Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac recalled an incident in Calgary, Alberta, on a tour stop a few weeks ago that encapsulates the paradox of his band.
“We’re in the newspaper there, and they have the color pictures on the front that preview what’s inside, and it says ‘Soft rock favorites the Goo Goo Dolls’,” said Takac. “So we’re standing on the side of the stage getting ready to go out and play, and I look at our keyboard player and say ‘OK, time for some soft rock!’ And then we go out and play ‘Stay With You’, which is one of the heaviest things I’ve ever played in my life. It’s ironic.”
The Buffalo, N.Y.-based alt-rock three-piece doesn’t mind being known for its big hits, like the soaring power ballad “Iris” and the acoustic “Name,” but don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re anything like “soft rock.” You can hear for yourself how hard Takac, singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik and drummer Mike Malinin rock when they take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the Bangor Auditorium.
“Stay With You” is Takac’s favorite song off the band’s newest album, “Let Love In,” released last spring on Warner Brothers Records.
“We open the set with it every night. It’s become my favorite song,” he said.
“It’s a great leadoff, and I love starting off with that heavy vibe and carrying it through the set.”
The Dolls’ Bangor show is just one stop on a massive tour that will take it all over Canada and the Northeast. Prior to this tour, the band was in the United Kingdom, where for the first time in its 20-plus years as a band, it played to sold-out crowds.
“It’s nice to play to crowds where we’re still relatively unknown,” said Takac. “We may be seen as an adult contemporary kind of band here [in the U.S.], but over there people that like the Foo Fighters or Slipknot will come see us. We don’t have that stigma attached to us. Though I don’t really mind being the band the plays ‘Iris.’ I’m more than happy to be that.”
When he’s not on tour, Takac is in Buffalo, running Chameleon West recording studio with Rzeznik, and operating his own Good Caramel Records, working with bands from the Buffalo area.
“I have a bunch of bands that I signed from Buffalo, and Johnny and I have a recording studio,” he said. “I’ve heard some amazing bands come out of there, and it’s great to help out local talent.”
For Takac, it’s the strength of the songs that keep the Goo Goo Dolls going after all these years, thousands of miles on the road and nine albums, from the scrappy, Replacements-esque garage punk of the early albums to the mature, thoughtful rock of more recent works.
“If my band started reacting to what’s on the radio and what’s going on in the industry, we’re gonna make a record that we hate. And then we’ll have to play it on the road for two years,” he said. “If I ever give a piece of advice for any band, it’s one, get a lawyer, and two, make sure you like every song you write, because you never know if you might end up playing it 20 years later.”
And he still loves playing all those songs – even the ones they’ve played hundreds and hundreds of times.
“I feel real fortunate to be in the situation we’re in now,” said Takac. “I don’t think a lot of bands end up like this. We’ve had records that have been No. 1 on the charts, and that is amazing, but the thing that’s most important for us is that we’re able to be realistic about what we do. That’s what makes it easy to be out there.”
The Goo Goo Dolls play at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the Bangor Auditorium. Tickets are $34.50 and $25.50 and are available at the Bass Park box office, or at Ticketmaster. For information, visit www.thegoogoodolls.com. Emily Burnham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.