‘The same kinds of songs over and over’: Goo Goo Dolls on new music, old songs and fall tour

Goo Goo Dolls — Johnny Rzeznik and Robby Takac — are on a fall tour that brings them through Omaha on Sept. 23.

Goo Goo Dolls have a lot going on.

New music. Old music, newly reissued. A fall tour.

And then what?

Robby Takac, bassist and co-founder of the band, says a lot is happening, and it’s an exciting era for the band. Takac and I caught up on the Pops and Hisses podcast to talk about the band’s fall tour, some anniversary releases, how it’s still fun to play the hits and how it’s hard to stay current in a singles culture.

How hard is it you for you guys to make a setlist? You and I have talked in the past, and you told me once it doesn’t get old to play those songs you’ve played a million times. You said it’s kind of a communal thing with the audience, and you really enjoy it still. But from a logistical perspective, you have so many songs, so many hits. But I imagine you also have to play something that’s new are fun, or exciting for you every night to keep it enjoyable?.So how do you do that? How do you narrow that down? That’s got to be hard!

Robby Takac: It’s become an enormous challenge, quite honestly. Like, I mean, first world problems, right? But it was tough, seven years, eight years ago, to put a setlist together. Now we’ve got arguably 15 songs that we kind of got to play. Like if we don’t play them, somebody out there was disappointed. I sort of come from the school of, I would rather leave 98% of the room happy. You know?

The conversation in the band quite often is, we got to keep doing things that feel different, especially these days. John’s pretty steadfast about the fact that, really, it’s a live game right now, and so he feels the show should change up a little bit, more than I do. I would be delivering the hits night after night. But between he and I, we end up with this set that works out really, really well.

In the middle of the set this time that we do, it’s kind of some acoustic-ish kind of stuff . We’ve kind of reached back a little bit. We’re doing a couple songs off Superstar Car Wash this tour, which is pretty cool. We’re doing and a couple of brand new ones that never made it on the radio but we still feel like they’re worth a listen.

And all of a sudden you got 27 songs!

That’s what the problem is, right?

If you guys wanted to do you guys can play three hours.

Robby Takac: Yeah, but with our band, we never reached arena status. So we do theaters, and we have to play ix nights a week. We’ve done that our whole lives. If yo uplay three shows a week, you can do three hours. You can do that. But when you’re playing six nights a week, it’s really, really hard.

But these are by far some of the longest shows we’ve ever done, which is kind of ironic. At 58 years old, we’re doing our longest sets. But that’s where we are right now.

When you’re 25, you’ve only got 12 songs, and you play every single one of them because that’s the only thing you’ve got.

Robby Takac: Yeah, and I could only remember the first eight because I was hammered by that point!

Some of your songs are now iconic in American pop culture and American music culture. One example for me was Name, which I was recently listening to. It came up on one of my playlists, and I realized that song has been with me forever. I remember when it came out! And I’ve always enjoyed that song. I still hear it on the radio. I hear it in movies.  I’ve seen you guys played in concert. And that’s a song for me that I love hearing that every time. What I wanted to ask you: Is there a song and artist that’s really iconic to you in that way? Like you just keep hearing coming back appreciating kind of over and over again?

Robby Takac: Yeah, there’s a song that that when when I’m having a hard time when I’m out here. Have you ever heard the song Band of Gold? By Freda Payne?

There’s something about that song. It makes me cry. It makes me happy. It’s got the highest note, and I can sing it. I know if I can sing that song, if I can sing along with that, then I can make the show! And sometimes you don’t know if you can make the show. So that song has always really been — I don’t know, man ‚ it hits that weird, kind of mushy part. I’m glad to know it’s there.

Those songs to me are like friends. You keep revisiting them. You find new meaning in the same song you’ve heard? Like a billion times.

Robby Takac: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Let’s talk about Dizzy Up the Girl, which is 25 years old! Do you ever sit down and listen to those albums, whether on your own time or like for the rereleases? I know you guys are about to put it out on vinyl. But do you ever sit down and revisit those older records?

Robby Takac: Five years ago, we did a 20th anniversary tour. Wo we really dissected that record. And it’s funny to sort of figure out why some of the songs you don’t play him as much. We had never done anything like that before, so that was a really kind of interesting experiment. But but as rule, I don’t really listen to our records. Nothing is more embarrassing than getting caught listening to your own band!

And there’s just so much, you know, regret. I don’t know if that makes any sense? When you play a song 200 times, 300, 400 times, 500, 1,000 times, 2,000 times. And then you got to go back and listen to it when you played it the ninth time! Because that’s the one that everybody gets to listen to for the rest of your life. You know, you’re…

…a little better at playing it now?

Robby Takac: Yeah! I mean, I can put enough distance between it to listen and feel some sense of accomplishment. I think that’s tough for a lot of artists to be able to sort of acknowledge that accomplishment and sort of move forward. But I feel like it’s, for me, at least it’s a pretty essential part of the whole process.

It’s weird. I you hear the imperfections. It brings back memories of the things that were going on at that time. And like it’s a whole time travel experience.

Robby Takac: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And like, “Why do I say awesome so much?” You know, like that kind of stuff.

Something I didn’t know about Dizzy: I learned this, and I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t know it before. But Tommy Keane played guitar on Broadway, and I had no idea until really recently. I love his music. So then I listened to the song again and well, of course that’s his guitar.

Robby Takac: He’s so good. Yeah, we had we had we had an epic evening with him, man! We went hard that night, man. We’ve always really respected him. And It ended so early for him, you know? He was definitely a talent.

You’ve always done some lead vocals. I know early on of the band, you were doing the majority of lead vocals. But there’s always at least a one or two or three or several Robby songs, which are often some of my favorite songs on your records. I was wondering: when you guys are writing how do you guys figure out what’s gonna go on a record? And who’s taken lead and all those sorts of things?

Robby Takac: Well, I mean, the math of the record just is what it is. But I write a lot of songs. I mean, I have probably 15, 16, 17 songs from from the last few, and this is only in the past eight years maybe that I’ve started doing that. So I have a lot of demos and such. I just bring in a pile of demos, and we fly through them. And it’s usually pretty obvious.  I just tried to write as far away from Goo Goo Dolls as I can. And then we take the stuff that sounds the closest, and that way I feel like I’ve stretched my wings a little bit, you know?

I also love at the live shows when you take the mic. It’s always fun for me.

Robby Takac: I feel like that’s something that’s kind of missing a lot these days. It’s a singles culture these days, right? The culture is just about, what song is a band going to release that’s going to get them recognition and that kind of stuff. And without being judgmental, that tends to have people writing the same kinds of songs over and over again.

I feel like albums really gave you a chance to do a lot of things that you didn’t necessarily feel were going to be a number one hit, but was a really cool thing and really worth having be out there. I think we’ve lost a little bit of that culture through the streaming world these days.

Can you tell me a little bit about recording your cover of Won’t Back Down? How’d that come about? It’s a cool cover!

Robby Takac: Well, we work with a producer named Greg Wattenberg. He has done a bunch of stuff with us over the years. And we were working on a song, which was Run All Night, which we have released recently as well. And so John (Rzeznik) was in New York at the studio there and Mark (Roberge of O.A.R.) also works with Greg. They were chatting and that’s sort of how the tour came about to begin with, because they were in the same facility and working with Greg, and we just thought it would be cool. You know, with us being out there, we were talking about doing something anyway. So we thought it would be a cool idea to actually, you know, put it down and release it. It’s been great, because I think people know, it’s a commonly known song. So, it’s been really exciting at the shows.

I wondered if that was how the tour came about, too. It sounds like just one of those natural things. It’s helpful to have somebody out on the road that you actually want to spend time with.

Robby Takac: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. They’re really cool, guys. We’ve definitely done long summers with folks who are not so cool, and this is way better. It’s close proximity out here, you know? If you got somebody who’s running around being nuts, it’s tough, man.