By Sarah Mac
CALGARY — Look out Alberta! Pennywise have returned, fully intact, with a brand new album and a massive Canadian tour!
For the few not familiar with Pennywise, let’s get acquainted. Veterans in the punk scene and hailing from Hermosa Beach, California, Pennywise has been shelling out fast, melodic, political punk rock since their inception in ‘88. Signed to the legendary Epitaph Records, they’ve released 11 albums, including their 1991 self-titled debut all the way to their latest album, Yesterdays, released in the summer of 2014. Throughout it at all, Pennywise has had very few line-up changes, although the infrequent changes have been high profile. Sadly, founding member and bassist Jason Thirsk took his own life in 1996 following problems with alcoholism and depression. The band’s fourth studio album, Full Circle (1997), was dedicated in his memory and the song “Bro Hymn” was rerecorded in tribute to him. Over a decade later, founding vocalist Jim Lindberg acrimoniously parted ways with the band, leaving fans heartbroken and pissed off, watching their favourite act take jabs at each other in the media. It felt odd to see someone other than Lindberg singing Pennywise’s personal and autobiographical songs. That said, he eventually rejoined the band in 2012. We recently spoke with guitarist, backing vocalist and founding member Fletcher Dragge about the return of Lindberg and their latest record release, which are tied into the massive contributions that Thirsk made to the band and the hole left by his absence.
“Having Lindberg back is always a good thing, I think we just needed a break after all those years, it kinda just came to a head. We went on and did our (Pennywise) thing and he went on to do a solo project. But we just wound up, everyone realizing, that Pennywise is the four of us. You know, it’s not reincarnations of it with different people. His (Lindberg) band wasn’t Pennywise, so we decided, ‘let’s do what we do best,’” explains Fletcher.
“We realized what we have and had, and we’re better together than apart. We all do our job but when you put us all together that is Pennywise, whether it’s on tour or in the studio, it’s the dynamic that makes it what it is, so if you take out any pieces it doesn’t have what it needs.”
He continues, “We buried the hatchet, and resolved any issues we had. And since then, the touring and shows have been better than they’ve ever been in a long time. Everybody’s having a good time, and that’s all it’s really ever been about – having a good time.”
With Lindberg back at the helm (rather than Zoli Téglás, who only appeared on 2012’s All or Nothing) the band recorded and released Yesterdays, which has been dubbed “a new album of old songs,” as it’s comprised of songs written almost 30 years ago. We wondered why the sudden release of these elder gems.
“A lot of these songs were written by Thirsk, it was the early, early years of Pennywise,” reveals Fletcher.
“Me, Thirsk and Lindberg would sit down and write stuff, but even back in those days Thirsk would write the majority of the songs and Lindberg would sing them. So this made Yesterdays easy, they were songs we played at back yard parties and songs that hadn’t made it on to a record. We figured we should record those songs, because no one in the world has really heard them unless they were at one of those backyard parties in the ‘80s.
“And the idea of going into the studio to write and record 12 brand new songs would have been nightmare so soon, because we’re all very opinionated and we all work on the songs together, which is a constant fight, or I guess a battle would be a better word for it,” he says, laughing.
“But really, with all the years of turmoil behind us, it was like a start over in a way. It was very therapeutic,” he says. “And it was a good way to get back to the roots of what Pennywise is about.”
With that in mind, this tour is one you do not want to miss! Pennywise is back together, playing rarities and soon-to-be classics, as well as all your favourite songs.
“It’s definitely a good line-up, it’s a party line-up. I think people will be out there in full force, drinking their 20-ounce beers and I think there’s going to be a little bit of mayhem,” Fletcher boasts.
As for why the Canadian dates for this release are so far from the release date?
“We’re saving the best for last,” Fletcher quips charmingly.
“Although we haven’t been to Australia or South America yet, but you can go with that.”
“Keep the beers cold for us, Canada!”
Don’t miss Pennywise with Danzig and the Cancer Bats. Catch them at MacEwan Hall on July 24th and at The Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton on July 25th.AB, Alberta, MacEwan Hall, Pennywise, Shaw Conference Centre