On their earliest recordings, the Offspring worried about varying genres within a single album. But now, as frontman Dexter Holland tells Rolling Stone, checking in by phone from Amsterdam, the Orange County punk rockers have no problem throwing caution to the wind.
"It was a really good experience feeling like we could bring anything to the table," the singer says of the multi-year recording process that resulted in the band's diverse ninth studio release, Days Go By. "It was really cool to say 'Hey, fuck it.'"
Days Go By, due next Tuesday, retains the band's classic punk-rock vibe. But it also takes sharp left turns: album cuts veer from whiplash-punk ("Secrets from the Underground") to riff-rock ("Days Go By"), reggae ("OC Guns") and harmonized pop ("Cruising California (Bumping in My Truck)"). "I always felt like we would be bored if we had a similar style from record to record," Holland says, referencing the album's sharp contrast to the band's previous release, 2008's Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. "We've got to mix it up just to keep it entertaining for ourselves."
One key element of Rise and Fall did carry over: the band again worked with veteran producer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica). "He's such a great producer," Holland says. "We didn't know each other before the last record, but it went really well, so we thought we'd try it again. I knew it could go one of two ways – either it's gonna get better 'cause we're more comfortable working with each other, or sometimes you get too comfortable and nobody listens to each other anymore." He pauses. "Luckily that didn't happen."
The new album, as Holland notes, allowed the band – which includes guitarist Kevin "Noodles" Wasserman, bassist Greg "Greg K." Kriesel and its newest addition, drummer Pete Parada – to take risks while also serving as a mechanism to toast their history. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the band's sophomore release, Ignition. In addition to playing the record in its entirety at recent concerts, they also re-recorded one of its standout tracks, "Dirty Magic."
"Every time we tried to play 'Dirty Magic,' five people would jump up and down and the rest of the audience was scratching their heads," says Holland. "But it was always one of those songs that kept on coming up. We thought it was worth another look." The new version sounds far cleaner than its grimy original, a product of more time spent in the studio. "When we (originally) recorded it, it was super on-the-fly – we probably only spent, like, three hours doing the whole song," Holland explains. "This time we thought we could make it bigger and better without really changing it."
Holland doesn't mind waxing nostalgic. But as many of the lyrics on Days Go By indicate, he's also keeping his eye on the present. The title track encourages people to pick themselves up from the past few years' economic challenges, while the album's Dr. Strangelove-referencing closing track, "Slim Pickens Does the Right Thing and Rides the Bomb to Hell," Holland notes, has a different mantra: "The world is going to hell, so fuck it, let's watch it burn."
The Offspring have been road-testing their new material ("I can't wait to take them everywhere," Holland says) while abroad, and the singer says the band plans to play a slew of U.S. dates this fall. Aside from basking in the positive reception of European audiences, he's begun to notice the takeover of electronic dance music while overseas. "There's a place in the world for everything," he says, chuckling. "I just have a laugh at it and go 'Right on. Whatever floats your boat.'"
Click to listen to the Offspring's 'Days Go By':