published Friday, June 15th, 2012

'90s indie punk rockers Goo Goo Dolls morphed into mainstream

Robby Takac, bass guitar player for the Goo Goo Dolls, said his only memory of visiting Chattanooga is playing "Chattanooga Choo Choo" on the tour bus. Perhaps this time around, he'll leave with a more indelible impression.

The band plays the Coca-Cola Stage tonight at Riverbend.

Formed in 1986 in Buffalo, N.Y., as an antidote to hair-band pop culture, the Goo Goo Dolls have evolved from angry young men who wanted to make some music and get a few free beers to Grammy-nominated, Billboard chart-topping superstars.

"We grew up with AM radio, and when we got a little older, we started listening to indie punk-rock music," Takac said.

"I think we saw an honesty in that genre and in the underground music that we thought was stripped out of the mainstream of rock music at that point," Takac said of the band's roots. "We were just doing what we were doing, and somewhere along the way that genre of music began to have a chance in commercial venues."

Their style, he said, "aligned with what folks were looking to put on the radio in the mid-90s."

The year 1995 saw the release of "A Boy Named Goo," and the group's first major hit, "Name."

Three years later, lead singer Johnny Rzeznik wrote "Iris" for the movie "City of Angels." Later released on the band's album, "Dizzy Up the Girl," the song topped the Billboard pop and alternative song charts, and was No. 9 on the Hot 100 in 1998.

When the group started to become more mainstream, Takac said, band members had to figure out where opportunity met desire.

"The struggles come when opportunities come about for things that you perhaps wouldn't have rushed to do on your own," he said.

Things like having their songs on TV or performing on "Dancing With the Stars."

"I remember there was a big deal when I was a kid about the Doors' song, "Light My Fire" in a car commercial. It was a huge deal. The fans rose up."

The opportunities, he said, made more sense as they came along, and as the band members got older. So, too, did the sound change.

"I think it just moves on to the next phase from the last time," Takac said. "People's lives morph into different places, and you try to take all that into account."

The influences, he said, can evolve as well. As young men, they looked to bands such as Kiss, Cheap Trick and The Replacements as idols. Now, they are more enamored of artists with longevity, including Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and U2.

"After being around for a long time, you tend to look at bands who have been around for a while and ask yourself how they managed this," Takac said.

When they began, they were in their early 20s. Takac is now based in Buffalo with his wife and new baby. The Goo Goo Dolls recorded their last album there.

"My family is here, so it's nice to be back," he said.

The group, he said, is soon to begin work on a new album.

As a new generation begins within the band, Takac, Rzeznik and drummer Mike Malinin are looking forward to playing to a multigenerational audience tonight at Riverbend.

"One of the lucky things we have is that we're a band that's been around for a while, but we weren't putting out songs back in the '60s that are archaic to young people," Takac said. "Most young people who hear 'Iris' will say 'I know that song, my mom used to listen to that song.' It still has a place like the Stones did for me. They were slightly ahead of my time but something I could still appreciate."

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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