THE OFFSPRING WITH SIMPLE PLAN
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $106 (incl. taxes and fees) from Select Your Tickets (250-220-7777) or selectyourtickets.com
Of all the the bands associated with mainstream punk rock during the 1990s, The Offspring were arguably the most unlikely to succeed.
Green Day and Blink-182 seemed destined for success, whereas The Offspring — whose members were up to 10 years older than their aforementioned peers, in some cases — played a competent but unspectacular brand of pop-punk. Dexter Holland, singer-guitarist for the group, was also big-time booksmart, which seemed like something of a hindrance in the world of punk rock during the ’90s.
By the time the decade came to a close, however, The Offspring had outpaced the competition. To date, The band has sold nearly 20 million units in the U.S. alone, and 40 million worldwide. In 2016, Holland and Co. sold their publishing catalogue for an estimated $35 million US — a deal which did not include Smash, the band’s 1994 hallmark recording on Epitaph Records, which has the distinction of being one of the best-selling albums ever released on an independent record label, with 11 million copies sold.
“It’s a story I’m very proud of, because it felt so organic,” Holland, 56, said during an Edmonton tour stop. “It didn’t succeed because of massive promotion. It succeeded because it connected somehow.”
The Offspring, which also features original guitarist Kevin (Noodles) Wasserman, was a slow burn with audiences at first, Holland said. In fact, his future was so uncertain, at one pre-fame point he even considered quitting music and going into science, having earned his master’s degree in molecular biology from the University of Southern California. It wasn’t until Smash, their third album, that Holland felt his hitmaking abilities (he writes almost all of the band’s material) could stand on their own outside of the band’s native California.
“For a band like us, the songs had to sink in. It skewed so young at first — it was the MTV generation — so to fill arenas you have to have go a bit broader with your demographic.”
Canada has always been a strong market for the group, and their 18-date tour of the country, which wraps Sunday in Victoria, with an opening set from Simple Plan, includes a number of dates in hockey arenas.
Holland said the band has expanded its show to include cover songs and other video-related content, to justify the scope of the tour. “We were going into some of the bigger [arenas in Canada], so it made us feel like we really had to step this up. We really put a lot more thought into making more of a show out of it, and not just run through 17 songs in a row. This is the first time anywhere in the world we’ve done a proper arena tour of a whole country.”
They don’t often tinker with their setlist, but they have one or two spots where changes are liable to occur. On most nights, that means a rotating list of covers by Rush (Tom Sawyer), Iron Maiden (The Trooper), Van Halen (Panama), and the Ramones (Blitzkrieg Bop). Nothing comes at the expense of their signature songs, however.
Come Out and Play, Self Esteem, Gotta Get Away, Gone Away, and Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) will never not be sung at one of The Offspring’s concerts. “It always sounds good to have a different setlist every night, but what you find is the same things tend to work the best,” Holland said.
“You don’t want to play the second-best setlist, you gravitate towards what works the best. We’re not avoiding our best known songs, we want to have the best show we can.”
The crowds have been sizable thus far, and it appears the band’s Victoria debut is on track to sell out; an impressive feat, given today’s pop-leaning landscape. The Offspring are an anomaly, where acts from the 1990s are concerned, in that they continue to move the needle commercially. Official videos by the band have garnered 1.2 billion views on YouTube and multiple billions of streams on Spotify. They have a new record to promote, Let the Bad Times Roll, and are enjoying the forward momentum, Holland said.
“In a funny way, I think the [pandemic] break really energized us. It gave us time to let us finish the last record, and we got the band real tight. We’ve decided to keep on going, so when we’re in-between tours, we’re working on new material.”
The band is going back into the studio with producer Bob Rock in January for a new album due next year. Holland said he never had a long-term plan, but the success of The Offspring is such that he’s going to ride the rollercoaster for as long as he can. “The nature of the music business is that you never know when your time is up. We’re very fortunate to still be here. But as Jim Morrison once said, ‘The future is uncertain and the end is always near.’ It always seems like we can do this for a few more years — people are still coming to the shows, and we’re still getting played on the radio — so for the time being it seems OK. But beyond that, who knows?”