After twenty-seven years of making music, you’ve earned the right to a “Greatest Hits” album or two. But the Goo Goo Dolls keep making music that’s ridiculously popular. They’ve just released their tenth album—the sunny, unabashedly summery Magnetic—and the band’s picked up a new generation of fans who are snatching up tickets for their co-headlining tour with Matchbox 20. How did the ’90s alt-rockers get to this point?
Magnetic is notable not only as the band’s tenth album, but also for the impressive roster of producers brought in to craft the sound and songwriting. For those expecting alt-rock-lite, Magnetic might surprise you. The word “upbeat” is bandied around in the press when talking about Magnetic, and I can’t find a better word to describe it. These are some happy dudes, and at a time when it feels like the world is working against everyone, maybe a happier sound is just what we need. It certainly seems that way; Magnetic is their fourth Top 10 album in a row.
Bass guitarist Robby Takac agrees that it’s time to turn the spotlight on some good stuff for a change. He waxed nostalgic about his musical influences, his thoughts on being in a band for almost thirty years, and reveals that Magnetic is the first Goo Goo Dolls album to be released on vinyl in years.
A popular band experiencing a creative renaissance deciding to put their newest record down on vinyl? Now that’s some upbeat news.
I think many music fans would be surprised to learn that you’ve been together for almost 30 years. Does it feel strange to hear about “new generations of fans” listening to your music?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool! I mean, to see kids comin’ to these shows at the same time with people who are older than me… it’s interesting to see that cross-section of people. It’s interesting to see that part of the result of sticking around for a while.
It’s probably more surprising to many people that most of the bands that have “made it” have actually been at it for decades.
Yeah, yeah. We’re pretty lucky, though, I think. We’re pretty fortunate that we came in at the end of a different kind of record business and managed to make that transition, before the industry became a different beast.
You really hit your peak right at the tail end of the prominence of the CD. How do you feel about the way the music industry has shifted away from the album format?
I guess it is what it is. It’s just a different model, man. You’ve got to play more, you’ve got to be out there more now. But people don’t love music any less. Like I said, I feel fortunate every day that we became one of those bands that’s able to survive and thrive after all these years. We’re on probably the biggest tour of our lives right now.
I was looking at your tour schedule and it’s pretty intense—through October and overseas. I hear you’re selling out a bunch of shows, which must be really cool.
Yeah! It’s not as exciting as the first time you do it, that’s for sure. [Laughs] It’s exciting in a different way. It’s exciting that we can come and play songs for people, songs that people have loved for a long time… we can share those songs with people and play new songs for people, too. Like you were saying, there are these younger people who have just discovered us and are learning backwards. And it’s amazing to be able to share new songs with all those people, too. So yeah, it’s a good feeling.
Your new album, Magnetic, is a pretty upbeat album—and your fourth album in a row to debut in the Top 10. As a rock musician, does it ever make you feel a little uncomfortable to have things going so well—and to celebrate them?
You always look around… [Laughs] You know, your rise is always marked by a defeat. Sometimes, that’s what stops the rise. Then you move onto the next thing, and you rise again. So, sometimes you find yourself focusing more on the problems than on celebrating the victory. I think that’s just a flaw in humans. [Laughs] But yeah, man, it’s amazing to look back and see all the things you’ve done.
Someone asked me to make a list recently of the top ten favorite things we have done. That’s hard to come up with ten! We’ve done so many crazy things and been so many crazy places… yeah, it’s great.
A lot of what you’re saying right now reminds me of one of your songs in particular off the new album, “Happiest of Days,” seems to deal most with the struggle to actually celebrate the good times. Is that accurate?
Yeah! You gotta take time to do that, man. [Laughs] You have to. I think that if you don’t, you just focus on the darkness too much and that’s not a great thing to do.
I loved the fan photos at the end of the official “Rebel Beat” video. Why was it so important to make these fans part of the music like that?
As I said earlier, the support of those people and their excitement and the inertia behind it, or the inertia that’s developed from it, some might say… I think that’s always been one of the things that has been hugely important for the success of everything we’ve done. I think that was a great way to let people get into the process a little bit, and start to stir up some excitement for the upcoming record at the same time.
You know, I apologize, I meant to congratulate you when we got started on the birth of your first child. It must be difficult to be away on tour right now…
That’s so funny, as you said that, did you hear that [iPhone] noise?
That was my wife sending me a movie of my baby in the pool at my parents’ house. That’s funny—just as you asked that question! But yeah, that stinks, but that’s just what it is. This is what Papa does for a living, you know? [Laughs] But they come out a lot. They’ll come out tomorrow and they’ll be out for about ten days or so.
We’ve established that the Goo Goo Dolls have been around for a while, so let’s take it back for a moment. When you guys were just getting started in Buffalo, what was the music scene like there?
Well, there was a pretty driving punk scene, but it was all sort of centered around a couple of clubs. The larger scene of bands paying in town were cover bands. Everything was very regional. We had some good bands… there’s a club called The Continental that we used to play at. There were a couple of college campuses where we did a lot of shows. But we ended up in trouble at a couple of the clubs we were playing at… So, we started looking elsewhere for gigs just so we could play, because we sort of weren’t able to play in the two clubs there were.
I’ve been to Buffalo a couple of times and it got me wondering what the scene could have even been like at that time.
Yeah, it was pretty cool, man. There was a lot more money in Buffalo back then in the ‘80s. There was still some cash there, but there’s always a great music scene. I’ve still got a studio there that I run. A lot of bands come through, so I still get to hear about what goes on.
What were you guys listening to when you were coming up?
Back in the day, we listened to a lot of The Replacements, Husker Du, The Cure, KISS, some New York Dolls, Peter Murphy. To me, music was a lot less pigeon-holed than it is now. You can really zone in on what you want to right now. When you talk about punk rock in the ‘80s versus punk rock now, you can’t have The Ramones and Devo and Talking Heads and Blondie on the same bill. Then it made sense, but those bands are so different from each other! But it was all sort of under the umbrella of punk rock. Now, I think people are able to really focus their likes and get really specific with their music these days.
And with the way streaming music is now, and obviously with music downloads, you don’t have to listen to any album tracks if you don’t want to.
Yeah! It’s funny… you can hear pretty much any song you want to hear right now. Through YouTube or Spotify or whatever, you can just go listen to whatever you want to hear. So, you’d think people would listen to a lot more music, but I don’t know if they do or not. I think people tend to focus on what gets served to them a little bit more than search stuff out.
Do you miss that—do you still have a fondness for the album format?
Well, I don’t know if I would say I miss the vinyl format. It does sound different—the needle being in a groove of the record makes a sound, and that sound is combined with the music that you make. It’s an awesome marriage, that’s for sure. But I think more than that—and that’s for audiophiles—I think what I miss is that physical point of people standing together and enjoying music together and turning people on to music that the record store used to provide. I don’t think you see that as much these days, because it’s tough to survive. You’re seeing less and less of them. A lot more of it’s going online; you can still get stuff, but it’s online.
As a matter of fact, we just did our first run of vinyl in four records for this album. So obviously there’s some sort of interest because Warner Brothers wouldn’t have done it otherwise. But I do miss the brick-and-mortars and the personalities and the relationships we formed in those places.
I did see your awesome fan pack for Magnetic, but didn’t see the vinyl with it. Is that something that’s going to be released later this year as a special edition or something?
You know what, man? I’m not sure quite honestly. You can get it at Best Buy, I think, and Amazon.
What’s coming up next for the band and for you?
We’re gonna do this UK run and more touring after that… we’ll see how the shows are doin’ and see how the record’s doin’ and, quite possibly, we’ll think about writing more songs.