Photo: Daveed Benito
The Offspring Talk The Near End Of COVID-19, Why Birds Are "Badass" & New Album, 'Let The Bad Times Roll'
The Offspring are back with 'Let The Bad Times Roll,' a new album about global pandemonium. But despite the nightmares of 2021, frontman Dexter Holland and guitarist Noodles are taking a bite out of life
Is this the worst time to be alive? The question is compelling. Sure, we may carry around the Library of Alexandria—plus the totality of music and cinema—in our pockets. But that's cold comfort in an era where mob mentality is the order of the day yet we may have kissed hugging goodbye.
This must have crossed the Offspring's minds. In their latest video, housebound youths are menaced by a) a smartphone with arachnoid legs b) anthropomorphic coronaviruses and c) a bloodthirsty crew of rioters. The title? "Let the Bad Times Roll." So, Offspring: Does it get worse than the early 2020s?
"It probably doesn't compare to the Dark Ages or the Bubonic Plague—or World War II, for heaven's sake," the OC punks' lead singer Dexter Holland tells GRAMMY.com. "But no doubt, what we're going through is serious, right? That's why we're calling this album Let the Bad Times Roll. It's not a walk in the park."
Let the Bad Times Roll, which the Offspring released April 16, is their first album in nine years. But if you think they returned sober and austere after recent global nightmares, remember: These are the guys who wrote "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)." Their new tunes tackle societal unrest ("This is Not Utopia"), addiction ("The Opioid Diaries") and romantic ruts ("We Never Have Sex Anymore") with a giddiness that recalls their bleached-tips-era breakout.
What if the answer to that question proves to be "yes"? The Offspring are psyched to be alive anyway. Their guitarist, Noodles, is getting into birding these days; he calls birds "badass." In his spare time, Holland makes hot sauce, flies planes and bones up on molecular biology (he has a Ph.D. in the field). Maybe therein lies the lesson of Let the Bad Times Roll: the world might suck right now, but you can live around the suckiness—and live well.
GRAMMY.com gave Dexter and Noodles a Zoom call at their studio to discuss the making of Let the Bad Times Roll, how a microscopic virus ruined everything, why Noodles dislikes chickens and myriad other subjects.
How was your weekend?
Noodles: Good. Long. Long and good. We were just talking about how I let myself drink a lot this weekend.
What's your drink of choice?
Noodles: Mostly Pacifico. I like the Mexican lagers—Modelo, Pacifico.
What about you, Dexter?
That's probably the ultimate beer, right?
Dexter: It looks like we're playing in Dublin this year, so we're all very excited. The Guinness really is different there. It's fresh. They make it across the street in Dublin, right?
Noodles: It is. It's creamier.
Dexter: You can get a good pour pretty much all over Europe, but it's hard to get a good pour here in the States. I heard some urban legend that there's some piping directly from Guinness into some of these pubs.
Noodles: That's why it's so good!
We have a lot of ground to cover. This is the first Offspring album in nine years. What was going on in the interim?
Dexter: I mean, we write all the time, but it just didn't feel right yet. I didn't feel like there was an impetus to have to put it out. I can remember for a long time, we did records every two or three years. It felt like there was that pressure: You had to do that or you're going to fade away and stuff. I just don't believe in that anymore. I don't care! We tour a lot still, which is great, so we just worked on it in between when we could. It didn't really start coming together until a couple of years ago.
Noodles: We had a really creative period about two years ago. That's when most of this record was written. And we still probably have half a record's worth of songs, so once we get through this cycle, we can start taking a look at those again, and hopefully, the next one will come a little bit more quickly. But if it doesn't go like it did this time, then it won't be quickly! It'll still be long, you know? We make sure we don't put anything out that's not ready to come out.
Dexter: I want it to be really good. Good all the way through, in my eyes. I think we got there, for me, this time.
I don't think you're going to fade away anytime soon. The video for the title track has more than a million views [At press time, close to two million].
Dexter: Oh! Well, that's good.
Noodles: Which video?
Dexter: "Let the Bad Times Roll."
Noodles: Oh! Nice.
Dexter: We just hit a million! Alright! Woo-hoo!
Noodles: Right on!
Dexter: That means we've collected about 32 cents in royalties from YouTube.
Noodles: Yeah! Fk yeah! Cha-ching, baby! Alright! Still got it!
It seems like your ability to craft hooks and melodies is unabated. Can you share your melody-writing secrets, or would that be a bad idea, publicly speaking? Like giving away the herbs and spices?
Dexter: [laughs] I mean, you kind of have to wait for a certain kind of inspiration to hit, and then you take it and run with it. It's generally melody first and lyrics second, but sometimes the best stuff is just both together. I think "Pretty Fly" was like that and I think "We Never Have Sex Anymore" is kind of like that. The lyric came about as much as the melody.
I love great melody writers in any genre. Who are your favorites?
Dexter: Favorite… artists?
Noodles: [under breath] Melody writers.
Yeah, those specifically.
Noodles: Well, I mean, I love the Ramones. They could always take three chords and make them so that you could sing along to them. I love the Ramones for that.
Dexter: I mean, what's great about music is that you can jump from genre to genre. Of course, we've spent a lot of time listening to the Ramones and stuff, but lately, I've been kind of into Vivaldi. And I was checking out John Denver the other night because his songwriting is really, really good, right? He comes across as a little light to a lot of people, but I think he's actually a really great songwriter.
Noodles: Oh, [he's] my parents' favorite, John Denver. As an adult, I had to go back and get the John Denver's Greatest Hits CD. Actually, it was not too long ago. I realized I didn't have it anymore. I still buy CDs. Isn't that funny?
The video for the title track is rife with smartphones and masks and quarantine imagery. Is this the worst time to be alive?
Dexter: [laughs] The worst time to be alive! Well, for all of us in the room, probably yes. But it probably doesn't compare to the Dark Ages or the Bubonic Plague—or World War II, for heaven's sake.
Noodles: But you bring up a good point. Are human beings just spoiled and complaining?
Dexter: I think so.
Noodles: Whiny little ankle-biters?
Dexter: A little bit. A little bit. But no doubt, what we're going through is serious, right? That's why we're calling this album Let the Bad Times Roll. It's not a walk in the park.
Noodles: And we really have seen a lot of human strife over the last four years. I think maybe a lot of it is just blown up in the press and world leaders trying to keep us…
Noodles: Yes. Divide and conquer, so they can stay in power.
I noticed in the video that it's all young people bearing the brunt of this. Obviously, it's all exaggerated and humorous. But has this generation—my generation—gotten the raw end of this deal?
Dexter: Are you part of the young generation? Is that what you're saying?
Yeah. I'm in my late 20s.
Noodles: Well, I mean, we wrote a song years ago: "We Aren't the Ones." Yelling at our forefathers: "Why did you fk up the world so bad? Now we have to come in and clean it up?" So there's always going to be a little bit of that. Certainly, taking care of the climate, taking care of the world we live in—I don't think anybody's been very good about that lately.
Dexter: What we're talking about is that your son missed his high school graduation. We're talking about the raw end of the deal. Little things like that. Yeah, absolutely! I think the answer is yes!
Noodles: [long pause] Yes. [both laugh]
"The Opioid Diaries" is kind of the emotional center of the album to me. That seems to reflect the nightmare a lot of people are going through these days.
Dexter: Right. It's interesting you bring up that song because it's really been getting a lot of attention. I thought of it as a great punk song, but we put it at number eight on the record or something. It's a song about addiction—and, of course, that's not a new topic—but I feel like, with the opioid crisis, there's something different about it.
I almost call it "creating accidental addicts" because these people aren't searching for drugs recreationally or getting lost in drugs the way you typically think of it. It's people going to the doctor's office—somebody they trust. They've got a legitimate issue. It's a high school athlete or a blue-collar worker who's got lower back pain and they get prescribed this highly addictive stuff. They think it's OK, then before they know it, they're addicted and they're turning to heroin because they can't get a refill on their prescription.
We have this whole new crop of people who would never have become addicted before, and it's absolutely the fault of the pharmaceutical industry.
The person burglarizing houses for a fix is just somebody who got in a car wreck.
Dexter: Yeah, that's right. I wanted to write about it because I thought there was a unique twist to what's going on here, and an unfortunate one.
"Hassan Chop" sounds like a throwback to old-school d-beat. Did you guys come up on that stuff in the old days?
Dexter: Old-school what?
D-beat. Like Discharge.
Noodles: What do you call it? P-beat?
No, d-beat. [demonstrates galloping rhythm]
Dexter: How funny. We've never heard that before!
Noodles: We're learning!
Dexter: You got us!
Well, if that's not a reference you're familiar with...
Dexter: We'll have to look that up! Yeah, I think it sounds like an older kind of sound.
That was kind of the idea with this record: not to make an album that sounds like old Offspring, but to do some songs that were a little more straightforward, maybe. Some people associate that with old Offspring. There are people online calling it "classic Offspring." I don't know about that. But people seem to like it, and they say it sounds fresh but still sounds like us.
Noodles: Well, we knew after nine years of not putting anything out, it would be a really bad time to reinvent ourselves. But we don't have that much interest in reinventing ourselves anyway, you know? We always experiment with a song or two on any record, but there's a certain kind of music we love and a certain kind of music we love playing. We always gravitate more towards that. It's easy for us to do that.
"Gone Away" is softer and more introspective than I generally associate with the band. How did that one come about?
Dexter: Right. I know, it's kind of funny. On one hand, we're saying we're creating a straightforward album.
Noodles: But it's pretty varied musically!
Dexter: A song like "Gone Away" is what people would have called a departure for us a few years ago. It's almost like they're getting used to our turns.
Noodles: Well, it's an older song of ours, so I think the fans… maybe we're getting a pass for changing our styles up a little bit on that. But really, it was the fans who were clamoring for that song. We've been playing a similar version live for four or five years now and the fans love it. They immediately took right to it. And at meet-and-greets and on social media, they're always asking for a studio version of the piano [led] "Gone Away." So, we tried it and we felt good about it.
Dexter: We said it was OK.
I just watched your birding and surfing videos. You guys seem to have diverse nonmusical interests, but you meet in this band as the nexus point. How else do you guys spend your extra time?
Noodles: Actually, I hike that area and I do look at birds. I don't usually dress in the full gear and that telescope's way too heavy to be carting around.
Dexter: That was the joke: to take it a little bit too far.
Noodles: Yeah, yeah. But I do like hiking that area and other areas around here. Getting out. I haven't surfed much lately, but I still intend to. I think all the time about getting a new board and getting back out there. My old boards are kind of beat up.
Dexter: I make hot sauce in my spare time.
Noodles: He's got all kinds of st going! I'm the one who's got no excuses! I should be doing way more in my life. He makes hot sauce; he flies planes. He still studies genetics and viruses.
Dexter: [bashful voice] You're good too!
Noodles: I'm playing Sudoku.
Dexter, how does your Ph.D. manifest in your daily life? I'm sure you're just reading about it and soaking up as much information as you can.
Dexter: Right, right. I mean, I have the degree. I don't work in the field, but I try to keep up with the literature. I think the most amazing takeaway is that as much as everyone knows, no one knows. It's still hard to predict a pandemic and how it's going to spread. I don't think they saw the variants coming. It didn't look like it was that kind of virus. So, you're always being a little bit surprised, you know? I think they're doing a good job of trying to get ahead of it with vaccinations and all that, but we're not there yet.
I've noticed the language has changed so much from the days of "Flatten the curve!" or boiling your mail or something. It plunged us into the Dark Ages of scientific knowledge, suddenly.
Noodles: We weren't boiling our mail, but we were wiping down our groceries and st when the stuff first happened. We don't do that anymore.
Dexter: I talked to a guy I went to school with and he kind of said, "Well, what's cool about this is that the public gets to see science in action." This is real time, and we're going to change our opinion as more data comes in. They thought that the virus was contagious on surfaces. It turns out that it looks like that's not the case. You're seeing that this is how science works.
It's miraculous that we got a vaccine in eight months or so.
Noodles: Agreed. Agreed.
Dexter: It is really amazing that they have that. Luckily, they'd been working on the technology before, so it was easier to get it going quickly because they almost had it ready to go. Unfortunately, that also brought up all the "Oh, it was developed too quickly! It's not safe!" kind of stuff.
Noodles: There's been an undercurrent of anti-vaccination sentiment for a number of years anyway.
Dexter: From the beginning. Edward Jenner was vaccinating people with cow pus, so they were saying you're going to grow horns. Those were the comics that would lampoon people in the day. They would have these people growing limbs and all that.
Noodles: See, I'm still hoping for fire antlers! I want fire antlers from my Pfizer shot!
Noodles, what's the essence of your love of birding? Is it the sense of discovery? Their sheer variety?
Noodles: I just think they're badass! [both laugh] I like getting out and hiking. I love being out in nature. I love fishing a lot. I love surfing. So, I'd always see these birds and I didn't know what they were. I started looking into it more. You see how they're all related: some of them are really similar, some of them are really different, you know? Some travel from all over—from pole to pole, almost, in their migration. So, all that st's just interesting.
Now, I don't know what I'm talking about that much. I know some of the bigger birds that you'll see. The birds of prey, I think I'm a little bit more fascinated with. They're just so beautiful.
Dexter: It was kind of surfing and being outdoors that got you to look at them. It wasn't like you were always fascinated with birds. It was sort of a byproduct.
Noodles: Like, I'm not a big fan of chickens.
Dexter: [laughs] No?
Noodles: Although some of the ducks are pretty cool-looking. We get a lot of ducks in the wintertime.
Dexter: What about parakeets? Would you ever get a parakeet?
Noodles: I would actually love to have a bird like that!
Dexter: Now I know what to get him for his birthday.
Noodles, I have two bird questions before we wrap this up. Number one: How do they know how to migrate thousands of miles without a map? How do they know where to go?
Noodles: Yeah, I don't know that they've actually discovered that. I've read some articles on that. Mostly with pigeons. Like, how do pigeons know how to home in on stuff, right? A lot of these birds just kind of go to their ancestral lands somehow, but pigeons would go to particular houses and homes. Especially the messenger pigeons during World War II and stuff. I'm not a big fan of pigeons. They seem pretty stupid, but they do these incredibly smart things.
Dexter: He's selective! Birds are badass, but there are certain birds that don't make sense! I heard birds could sense magnetic lines of the earth's revolution, maybe.
Noodles: Some studies suggest that, yeah.
Number two: When I wake up and I hear birds chattering outside my window, what are they saying? Because it sounds like it's generally the same call repeated—not a ton of variation.
Noodles: I have no idea.
That's pretty much all I've got. What are you guys listening to lately, besides Vivaldi and John Denver?
Noodles: I recently found this band called Pist Idiots from Australia. They've just got a great sound. I think they've got some great songs. Kind of post-punk, but guitar-based, so I kind of like that. My kids have been hipping me to some kind of funny, different stuff. Punk-ish hip-hop stuff. A guy named Nate NoFace is kind of interesting to me. Nasty Noona's another one. Deathsquad is this band all these people are in and out of. They just all collaborate together then do their own stuff as well.
Nice. I'll check them out. What about you, Dexter?
Dexter: Well, like I said, Vivaldi, John Denver. There's this cool band called Beat to Death. Stuff like that. It's all over the map.
Noodles: I don't know Beat to Death.
Dexter: I'm actually making it up. [both laugh uproariously]
My ex-sister-in-law went out with this guy and he was in a hardcore band. I was like, "What's your band's name?" and he said, "Beat to Death." That was the most ridiculous thing! And not even "Beaten to Death!" It's "Beat to Death!" It's grammatically incorrect and silly at the same time, so I thought that was kind of the ultimate name.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images
Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series
The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour
After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.
Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression." You can pre-order the title here.
The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.
Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.
This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.