The Gang’s All Back – Interview By Lana Nimmons
READ FULL INTERVIEW HERE on page 54 of Mays Vandala Magazine (OR CLICK AT BOTTOM OF PAGE)
For those of you who might not be familiar with Pennywise, the band was formed in 1988 in Hermosa Beach, California. The group signed to Epitaph Records in 1990 and released their first album Pennywise (1991) where the album quickly circulated throughout the punk community, earning the band some nation-wide recognition. Lyrics in the album endorsed a positive mental attitude, helping promote progressive ideals for Generation X. As Pennywise hits their silver anniversary I had the chance to catch up with Randy Bradbury. As anyone would imagine the punk rocker in me was jumping up and down when I heard I would have the honor, but little did I know what treat I was in for. We chatted about their upcoming album, the story behind it, and this history of the SoCal punk scene in the 1980’s.
It’s all over the news, and tour posters how Jim is back, how’s it been as a band now that the gang’s all back?
Randy: It just feels right. When everybody started talking again and Jim came out to practice – you know we started playing songs – it just felt although it hadn’t been three and a half years, it just felt like it was yesterday. It felt natural and good, so we’re all just really happy.
How was it like going back into studio and recording again? Talk about déjà vu-
Randy: Going into the studio for us has always been kind of a very emotional and hard for us. We get in there and battle it out, we all care about the songs, and the direction we’re going; so usually there’s a lot of stress and it’s hard. So, we just wanted to keep things light keep things fun and upbeat. So we got these songs, and there’s a story behind them. As a back story, like almost every record it was like: man why didn’t that make it to this record! So we had those four or five songs that had been written by Jason, which were written way back, before I was in the band. I’d heard of the songs and we had a bunch of old demos, so we just figured it would be a good way to get back into the studio and play songs everybody in the band already knew, and we knew everybody already likes them, and we didn’t need to argue about how it’s supposed to go. It’s cool because it’s still new, and no one else’s heard it before, and so we had a really good recording experience. It also didn’t take too long, normally we get there and it drags on and on, it was pretty awesome we’re happy about it, it comes out July 8th and it’s called Yesterdays.
I listened to Yesterdays, It’s interesting that it’s composed of unreleased songs because my impression of it was – this is a classic Pennywise album, but it has this different angle being worked, aesthetically speaking.
Randy: Sometimes we’ll all write stuff and we try not to change too much, but we try and extend the boundaries and bring things outside the box. It was really easy to pick which songs we wanted to do and we can probably do it again, because everyone in the band still had their favorites that still didn’t get on this album. We just thought that this was a good way to have new material but still have that core Pennywise sound and vibe.
I think it’s really smart, you know a lot of bands when the lineup changes they tend to try and reinvent their sound and it confuses their followers, or sometimes pisses them off. This makes sense. Speaking of unreleased tracks and your history, you just reached your 25 year anniversary. I’ve heard rumors of a box set, can you tell me a bit about that?
Randy: Ok, yeah, well that’s how this album came about. We started digging through panels of our old demos, tapes, practice tapes and things like that to try and come up with some cool stuff for our box set. We started putting everything together, some we thought were our fans favorites and some unreleased – essentially coming up with a playlist. It was starting to seem a little ridiculous, because anyone could do that you can go on iTunes to make your own playlist, and everybody listens to music mostly digitally. And that was nothing new or unique. And when we started digging through and getting all the songs we were going to add to it, it just felt like these songs deserved their own focus, and their own format. So in the end we decide to take those songs and make it into an album, this really happened as an accident. It was progressions that just happened naturally, and worked well let me enter the studio as a group.
I mean, the songs are different that’s why they didn’t make it on the other albums, but it does fit too. Because they were written during certain time periods when certain things are going on, as you said you can get a nod of familiarity when you listen to them.