With all the changes that The Offspring has gone through in recent years, the music, for the most part, has remained the same.
This may be some comfort to longtime fans of the Southern Californian metallic punk rockers, best known for their successes in the 1990s with the albums “Smash” and “Americana” and infectious, goofy singles such as “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy).” In 2003, drummer Ron Welty, who had been with the band since its inception in the mid-’80s, quit, creating a rotating position that has been filled on record by journeyman drummer Josh Freese and live by Angels & Airwaves timekeeper Atom Willard.
Heading back up
Five years separated 2003’s “Splinter” and last year’s “Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace,” the band’s longest pause yet between studio albums. But now, with new drummer Pete Parada of Face to Face and Saves the Day, The Offspring are once again clawing their way to the top of the hard rock heap. Singles “Hammerhead,” “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” have all charted in the top 10 in Billboard’s Hot Modern Rock Tracks, with “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” reaching No. 1. The song is another bouncy, jokey number in the vein of “Pretty Fly” or “Come Out and Play,” off of “Smash.”
WHRL’s Big Day Out
Who: Staind, The Offspring, Shinedown, Chevelle, Sum 41, Halestorm
When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $65, $45, $20
“We’ve always done things kind of the way we do it, and make music we like to make,” said bassist Greg Kriesel, better known as Greg K., from a stop in Cincinnati on his band’s current tour. “We don’t worry about what’s the trend. We do it this way, and see what happens, and it’s worked out.”
The band is currently in the tail end of a nine-week U.S. tour, which will take the band to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Sunday for WHRL-FM’s Big Day Out festival. The Offspring are second-billed behind neo-grunge metallers Staind on an all-day show also featuring Shinedown, Chevelle, Sum 41 (openers on other dates on The Offspring’s tour) and Halestorm.
While Parada has been in the band with K., vocalist/guitarist Bryan “Dexter” Holland and lead guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman for two years now, the current tour is his first U.S. headlining tour with The Offspring.
“When we hired him, it was the same thing as when we hired Atom Willard,” K. said. “We found the guys that we felt fit our sound the best — the best drummers available, of course, but also they fit the sound the best. I think from Atom it was no different; going from Atom to Pete almost was just kind of a seamless transition.”
Parada did not make it into the band in time to record for “Rise and Fall,” however, once again leaving Freese to handle the drumming chores. But Freese is no stranger to the band either, having contributed percussion in the past, and even filling in for Welty at times.
“Josh can pretty much play any style; he fits right in with any style,” K. said. “We’ve known Josh for years. . . . It’s always great to play with Josh, but in the future, [we] assume that Pete will be the one in the studio recording.”
He’ll have his chance soon enough. The band isn’t planning on repeating the long stretch between albums, and is already working on material for its next album, although at this point it’s mostly just talk.
“We want to get this album out a lot earlier,” K. said. “We’ve always kind of said that, that we want to get it out earlier, but as the process starts happening, it ends up taking longer than we think it’s going to.”
The band is once again planning to work with veteran rock producer Bob Rock, whose past credits include Metallica, 311, Aerosmith and Bon Jovi. Rock, according to K., was much more hands-on with the band during the “Rise and Fall” sessions than past producers, working with the band on material from the demo stage up until the final recording (which may in part help explain the lengthy recording time).
“During the songwriting process, he kind of helped bring things all together,” K. said. “Besides that, once we got in the studio, it was pretty similar [to past albums], just a matter of trying to get things right.”
The songs on “Rise and Fall” follow the basic Offspring sound template, featuring heavy riffs, punk rock snarling and lyrics that mix introspection with a healthy dose of juvenile humor. But closer inspection reveals subtle updates to the band’s template, with keyboards popping up into the mix and more acoustic guitars than on past recordings.
“We tried to keep things the same, but we add different elements to every album,” K. said. “The acoustic guitars and the ska sound have been there since ’94 with ‘What Happened to You?’ [a track off ‘Smash’]. We’ve always played with different sounds; this one we went a little further with the keyboards. We always try to add different elements and develop things as we go.”
The band considers “Rise and Fall” to be one of its best, but has encountered difficulty when performing new songs live. Although the singles go over well, deeper album tracks are often met with indifference.
“They pretty much only know the ones on the radio because people don’t buy the whole album anymore, which is a shame,” K. said. “So far, we do five or six of them, and they’re all going off really good. . . . We’ve tried some of the other songs that haven’t been radio songs, and nobody knows them. When they don’t know them, that makes it a problem. We can play deep cuts off ‘Americana’ or ‘Smash’ because a lot of people have those albums, people are familiar with the songs.”
Unfazed by critics
The band has often gotten flak from the hardcore punk community since its breakthrough popularity in 1994 while on independent label Epitaph. But it’s not something that K. and the rest of The Offspring are worried about now, if indeed ever.
“That kind of died off years ago,” K. said. “Even back in the ’80s when we first started out, we always considered ourselves just a rock band. There was a review of an early album we had, or maybe it was an early demo, that called us ‘melodic rock with punk overtones.’ We didn’t consider ourselves within hardcore punk — we did have melodies, we didn’t worry about how we dressed, we did our own thing.”