 and listen to Boxes, you’d never imagine that we’re the same band.”
Of course the Goos’ created some of most memorable musical moments of the ’90s with such chart-topping hits as “Name,” “Slide,” and acoustic ballad “Iris,” which spent 18 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Airplay chart and remains one of the biggest crossover hits in the history of popular music. Having formed the Goo Goo Dolls in Buffalo, NY, in 1986, Rzeznik and Takac spent their first decade traversing North America in a van and bringing their raucous brand of melodic punk rock to college kids and winning over small but enthusiastic crowds of fans. They released a series of albums before breaking through commercially with their fifth, 1995’s A Boy Named Goo (featuring “Name”), followed by 1998’s 4x-platinum Dizzy Up The Girl, which produced five Top 10 singles and sold nearly six million copies worldwide. The four-time Grammy Award-nominated band, which has sold more than 10 million albums, continued touring and released a string of Top 10 albums through the early 2000’s: Gutterflower (2002), Let Love In (2006), Something for the Rest of Us (2010), and Magnetic (2013). Rzeznik has also been honored with the Songwriters Hall of Fame Hal David Starlight Award.
Although Rzeznik is thankful for the band’s sustained success (“I'm grateful for the enormous shadow that ‘Iris’ cast because it gave me a life, it gave me a career”), he is not one to revel in past glories and prefers to keep looking forward. “When it came time to make Boxes, I really tried to give up my preconceived notions of what the hell was expected of me,” Rzeznik says. “I was impeding my own growth by not opening myself up to collaboration before. But when you allow other people's ideas in and you share willingly, everything grows exponentially. None of these songs would have existed if I had maintained a defensive stance.”
True to that theme, the songs on Boxes address the simple, human desire to feel connected. “All the songs are about trying to find connection, and my feeling so close to doing so,” Rzeznik says. First single, “So Alive” is about Rzeznik’s journey staying sober over the last 15 months. “I don’t want to dwell on the sobriety stuff because it’s an old musician cliché and I’m no different, but the song is about finally feeling normal again, and how normal feels so completely alien when you’ve been sick for so long,” he says. On “Souls in the Machine,” Rzeznik addresses what it was like to finally take a breathe of fresh air after being submerged in the music business for decades. “I lived for work. I had no purpose,” he says. “I screwed up everything in my life except being a musician. But there are things in life that are more important, like connections with friends and believing in that enough to make the effort to maintain those relationships.”
Finally, the anthemic opening track “Over and Over” (written by Rzeznik, Takac, drummer Craig Macintyre, and Pearson) is a larger metaphor for life. “There’s just so much hope in that song,” Rzeznik says. “And it’s a song you can scream your guts out to.” With its jubilant chorus that finds the singer exclaiming “Turn it up!” the song is sure to be a crowd pleaser on the road. The Goo Goo Dolls will tour extensively throughout North America this spring and summer and will tour Europe in the fall. “It never gets old,” says Takac of playing live. “That’s the completion of the circle.”
As for Boxes, Rzeznik says, “I want people to listen to it hard. I want them to read the lyrics. I want them to be ecstatic, and then I want them to cry. I want them, at the end of it, to feel satisfied. I want them to take a little piece of it for themselves and own it. Make it theirs.”