The Goo Goo Dolls deal with success -- ''Dizzy Up the Girl'' and the single 'Iris' bring Grammy nominations to the Johnny Rzeznik-fronted group
Those three grammy nominations for his song ”Iris” are putting Goo Goo Dolls’ singer-guitarist Johnny Rzeznik through some serious changes. Twelve years ago, when the Buffalo-based trio released their first album on an obscure indie label, things were just so much simpler. Back then, the Goo Goo Dolls were just another group of rock-obsessed, guitar-wielding postteens vying for college-radio airplay and dreaming of selling a couple of thousand records. Five albums later, long after most of their erstwhile contemporaries have stage-dived into the abyss, the Goos are an A-list act, with a platinum album (Dizzy Up the Girl), two hit singles (”Iris” and ”Slide”), and those disconcerting Grammy nods (”Iris” is up for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group) under their belts.
Sipping a cup of tea hours before his band’s recent appearance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Rzeznik, 33, ponders the ironies of graduation from the indie/alt ghetto. ”I guess our peers are bands like Everclear, Foo Fighters, and Green Day,” he muses. ”But every time I’m around those guys, I feel like I’m so uncool, I’m embarrassed to say anything. On the other hand, I met the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync — supposedly the enemy — and, though it kills me to admit it, they were really nice guys.”
Terminal niceness isn’t all the personable Goos (whose other members are bassist Robby Takac, 34, and drummer Mike Malinin, 31) share with those prefab pretty boys. They also have a healthy number of 14-year-old female fans in common, thanks to the lush romanticism of ”Iris.” While he’s proud of the song, Rzeznick is amused that it’s so different from his band’s characteristic power-pop roar: ”When we recorded [”Iris”], I was like, ‘Well, gentlemen, I think we’ve turned a corner. There’s no way back to the garage now.”’
The band’s soft, gooey side first surfaced on the melancholic 1993 song ”We Are the Normal,” which featured lyrics by Rzeznik’s admitted role model, ex-Replacement Paul Westerberg. In 1995, the similarly Westerbergian ”Name” became the band’s first bona fide hit (someone give George Tutuska, the Goo’s original drummer, the Pete Best Award for bailing just before that song impacted). ”Iris,” which first appeared last year on the City of Angels soundtrack, took things to another level; it has spent nine months and counting on Billboard‘s singles chart.
Rzeznik credits their A&R man (and Dizzy coproducer) Rob Cavallo with championing the Goos and encouraging them to expand their sonic palette. Says Cavallo: ”There were people at the label [Warner Bros.] who said to me, ‘Why do you want to waste time on the poor man’s Replacements?’ But the Goo Goo Dolls have always been a great band, and they weren’t afraid to change and grow. If you listen to all their records back-to-back, you can hear the progression.”
Of course, to some time-warped fans, such progress equals sellout. ”You know you’re in trouble with the hipsters when you walk into a supermarket at three in the morning and your song comes on over the speakers,” muses Rzeznik. Hey, don’t feel too guilty, bucko. You think Mudhoney wouldn’t trade their alt-rock cred for a Grammy nod or three?