So much has occurred since Pennywise's last album, Reason to Believe was released on Myspace records in the Spring of 2008. The biggest change is that Jim's out and Zoli's in. Whoa. So how is the band functioning now and what does their new album, All or Nothing have to offer longtime fans who are used to Jim's singing and songwriting? Punknews' interviewer Jason Epstein exchanged e-mails with Pennywise bassist Randy Bradbury, to chat about the loss of Jim, the addition of Zoli and other bits of pennywisdom.
What was the most challenging part of recording without Jim and with Zoli?
The most challenging part of recording with Zoli was trying to tame his singing style and get him to feel comfortable with how Pennywise writes songs. Zoli has amazing vocal abilities and he really takes it to the limit on Ignite records. Ignite really highlights Zoli's extended vocal range, sort of in a freestyle form. But, with Pennywise, our songs are not written necessarily to spotlighting the singer. Pennywise is more of an all out guitar and drum assault with the focus being on writing anthemic sing-alongs. We try to make it as melodic and catchy as possible but as straight to the point as we can, without too much vocal flashiness. We try to write songs that anyone can sing along with. Zoli's almost too talented for us, but his personality and world views make him a perfect fit with the rest of us, like he is a long lost brother, or a missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. Really, recording this album was a lot of fun and it felt fresh. It was the best recording experience we've had as a band in years.
What about the most rewarding part?
The most rewarding part was how the songs came together. After losing Jim, we all had the feeling that now, we had better write the best record of our lives. That was the goal. Fletcher and myself have always contributed to the writing process, but never wrote everything. So, there was a huge gap that we had to fill, because Jim was such a huge part of the band, and in my opinion, a very good song writer‚?¶ So the pressure was on, to say the least. Basically, we worked our fucking asses off trying to keep the band together and at the same time write the best songs we possibly could. Over the last three years we have put everything we have into this band and this record, so to hear these songs now that the dust has settled, and to hear the great feedback we have been getting for this album, it's almost unexplainably rewarding.
About how many songs do you have leftover from the album. Will you do anything with them?
I personally wrote about 30 songs in some form or another for this album. Fletcher did the same, and Zoli wrote some too, so we have a lot of outtakes. We probably have hundreds of songs leftover from albums throughout the years. Currently we don't have any plans to do anything with them. Usually we go back over all the old ones when we start writing a new album to make sure we didn't throw away something good, and some of those have been resurrected in the past, but no plans for those as of now.
Years ago Pennywise talked of releasing a B-Sides album. What's the status of that?
Well, they're B-sides for a reason‚?¶ We'll just say the status is that they are in storage.
Do you feel Jim's relationship with Pennywise during his final year with the band was accurately portrayed in the 2011 documentary "The Other F Word"?
Not at all. There was a running diary in the film that made it seem like we had been on the road consecutively for like 200 days or more. We rarely ever toured more than three weeks door to door, and usually with months off in between tours. 200 shows would've been about three or four years worth of touring for Pennywise. So, I feel like they are presenting a very skewed view of the breakup in that movie. I actually feel that there are a lot of inaccuracies concerning how everyone in Pennywise was portrayed. In all reality, we valued Jim as our singer, and we did not want him to quit. We really tried to strike a balance between Jim's needs and the band's needs, and we did care about him, and we wanted him to be happy, but in the end he just didn't like being in Pennywise‚?¶ It was a huge disappointment to us.
What are your touring plans for 2012?
Go everywhere we can. Europe, Japan. Australia and the U.S are all in the works.
How is the live show different now than it was when you toured with Jim?
I don't want it to sound like sour grapes, but I think that we are better live now than we've been in about 15 years. With Zoli we have a refreshed enthusiasm to kick ass, and vocally he is spot on. Zoli is really the shot in the arm that this band needed. The shows have been insane and the crowds are going berserk.
All or Nothing is your first traditional album release in 7 years. Is it good to get back to this instead of the free deal you did with MySpace?
With Myspace, the opportunity to give our album away for free to over a half a million listeners was really appealing. That's really the point, we want people to hear our music and come to our shows. If you are in a band or you write music, you know what I am talking about. You want people to hear your songs. So it was a great opportunity, and they actually had really cool people working in the music department over there. It was a good experience, but Epitaph is home. We never thought we were leaving Epitaph for good. Epitaph actually co-released Reason to Believe with Myspace in Australia, so in a sense we never really left. But, we are officially back on Epitaph and that is where we belong. Epitaph is such an awesome label and we are stoked to be home.
Why should Pennywise fans pick up All or Nothing?
I think that if you are a true Pennywise fan and you give this album a shot, you will agree that this is the best thing we've done in at least a decade (and possibly longer). We didn't quit on our fans and this album is for them, it's the absolute best we have to offer.