By John Benson
The band is coming to Cleveland on Sunday.
Exactly 15 years after smash-single “Come Out and Play” put The Offspring on the alternative map, the Orange County punk-rock band is still going strong with its new album “Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace,” which includes radio hits “Hammerhead,” “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?.”
Now comes word the band – Dexter Holland (vocals, guitar), Noodles (guitar), Greg K (bass) and Pete Parada (drums) – is mounting its first North American headlining tour in four years. This includes a Sunday show at the Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City. The Vindicator talked to Holland about the legitimacy of his band’s punk roots, how the group changed things up on “Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace” and why The Offspring falls somewhere between The Jonas Brothers and AC/DC.
Q. In looking over The Offspring’s press materials, what’s surprising is the fact you’re still having to justify the band’s punk credibility.
A. I don’t know, I used to go back and forth about it. At first I said, “Yes, we’re a punk band.” And then I said, “No, we’re a rock band.” And now I’m like, “Sure, we’re a punk band, why not?”
Q. Punk or rock, what’s without question is the fact over the past 15 years The Offspring – with its catalog seemingly filled with one hit, sing-along track after another – has become the Tom Petty of its era.
A. That’s very flattering. Really, because when you try to figure out what punk is anyway, it was very different depending on where you were. The Sex Pistols were very nihilistic, and the Dead Kennedys were very political. I think there is sort of a rebellion throughout it, and really rock ’n’ roll in general. So for us, our little twist was just be smart, think for yourself and don’t do what other people tell you to do. Make sure you’re doing it because you want to do it.
Q. In listening to “Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace,” there are a few quintessential sounding Offspring tunes like “Hammerhead,” but what stands out this time is the acoustic- driven “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?.”
A. When I wrote the song, I knew it was so different that the lyrics had to match, so I wrote it about a story about this girl I knew when I was much younger. I knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite put it together. It turned out she was being sexually abused, and while I had a sense of it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it and never said anything about it. So this song is me looking back and saying, ‘I’m really sorry that that happened. And I wish I had done more.’ That’s a really different song for us.
Q. Considering its subject matter and the fact it shows the band in a different light, it must feel nice to see rock radio currently gravitating toward “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?”
A. You never know. Sometimes the heavier message type songs are the ones that sometimes grab people. We did a song called “Gone Away” a few albums ago, and that really got a big response from people who had lost a loved one. Those are just strong feelings that people relate to.
Q. Knowing that musical tastes shift and it had been a few years since The Offspring released a studio album, were you nervous about how “Rise And Fall, Rage And Grace” would be received?
A. Every time you put out something you’re like, “Can we still do this?” When we did the Warped Tour (a few years ago) we didn’t know how that was going to go over because we had never toured the Warped Tour. But what amazes me – and I’m grateful – is it seems like new people are coming up. We’re almost like this phase they get into our band when they’re 14 or 15 years old. And maybe when they’re 25 they graduate to John Mayer and whatever else.
Q. So what you’re saying is, just like The Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut album has become a rite of passage among college freshmen, The Offspring’s catalog has become a rite of passage for teenage music fans?
A. Rite of passage, exactly. (Laughs) We’re right in between The Jonas Brothers and AC/DC.