The three years leading up to Pennywise's 25th anniversary have been turbulent to say the least. Lead singer Jim Lindberg left the band unamicably and started another band, while the remnants of Pennywise found a replacement in Zoli Téglįs from Ignite. In spite of having a respectable replacement, having someone other than Lindberg singing such personal, almost autobiographical songs like "Bro Hymn" was a bit awkward.
And when all hope was lost for a reunion to ever happen, Lindberg returned to the band for its silver anniversary – but not without any resentment for the past few years. Sounding upbeat and excited about being back, Lindberg also sounded a bit dubious – almost like a buddy who's working things out with his girlfriend after she cheated on him during a drunk night out.
Lindberg recently sat down with Punknews staff interviewer Gen Handley to talk about his thoughts on the Lindberg-less, Pennywise album, why he decided to come back and what the band is doing to move forward.
How are things going overall? Feeling pretty good?
You know, absolutely. Basically, less than six months ago I didn't think I'd ever be on stage with Pennywise again and now I'm right back in the driver's seat. You know, it is better now. I think that we've had a chance to talk and understand each other a lot better. For me, there's always been nothing better than playing our music, seeing our fans enjoy it and getting our music and message out – that's always really cool. So in that sense, I really feel like it was something I lost, and [was] obviously a big part of my life, and I have a second chance at it so I'm really determined now to do it right. It's important to do it the correct way this time.
So what it the correct way of doing things this time?
We talked about how we kind of lost our communication and [how] that resulted in a lot of resentments and misunderstandings that kind of festered and made a lot of us unhappy – we continued for a while when it wasn't fun. In writing and on the road there were various conflicts and issues that made it very difficult for me to feel positively about the band and the direction it was going.
For me, it was time to take a break and a hiatus to reconsider things. That created a big conflict in the band. I wanted it to end well, but it didn't. That led to three years of acrimony, but when we had that talk and understood each other, we got to a point where we all knew what was important, which was the band, the music and our fans. Once you start from there, it's usually easier to get back on track.
Can you describe the moment, the catalyst that made you decide after three years to come back to the band?
For me, I had never been further out of the band, at the time, than last July. The other guys had put out their record and they said a lot of negative things about me in the press, which was pretty hard to take and I was pretty much done with it. I felt very much betrayed by that, especially when we were a band that was supposed to be about brotherhood and community. And them singing "Bro Hymn" without Jim seemed ridiculous to me. I talked to a friend and basically said that the only regret I have is that here are these songs talking about friendship and unity and brotherhood. We've got so many great people in our hometown together, whether it's surfers or punk rockers or the college kids or the college drop-outs, I thought, "How did we screw that up?" So he mentioned what I said to Fletcher (Dragge, guitarist) and I think that might have struck a chord with him. And then all of a sudden (Fletcher) called me out of the blue and said we should finally talk. We hadn't spoken since I left the band – in three years – and so we had a long talk together and started to understand each other better about the lack of communication and some of the resentments that had formed. Understanding that it is very difficult for four guys to get along for as long we did, we kind of agreed to give it another shot.
Lots of hugs that day?
Yeah, lots of hugs that day. I'm not going to lie, there were some bro hugs going down. Which is pretty difficult because Fletcher's so big you can easily get crushed in one of those.
[Laughs.] In The Other F Word, I remember you talking about struggling to achieve that family-work balance. Have you found that balance this time?
Well, I certainly hope so. It's a little easier for me now that my kids are out of diapers and preschool. But at the same time, it's something you have to constantly work on. It's hard to schedule touring and things like that around your responsibilities for your family; it's a lifestyle that's challenging for families, so finding that balance is extremely difficult. We have a bunch of tours coming up in the next few months and then we'll have some time off after. I think that everyone understands now that we all have to work together and compromise. I think that we all understand that people are going to make the sacrifices they need to make for the band, but it can't be a situation where a lot of resentment can come from that.
In the documentary, you also talked about the paradox of being an authority figure to your children while singing songs like "Fuck Authority." Is being back in the band a sign that you've kind of fixed that dilemma?
Yes and no. Like with that song, you can't take it too literally. It's a situation where yes, when you grow up and have a wife and kids there are rules you have to follow – that are going to keep you alive and out of jail and out of trouble. But at the same time, authority can be corrupted – when you have issues with the way the government is running the country. Sometimes it's important to give that middle finger and say, "I disagree with the way this country is run." And that's where a song like "Fuck Authority" comes from. So that's the difference there of me understanding that there's righteous rebellion out there and there is a place for dissident words and actions, but at the same time, your kids still have to look both ways before they cross the street. [Laughs.]
So does all of this mean that the Black Pacific is indefinitely on hold now?
Yeah, luckily the other guys have side projects, other things they're working on. Gavin (Caswell, bassist) and Marc (Orrell, guitarist) have a side project called Wild Roses they're working on and our drummer Alan (Vega) has a project he's working on. They were really supportive of my decision to rejoin Pennywise. They are very, very great guys and a big part for me, when I left (Pennywise), was to jump into a situation where it was very easy to play music and there wasn't a lot of baggage; where we could just play music for the love of playing it and that is what I needed at the time.
But you know, I would love to play music with those guys again, whether it's in my backyard playing the guitar, which we did many nights, or whether it's on stage – I think there's room for all of that. I'm very, very proud of the record we made together and all of the shows we played.
After you released the Black Pacific album, your old band released one as well. What do you think of the last Pennywise record?
[Pauses.] You know, I didn't give it a lot of listen. [Pauses again.] It was strange to have somebody else taking my place. To me, I think that it would have been a better thing if they would have just formed another band with Zoli (Téglįs) singing. But to take a band like Pennywise, which was very much about our life story, our friends, and the community of South Bay, and take a singer from another band and give him the hat and expect that to be authentic, felt like a real stretch to me.
An easier way to put it would be for me to say…if you were to take NOFX and have the guy from Goldfinger, I'm sure people would go listen to it because they want to hear NOFX songs, but I think a big portion of people would know it's not the same – I think that was the situation there. I'm sure they made some good music, but I don't think, as Pennywise, it's authentic you know?
So I've heard rumblings of a Pennywise box set with a bunch of B-sides coming out. Is that true?
Yeah, we're hoping to put out either a box set or a best of package for our fans and for ourselves. Hopefully there'll be some new songs in there, but we've always had a bunch out outtakes and kind of old songs that I like a lot and are a really good representation of the band – probably better than some of our albums. They were recorded without Pro Tools and they might not sound perfect, but the spirit is definitely there and I'm excited for people to hear those.
How many B-sides does Pennywise have? Quite a few?
No, not too many – probably up in the 15 to 20 range, somewhere around there for the ones that are actually useable. There's some really good stuff in there.
When do you think that might be coming out?
Well it depends on how fast we can get it together. Obviously I want it to be something that will really give people a good sense of the band as a whole – everything we've been through – so hopefully sometime this year, but I'm not sure. Hopefully we can get it together sometime this summer.
How about new songs? Have you guys been writing?
Yeah, we're working on stuff and putting plans together. But right now, at the moment, we're just focusing on doing some shows and celebrating that we're back together. And hopefully we'll have a best-of package together and you will hear some new songs in there.
It's been 25 years as a band. How has punk rock changed for you over that time?
[Pauses.] I think that the attitude has remained the same for a lot of the bands. I think we were kind of caught up in the second wave when it became commercialized and somewhat and more accepted on the radio. And then there was the Warped Tour and a situation where punk rock kind of made into the mainstream, instead of being an underground thing.
You know, the negative way of looking at was it kind of became a commodity and corporations came in and pillaged the punk rock ethos. But at the same time, I know that when I was writing songs for Pennywise, my mind was pure in the sense that I was mad at the world and wanted to change it with a punk rock song. I think that Fat Mike and Tim (Armstrong) from Rancid and Brett (Gurewitz) from Bad Religion felt the same way – we kind of just rolled with the punches with what happened to the scene.
I think we're seeing a resurgence now with bands, like the Descendents, playing on huge stages again and everyone re-appreciating that – and the guys from Black Flag getting back together and the Adolescents are playing again. We just kind of kept going after the first wave died out and bands weren't playing that much. That's when we picked it up and started playing. Now you're seeing bands from the first wave and second wave playing together and hopefully that's good thing. They're playing all over the world so it's not an isolated thing and it's great to see the loyalty. I have that same loyalty to those bands; no matter what new (music) comes out on the radio, I'm always pulling out the Dag Nasty records.
So you're liking the changes in punk rock these days.
Yeah. There's some great new bands out there as well. The Menzingers are a great band, I like the Dopamines a lot and I like the Flatliners, they're great. I think Against Me! is still playing great music, I think Bad Religion's new record is really good. You don't have to change the formula that much – just play the guitars with a pissed off lead singer and a fast drummer, and you've got it, that's the recipe.
As a singer, as a father, as an artist, do you still have a lot to say still? Still pissed off at some things?
Yeah, definitely. I read the newspapers from cover to cover, every morning and they're still a plethora of horrible things going on in the world that I can write a punk rock song about. But I'm hoping on the next record…I really want to get back to a lot of that type of songwriting, about positive mental attitude. I want to write songs about some things I'm happy about in my life and I think it's important to have that ying and yang. We definitely complained a lot over our last couple of records and there was lot to complain about obviously, but it is important to have that balance.
I'd like to write a song about my favourite Mexican restaurant or how much fun I had surfing yesterday. And there's also a lot of material for a song about how much we hate the gun laws in America. There's still a lot to sing about.
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