Calling all Pennywise fans!

If you didn’t already know, the band is releasing ‘Never Gonna Die’ on April 20th; this is the first album with new material since the return of vocalist Jim Lindberg back in 2012. After speaking to Fletcher Dragge back in October about their ‘Full Circle’ 20th Anniversary Australian tour, there was no way that the opportunity to speak to Dragge again about the new album would be passed up!

Kicking off the interview, the first topic was about the anniversary tour last year; Dragge mentioned how “it was pretty overwhelming but really cool; as usual the Aussies delivered in full force. It was an emotional night playing those songs, because of the topic matter with Jason being gone and that being the reason we wrote that album. It was a mix of emotions; it was really crazy due to the energy from the crowd participation, but the first couple of days were really rough. Thankfully we got used to it as the days went on, plus having The Bronx out there was amazing; in my opinion, they were probably some of the best shows that we’ve ever played in Australia.”

When asked about the excitement within the band about the upcoming release of ‘Never Gonna Die’, Dragge was quick to point out “we’re pretty stoked; by all counts, it’s been about ten years since we’ve done a proper Pennywise album! The Zoli (Téglás, replacement vocalist) record is a great record; even though I’m proud of it, to me it’s not Jim and that’s all I need to say. It’s not a Jim Pennywise record and it’s not the real deal, which is what fans want. Then ‘Yesterdays’ was just early career stuff that we have never recorded and they were just laying around and we had fun with that one; this is the first record in ten years where we put our noses to the grindstone and we’re feeling pretty good about it! It was scary and hard to actually commit to stepping into the studio, but the first day we stepped into the studio and started hashing out songs with Cameron Webb, we left with three songs completed enough that we could put them onto a CD and listen to them on the way home!”

Dragge then gave a very great insight into how Lindberg’s return impacted the final sound of the album:

“I had written a lot of lyrics and Randy had written lyrics, but we hadn’t started hashing them out as of yet. Jim came in and said that “I’ve got a different idea for this” and started throwing s**t out that was pretty freaking amazing; we were just sitting there thinking “holy s**t, this is going to be good!” Jim came in with a fire and did his thing, which meant that we were stoked pretty early. Recording also went so smoothly because we were hyped; we got into a room, started busting out stuff over the span of about eight days and realised that we had something very special here. The Initial response of teaser tracks seems to be stoking out the fans and we really feel like it’s a step back to the ‘About Time’, ‘Straight Ahead’ and ‘Full Circle’ days.”

Even though there has been a lot of positive feedback to teaser tracks, there unfortunately has also been some negative feedback from people saying that ‘this sounds like the same old song I heard 15 years ago’; Dragge pointed out “that’s just a compliment as that’s what we’re going for. We’ve always stuck by the theory that you don’t want to put on a Ramones album and hear a reggae song or hear speed metal; you wanted to hear the Ramones! Where we get a lot of flak or criticism that everything sounds the same, it’s not really true as we go in and dissect stuff and we actually double and triple check that the songs have different flavours; you just have to be a seasoned Pennywise listener and know the intricacies of the band to pick them up cleanly.“

Pennywise have recently completed a US/Canada run of shows, as well as doing a few shows in Japan; when asked about the live reaction to the teaser songs from the upcoming album, Dragge lets out a small laugh before pointing out “we haven’t played any of the songs. We’re terrible!” Dragge then delved deeper and explained why this is the case:

“We talked about it and figured that instead of people only hearing a couple of songs, we would just wait until the album dropped and started busting them out. There’s that thing that when you play a show and mention you’re going to play a new song, the crowd doesn’t get that excited about it; they want to hear their favourite old songs! Give it about two weeks, we’ll start busting them out live and see how they go; even though you may get into the song on the first time hearing it, you might not be singing along until the third or fourth time you hear it. Plus I’d rather fans are screaming to the lyrics to old classics like Living For Today and be able to listen to the album whilst sitting in their car or at home before coming out to a show and singing along.”

Considering Pennywise have been around for three decades and have released twelve albums, what else is there for Pennywise to do? Have a casual time hanging out with friends, performing and enjoying life is the answer! Dragge opened up about the less serious side of being in a band as he pointed out how “we’re going out with Offspring and doing this thing called the Sabroso Festival; it’s tacos, beer and hot sauce! Dexter from Offspring has a killer hot sauce called El Gringo Bandito, we’ve got our own beer called Pennywiser out now and a bunch of local taco shops are getting together; this is running for the next five weekends. After that we’ve got a three night campout in Ohio I think; it’s just punk rock camping with Pennywise, Rancid, NOFX, Mighty Mighty Bosstones and the list goes on.”

Dragge did go on to touch a very sad topic when talking about some of Pennywise’s upcoming endeavours, pointing out that “I think we’re going to be in West Palm, Florida playing the last song in history on the Warped Tour; I think we’re going to close it out with Bro Hymn and that should be pretty interesting.”

Now the most important question; are Pennywise planning to come to Australian shores at some point for a ‘Never Gonna Die’ tour? Dragge concluded the interview by pointing out that “obviously we’ve got to spread it out a little bit between the ‘Full Circle’ tour and the next one, but I hear rumblings of new festivals popping up that might be in order to do. We’re always dying to come back to Australia and the sooner we can get there the better! Hopefully the new record does well over there so we can come back to your shores and have a party.”