Five albums into their punk project dubbed The Goo Goo Dolls, John Rzeznik and Robby Takac broke through. “Name” was their first big hit, and left some fans complaining that they had gone too mainstream. One fan even sent Rzeznik a letter in 1998 that started “Dear F-----,” which, he told Guitar World, was not the first time he’d been called such an awful name.
The Goo Goo Dolls' founding members have been together for more than 30 years now and are still touring huge shows around the world. The band released its 12th studio album, Miracle Pill, in September, marking another stylistic shift. More often they sound like Imagine Dragons or Bastille on Miracle Pill than the alt-rock band that made “Iris” and “Slide,” but those famous hits are still what keep the band playing stadiums with Bon Jovi.
The Goo Goo Dolls at this point are an under-the-radar institution, and songs like “Iris” continue to be covered by younger indie rock bands like Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail.
“The past few years you start seeing a lot of parents bringing their kids to the shows,” Takac said. “And when I say kids, I mean they have mustaches.”
The Goo Goo Dolls are on their third generation of fans, and they’ve stayed grateful for those hits, even as their later records sales have waned. They even played a 20 year anniversary world tour for their biggest album, Dizzy Up the Girl, which had half of its tracks on the rock charts when it came out, including “Black Balloon” and “Broadway.” They haven’t gone a month without playing those songs, Takac said, but the rest of the album got left behind.
“[The hits] have come along with us,” he said. “The other half of the record we really never played. It was really weird, it felt like those songs weren’t on the journey with us or something.”
Takac has embraced streaming services like Spotify even though they’ve been around for every music format era -- from cassettes to CDs and digital downloads.
“I used to spend my life when I was a kid standing in the record store just chatting with people, hanging out, discovering new music,” he said. “It’s much less personal and it’s a different way of discovering it, but the stuff I discover these days is unbelievable.”
That distribution system also allows them to play more of their new music.
“Ten years ago we could never release a record and then go and play six songs off of it,” Takac said. “But now everyone’s got your record already. All you have to do is convince them to listen to it.”
They record their new albums differently now too, Takac said, with input from multiple producers. They used to come into the studio with 15 songs ready to go, but with only one producer, which could influence their decision making away from their original vision. But so many years later, the Goo Goo Dolls still feel like themselves.
“Bottom line,” Takac said, “is it’s John’s voice. It’s John playing the guitar; it’s me playing the bass, it’s me singing, that’s the core of the record.”
"Music Mondays" is a weekly column run in conjunction with the University of Richmond radio, WDCE.
Contact contributor Conner Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org. Evans is the music director for WDCE.