With a new album, 'My Republic', on the verge of being released, Russ Rankin, Good Riddance's frontman, spoke to Pennyblackmusic from his home in the United States. Employing his usual open and honest approach to interviews it was a chance for the magazine to catch up again with one of California’s most prominent punk musicians.

Chuck Platt (bass), Luke Pabich (Guitar)and Russ had been together since 1993 but it was in 1995 that Good Riddance first made their mark on the punk scene with their debut on Fat Reck Chords: 'For God and Country'. The thought of having performed over this many years isn’t something that, day-to-day, receives much thought, if any. What is striking is when "someone at a gig, states that Good Riddance was their favourite band at high-school, and that person is now bald with two kids." These are the profound moments as Russ puts it as it is "hard to have an objective view of what impact Good Riddance has had when you’re in the band. These moments represent how important it has been to have had the opportunity to impact someone like that."

There were rumours that following the creation of Russ' other band Only Crime, Good Riddance were at an end. Russ explained that in 2003 Luke "decided to go back to college full-time, which was a good move for him, but shifted the whole dynamic of Good Riddance." Adult life had crept up on the band, reducing their ability to tour and the establishment of side projects compounded many people’s belief that the end was nigh. This was, however, never the case as the band had always “intended to carry on in some degree and had never announced that the band was over”. In fact, ‘the door was always open for another album’: that album, 'My Republic'.

It has been three years since the previous Good Riddance album, 'Bound by Ties of Blood and Affection'. This break has "taken a lot of the pressure off" each of the band members as they had previously "chosen to be in a cycle of touring a lot and always having to put out a new record in order to stay relevant." This "forced hiatus put everything into perspective…to not have to be so subject to the marketplace" and, in the band’s eyes has helped them produce what they consider to be the best Good Riddance album to date.

Having switched vocals to those of Only Crime, and then back to Good Riddance again, I asked Russ how easy it felt to interchange in this way. "Hopefully by design the two bands sound different. I don’t want to be a singer who gets in character; I want the vocals to sound organic. Good Riddance is more formulaic punk with a melodic edge, although through our history we have experimented with different styles of music, and been influenced by bands we have toured with, such as Sick of it All and Lifetime. 'My Republic' is definitely a return to the style of our first album, although it has been executed much better this time around. Only Crime is more aggressive, the interpretation is much more improvisational."

It is clear that 'My Republic' is a touch more melodic than recent Good Riddance releases. I wondered whether this was down to how Russ felt at the time of writing but he soon quashed this theory, highlighting that "the musical dynamics may be mellower but, in its delivery, and through its lyrics, it is no mellower than any other release." He went on to praise the California punk scene he had grown up on due to it "having melody but not being pop." 'My Republic' follows this as it is a dark record but is delivered with melody: it is "a dichotomy" given the "sub-categorizations that exist within music nowadays."

Russ has spoken about the darkness of the lyrics and I was keen to find out more. Indicating that 'My Republic' is lyrically heavy on a social and political level, Russ drew attention to the personal inclusions such as "relationships, retrospective looks at getting older and observing life that has passed by." Whilst going through the band’s back catalogue, picking songs to replay live, Russ found himself remarking on the "relevancy" of the political lyrics of the 'For God and Country' record, even today. This surely sums up the poignancy of Good Riddance's lyrics and that it is "sad that nothing has really changed since, where some things have become even worse." Bringing this to their fans attention is what Good Riddance is about.

Good Riddance has "always endeavoured to be a band that offers more to an album release than entertainment": in a way, to educate. With contributions from album sales being directed to charitable causes over the years, 'My Republic' sees the inclusion of a PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) video, one of the causes Good Riddance "has had a good relationship with over ten years." It is seen as a "good way to impact people and open their eyes to powerful film-making; film-making that it is hard not to be affected by."

Given the release of 'My Republic' and the record label’s evident desire to support this with a tour, the band’s touring status seemed somewhat incongruous? After four record release shows, three in California and one in Arizona, the band’s intention, however, is to play Australia and New Zealand come autumn. Europe will follow sometime in 2007. I enquired as to whether the band got much of a chance to visit the cities they played in whilst on tour: "I’m not really a sightseeing kind of person, whereas some of the other guys in the band are. I find a Starbucks, and then anything in-between there and the club I’m stoked on". As an American "it’s cool to walk past buildings that have stood longer than our country has done."

With opportunities to tour the globe and reach out to many fans, the music is what really counts at the end of the day as this is the medium through which the messages are conveyed. Not all records are seen as positively as the artists intended; therefore I quizzed Russ on whether years in the music industry softened the blow of negative reviews the band attracts? Russ certainly still takes negative reviews personally and sees the band as "victims of getting more bad reviews than [they] should." He makes a valid point when signifying that "it’s upsetting when you can tell the reviewer hasn’t even listened to the album properly"; certainly a fault of the mass music media’s need to report on everything even if it lacks tangibility and detail. In fact, back in the 90's people thought that because Good Riddance were on the Fat Wreck label, they were bound to sound a certain way: the band have since dispelled this time and time again.

Despite stating that Only Crime is his "current musical ideal", it is clear that the intention is to keep Good Riddance going. Having been successful over the years, it would be a shame for the story to end now. Russ is keen on becoming more involved in producing as he ‘"oves the process of writing a record." Having begun to work with some local Californian bands, he admits that "very few people currently get to hear this music", yet his intention is to get his name "on a project that makes it to the wider music scene". Even if the end is one day inevitable, future bands may well carry through some of that Good Riddance spirit and musical understanding. For the moment, the stage, however, is still theirs.















Related Links:



Commenting On: Interview with Russ Rankin - Good Riddance








ie London, England

tick box before submitting comment
 


First Previous Next Last