Let’s take a step back into history!
The year is 1997; the world is reeling from the deaths of Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G, Gianni Versace, Mother Theresa and all those involved in the Heaven’s Gate Cult mass suicide. However, there were most definitely some positives to come from that year as well; three young brothers known as Hanson released their debut album Middle of Nowhere, the film Titanic is sweeping the silver screen on its way to grossing over 1 BILLION dollars and earning 13 Academy Awards, Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned and the Mars Pathfinder landed on Mars, sending back pictures and taking samples of the planet’s surface for the first time!
Somewhere amongst that rollercoaster, on April 22nd Pennywise released their fourth album Full Circle; this album has been dedicated by founding members Fletcher Dragge (Guitar), Jim Lindberg (Vocals), Byron McMackin (Drums) and newest member Randy Bradbury (Bass) to Jason Thirsk, who was the bands original bass player before unfortunately deciding to take his own life in 1996.
Travelling back to 2017 and Pennywise are making their way to Australian shores to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Full Circle; not only that, but they are being supported by long time friends The Bronx! OVERDRIVE got the opportunity to speak to Dragge about the upcoming trip down to Australia, as well as the 20th Anniversary celebration of Full Circle; so why don’t we start with Dragge explaining what motivated the band to travel Down Under for this achievement!
“Over the last six or seven years, we’ve seen a lot of bands going out and playing full albums; I guess it turned into a bit of a trend. We held off doing it for quite a few years before finally breaking down and doing the 20th anniversary of About Time. The first place we did it was in Australia and it was really awesome; the energy and the crowds were just some of the best shows we’ve ever played actually! With that said, we came back to America and did a few more shows for About Time; we just figured “it’s the 20th anniversary of Full Circle, why not do that one and why don’t we kick it off in Australia”, because you guys were so good to us on the About Time tour! Australia has always been one of our favourite places to play, it’s kind of like our home away from home; we’ve always said that it’s like California in the 70s when everybody was nice to each other and just wanted to have some fun or drink a cool beer. There’s just something about hearing a record in the order you listen to it in the CD player; just knowing what’s coming next or waiting for your favourite song to finally arrive, it just raises the energy level! It was evident when we did About Time and being that Full Circle is one of the hardest, fastest albums we’ve ever written, I think it is going to be a really insane show from a musical standpoint and the energy standpoint!”
This interviewer previously got to speak to Joby Ford of The Bronx (interview found here!) about the upcoming tour, so I wanted to know just how excited Pennywise were to get to finally play with The Bronx; Ford explained how they had never gotten to share a tour together! Dragge explained how “it’s really exciting for me personally and I know the rest of the guys in our band are huge fans; we’ve been trying to put stuff together in the US, Europe, Australia, anywhere! We’ve played a couple of festivals together here and there and it’s been awesome; we actually did Soundwave with them which was really cool! But you know, that’s a big day of events going on and you can’t really get the time to hang as much as you could on this tour coming up. They’re just a great band and we know that they have a great fan base in Australia. I think the matchup is going to be perfect, as they’re one of those bands that just explodes; their energy is just off the charts and Full Circle combined with The Bronx opening up is going to be one of those nights that goes down in the history books! We’re beyond excited, as they’re good friends of ours and we get along great; plus musically they’re an insanely good band so we’re looking forward to it big time; I couldn’t think of a better band to be out there with us so we’re counting the minutes!”
With a good portion of Pennywise’s set being taken up by Full Circle, what else can Australian fans expect to hear on this upcoming tour? Dragge gave a small rundown into what fans can brace themselves for:
“We’ll be doing a little bit of everything; we’ll most likely run through Full Circle right out of the box and then pack the back half of the set with whatever we feel like playing (laughs) It will range from the first album all the way up to the new album I’m sure; we’re actually working on new stuff right now! I don’t know if we’ll delve into playing a new song; usually when you play a new song people haven’t heard it before, so they’re just standing there staring at you and evaluating what you’re doing. But we are in the midst of a new record; we’re almost actually done with it so we might be breaking out a new one! Obviously the focus is on Full Circle, but it will be a mix up on everything and you’ll most likely hear something off of most our records, if not most of them!”
This interviewer was curious as to whether Dragge had any specific song(s) from Full Circle that he was most excited to get out there to perform; this interviewer was blown away by the answer, from not only a professional perspective but also thanks to how much of an insight into the preparation the band are doing:
“The album is really difficult to play, but I do love that album from start to finish; it’s kinda like throwing a dart at the track list for that record! ‘Every Time’ is one of my favourite songs that we’ve ever written; there’s a few songs like ‘Society’, ‘What If I’ and ‘Fight Till You Die’ that are staples of the Pennywise set list. There’s probably six or seven songs that we never really play live; maybe once or twice, but for the most part we’re getting back into learning stuff. It’s going to be challenging for us because it’s fast and gnarly, plus the songs have a lot of parts to them! It’s not just “verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, outro”; it’s “verse, pre chorus, chorus, turnaround, verse, pre chorus, chorus, breakdown” etc and it’s all over the map. I think that comes from the passing of Jason Thirsk so we had a lot on our mind, we had a lot of angst and a lot of things to get off our chest; we just got into that room and we kept hammering, as it was a cathartic healing process writing that album. At the same time it is full of tragedy, but at the end of the day it’s got a lot going on so going up playing it is going to be a challenge but it will also be a real accomplishment. Because the songs are so hard-core, I just think it’s going to make for an epic night of crazy energy! It’s going to be scary as it’s so difficult to play, but it’s going to bring up a lot of memories about Jason and the writing of the album; at the same time it’s a tribute to him in a lot of ways, so it’s going to be a mixed bag of emotions!”
Touching further on the previously mentioned new album that Pennywise are working on, this interviewer was curious as to whether the band had much more planned for the rest of the year, or if it was primarily focused on finishing the new album. Dragge casually mentioned how “I’m actually supposed to be in a conference call in about 10 minutes; I thought my interview schedule was for tomorrow (laughs)” before elaborating further:
“But we’re real close, as we’re doing some group vocals and some shout parts in the next couple of days; we’re also finishing up some guitar parts and doing a couple more vocal parts before we start mixing! We’re got like 14 songs laid down and we’re really stoked about it, we’re thinking it’s probably the best album we’ve done in the last 10 years; it’s got an old school vibe to it mixed with a little bit of new stuff. It’s come together pretty fast and we’re really happy with it! Cameron Webb is producing it; he did the last NoFX album and the last six Motorhead albums etc. We kinda just got in there; we were writing back and forwards and demoing before he said “just get in the room”, so we literally sat in the room for eight hours a day and hashing songs. Before we knew it, we were taking CDs home with the song that we all put in on; before long that built up to 17 or 18 songs that were album worthy! We went back and went straight into the recording process; we didn’t even turn the amps or drums down from demoing, so we’ve got this nice raw and heavy sound going on. I probably always say this, but I feel this is going to be our best sounding record ever; the songs are most definitely making me feel nostalgic and taking me back to the roots of Pennywise! A lot of bands want to go back and do their first or second albums again, but they can never find it; it’s probably because of the political landscape in America at the moment, it’s causing us to write again with a lot of passion and angst!”
With the release recently of the remake of Stephen King’s IT, this interviewer was fortunate enough to have enough time to ask whether Dragge had seen the new film/what he thought of it if he had. After all; for those who don’t remember, it is all thanks to IT that Pennywise have their name! Even though Dragge had to contain his answer to within thirty seconds, there was nothing but high praise:
“The IT movie is insanely good; it’s about time that someone did a Stephen King novel justice on the big screen! I saw it as a really cool movie, as it goes along with the message of banding together to fight evil; if everybody unites, you can do anything with your power. That’s the topic of the movie and the moral of the story; don’t be scared, face your fears and conquer them so you can move forward in life! If anyone hasn’t seen it, they really need to go see it and we’re really stoked to have that as our namesake!”
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