Interview: Good Riddance

Published in Drum Media (WA) | 28.03.13 | Issue # 331


Backstage at a venue in Santa Barbara, California, the driving force behind Good RiddanceRuss Rankin, givesDaniel Cribb the lowdown on the band’s break-up and reunion.

Anxious to hit the stage and, due to his straight edge lifestyle, no alcohol to take the edge off, Good Riddance vocalist Russ Rankin seems somewhat distant when he answers his phone during a pre-show warm up. “We’ve actually not played in Santa Barbara in a really long time,” Rankin tells. Although it’s only a four and a half hour drive from their hometown of Santa Cruz, it’s not surprising.

Originally forming in 1986, they released seven albums, made a strong name for themselves, and had a sizeable impact on the punk rock community before calling it quits in 2007. Their last show before the break-up was in their hometown on 27 May, which was recorded and released as a live record.

In an interview after the show, Rankin said they didn’t really fit into the punk scene anymore. “I think it’s still the same way,” he expresses. “But I think that there’s some people that appreciate hearing the songs and maybe some people that were too young to see us the first time… I think that music changes, I think it’s inevitable that styles change and people’s tastes change, and I think that our band never really changed along with it. We just did what we liked to do and we didn’t do much else, and we had a bit of time where that was what was really popular and then that was no longer what was really popular, and we decided as a professional working band, that it was not a good idea to keep trying and fit a square peg into a round hole, so to speak.

“I think that’s still the same case with music, and I think that some bands are more clever and can change what they’re playing and how they look, and we just weren’t that clever,” he admits.

With that in mind, and the fact the band stated they wouldn’t be able to write a record better than My Republic (2006), how come, in February of 2012, the band announced they would resume with their usual line-up? “It was combination of the fact that we had time to do it, and we missed playing the songs. We all had other stuff going on that was pretty important to us, and it helped us put the music in a healthy perspective, to where we can just sort of have fun with it.”

During their five years apart, Rankin was active with his other band, Only Crime (which features Descendents’ Bill Stevenson on drums and, up until recently, Rise Against’s Zach Blair on guitar), and spent some time on his solo career. “Once we were able to step away from [Good Riddance] and do different things with our lives, and have different things that define us, I think that it put the band in its proper perspective, meaning that there’s some good music and we have fun doing it, but it doesn’t have to completely define us, and it doesn’t have to make or break us.”

The band jumped into the studio a few months ago to record a cover of Descendents’ Sour Grapes for a tribute CD. Despite everything running flawlessly on that recording, they have no plans to re-enter the studio anytime soon. Instead, they’re taking their music around the world in-person to catch up with old friends and fans that never thought they’d get to see Good Riddance again, or for the first time.

“Our fans are older and uglier now than they used to be,” he laughs. Admitting that playing to decent-sized crowds may have something to do with the “novelty factor” of their reunion, Rankin is also quick to cite another area of their fanbase. “We’re really fortunate to have some really awesome fans, as far as how dedicated they were and how appreciative they were of our music, and those people never stopped listening to our music, and so those people are still just as passionate as ever. I think we’re really fortunate to have that.”

Good Riddance will be playing the following dates:

Thursday 28 March – HQ, Adelaide SA
Sunday 31 March – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
Monday 1 April – Metropolis, Fremantle WA

Daniel Cribb