Goo Goo Dolls
by Mary Brace
"Look!" Robby, the shaggy bassist of Buffalo, N.Y's Goo Goo Dolls, excitedly jumps from his couch seat in the back of the band's tour bus to grab at a small, empty green vase planted in a counter-top. "It came with the bus. It won't move; it's glued," he says, chuckling, demonstrating that many of the trappings of success are illusions. "Otherwise it'd be in a box."
Heralded as the Next Big Thing no fewer than four times in as many albums, the trio, also consisting of guitarist Johnny and drummer Mike, has drawn raves throughout their 10 years. Their hyper-charged power pop is reminiscent of '80's under-achievers The Replacements, but with a less dysfunctional outlook.
The Goo Goos' latest, A Boy Named Goo, on Warner Bros., is finally getting the band some mass attention. Still, Robby's not holding his breath for that long white picket fence and swimming pool in the back yard.
"I don't think in those terms because we've been the 'next big thing' more than everybody in history," he says. " We write songs - we don't have the aid of an evil image or a cool hair-do with the little garage mechanic outfits. It's the merit of the songs, and the quote I've heard over and over again was 'Well, you made a great record, no one can take that away from you.' That's four records I've heard that now."
At 31, Robby looks a lot like the genial guy next door with two six packs in the fridge, but without the lethargy that accompanies the stock. And he's not insulted that his band gets compared to underground heroes, because they're his heroes, too. Paul Westerberg even contributed lyrics for the Goo Goos' 1993 semi-hit "We Are The Normal."
Robby admits that his tastes didn't always run toward what Goo Goo fans consider hip. A stint in frontier alternative radio opened his ears.
"I was a deejay at a station in '83. It was a fleeting thing - the formats changed pretty much with the seasons. I was there for about three years; back then it was Talk Talk and Nina Hägen and," he laughs and groans with embarrassment, "Haysi Fantayzee- 'Shiny Shiny.' At the same time, bands like the Replacements and Hüsker Dü were coming up from the indie circuits."
It was after hearing those sounds that the original three Goo Goo Dolls came together as a tight core. That lasted nearly 10 years, until this last winter, when they nearly broke up, The guitarists felt drummer George had too many other pursuits, so they replaced him with former Minor Threat pounder Mike.
"The last couple of years it was pretty evident that we had a problem. Once Mike fell in, we went to L.A. in January and went right into rehearsals. He grew up listening to our records and stuff, too, so he knew where we were at."
Since then, it's been non-stop for the Goo Goos. And the effect is spilling over to Robby's personal life. "I feel really ungrounded right now, just 'cause I haven't been home in so long. My girlfriend's ready to kill me and my dog doesn't know me."