EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jim Lindberg of the punk band Pennywise

Ron McIntyre/Emmer Effer Productions/Felony Films/Burning Rose Studios

LOS ANGELES, October 20, 2014 — Jim Lindberg is the frontman of the legendary Hermosa Beach punk band Pennywise. After over 20 years together, Jim and the band parted ways for a few years until Lindberg returned and the band played a series of 25th anniversary shows in Hollywood. In July, Pennywise released Yesterdays, which consisted of old outtakes. Recently, Jim Lindberg spoke with Wells On Music regarding Pennywise, including a box set being released possibly in 2015, and a new side project the singer is working on.

Scroll below video to read the interview:

Kevin Wells: Byron had his first child while you were away from the band. Now that you are back and everyone has kids except Fletcher, has Byron’s having a kid had an effect on the dynamic of the band?

Jim Lindberg: Umm, like 180 percent. [laughs] Especially from Byron’s perspective, I think he understands now what the pressures were that I was going through. Everyone’s unique. Everyone has a unique family situation. Some people it’s no problem for them to leave three or four weeks to go on tour. For other people it’s devastating. There’s been so many families that have broken up over being a touring musician that it’s the majority of people I know in bands that they are now divorced because they can’t take the pressure of it. You see that in people in the military and in athletics as well.

It’s tough when dad’s not around. If you have a good support system and other family helping out it can be managed, but I’m lucky my wife is awesome. She’s been great about it during our whole career. I definitely think Byron, especially now that he has a small kid, can see the problems that arose for me where your family needs you at home at certain crucial times. And then to have other people in the band say, “Screw that. You have to go or you’re gonna be kicked out.” That’s a really lame situation to be put in to say I’m going to sacrifice the health of my family just so we can go drink beer in Berlin again. [laughs]

READ ALSO: LISTEN: Jim Lindberg is interviewed on Rockin’ Sports

KW: For me, Pennywise was always that go-to band when I wanted to feel better. Since Jason Thirsk’s death, the band’s message has gotten darker and less optimistic. Would you say that is a fair assessment?

JL: I’d say that’s definitely a fair assessment and definitely a factor in a lot of things. It definitely changed. Jason was an extremely positive guy and that’s why I joined the band, to be around a guy like him and to make music with him. My lyrics were extremely positive and sometimes life beats you down. His passing affected me very, very deeply considering that he was a big ally with me in the band. I kind of felt a little on my own after what happened to him, in a certain sense, and it was really tough, but year after year you kind of kept doing it.

The song I wrote, “Alien,” was the perfect example of that. It was such a downer song. It’s basically saying, “Good luck to you in this lame world we live in.” [laughs] That’s why a lot of people didn’t like it. They were just like, “Wow, that song’s a downer,” but I was being honest at the time. It was a difficult time losing Jason and then having my first kid right within the same year. It was pretty chaotic.

Definitely his words and music are what drove the band. Up to Full Circle and Straight Ahead basically Jason and I wrote every lyric for the band. With Land of the Free and “F**k Authority” and stuff like that is when Fletcher and Randy started coming up with lyrics and things started to change and come from a different perspective where we all kind of wrote on our own and things did get a little strange. I liked a lot of the music we did later on, but we did lose something there and that was part of the issues we started to have. Not everyone was backing the music we were putting out.

This type of thing happens to so many bands it’s almost a cliché. If you watch the Eagles documentary, you can see a band struggling with the same types of things, just on a much grander scale. You had a bunch of different song writers, people getting upset that they weren’t having as much say in the band as they wanted about how things are being done. It’s difficult after 20 years to get everyone to agree on stuff, but we did it as long as we could and there just came a point there where there was so much animosity after the Jägermeister tour that we did that, for me, I can’t continue to get up here and do this if I’m not gonna have three guys supporting me on stage. I thought that wasn’t fair for the fans. I would never rip off our fans and try and pretend we’re up there singing “Bro Hymn” and we don’t have each other’s backs 100%. It seems like we’re back to that point now that we are getting along and everything’s cool.

KW: Yesterdays contained a bunch of songs written by Jason Thirsk that you guys never did anything with. Are those all of the songs you have from him or are there more Jason songs lurking around?

JL: It was basically half old songs and then half outtakes from Full Circle era. There are, I think, a few other songs in the vault, not a lot, but some that are Jason written. There’s one called “Feels Like Something” that’s a really cool song, but it was hard to capture his personality without him being here. He definitely had his own way of approaching song writing. It was difficult for that one for all of us to get it right. There’s a few other songs we’d like to get after at some point.

We were hoping this was going to be part of a bigger box set, but Epitaph kind of had different plans. We were just talking about it today about how we eventually do want to do a box set with a lot of songs and redoing other songs, a DVD, and the whole kitchen sink idea.

READ ALSO: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Justin Thirsk, from Chaos Delivery Machine and 98 Mute

KW: Awesome! That kind of goes along with my next question. Justin Thirsk was telling me there are recordings of Jason singing the songs on Unknown Road. Would you guys consider including those songs in the box set?

JL: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking about when we talked about doing the box set because I got the Nirvana box set and what I loved about it is they put every random recording they had on the thing. There was stuff that was recorded at a party on a boom box and, similarly to the X box set, there was some stuff that was just crazy weird and it didn’t even make sense. You could tell it was a demo. That stuff for true fans is the really cool stuff. I think the stuff is really off hand and spur of the moment. If you’re a true fan, like I am, of bands like X and Nirvana and the Clash and Jawbreaker and stuff like that, I want to hear everything. I want to hear every piece of recorded music that they have. I know there’s a few true Pennywise fans who would like the same thing. Every outtake. On [Yesterdays], we kind of just cherry picked a few of the outtakes, but we have tons of outtakes from over the years. And I’m sure that each of us is still pissed that song didn’t make an album. So, I think a lot of people would like to hear those tracks still. I’m hopeful that’s gonna come out sometime next year.

KW: Have you guys talked about or started writing for a new Pennywise album?

JL: We did some wood shedding on a few songs a while back. We’ve been focusing on doing the summer touring, but I know that as soon as we all have songs we’re happy with and we’re ready to get into the studio and start dusting those off we will. I’ve been working on a little side project with some local guys. It’s kind of fun. We practice once a week and have gotten things tight, so that’s fun. I’m always working on songs and little side bands and things like that, but when everyone in Pennywise is ready to get in the studio, I’ll be there.

KW: What is the name of your side project?

JL: It’s called WRATHS and we just recorded an EP the other day. It’s with Steve McCall from 1208, Chris Kranes from the Darlings, and this guy Drew on drums.

KW: Awesome!

JL: Yeah, it’s really cool.

KW: Will you guys be doing any touring at all or at least local shows?

JL: Yeah, we might play some shows when everyone hears it and if people like it and want us to play. I like it because it doesn’t sound like anyone else really. It’s something you’ll hear and won’t go, “They’re trying to sound like NOFX,” or trying to be some other band. It’s all pretty unique music. It’s still hard though. I think it’s cool.

KW: For people who might be expecting something Pennywise sounding, can you describe the sound?

JL: Yeah, no, it really doesn’t sound like Pennywise at all. [laughs]. There’s one song that kind of has a Dag Nasty sound. Steve is great at guitar. He uses a lot of effects and has a really interesting approach to the guitar. He’s a guitar head. He likes unique instruments. They had probably ten songs written and I just came in and put words to them and lyrics. It came really easy and recording the songs, we did seven songs in one day. The whole thing only took two days because we knew the stuff so well after only practicing like eight or nine times, so it’s been really easy.

When you don’t have 25 years of baggage [laughs] to deal with, it’s really easy to just get in there and bang out some songs. That was fun, but everyone in the band has other bands and different things they’re doing. It was kind of like, “Hey we’ve got these songs. Do you know anyone who would want to sing on ‘em?” I was like, “S**t, I’ll sing the s**t out of those things. [laughs]

KW: Do you have an idea on when people can expect to hear the EP?

JL: Well, we just recorded it. [laughs] In fact, we have to talk about how it’s gonna look. In 2014, how you release music is extremely different than ten years ago and almost a year ago. These days, a lot of people just put it on Youtube [laughs], that’s all they have to do. If there’s any musicians out there, speaking of that, retaining the masters is a really good thing, you know? There was a time when you didn’t feel like you were legitimate unless you were on a record label, but these days, it’s very easy to get your music out there and you own the rights to it. That’s a really good thing for a musician when musicians have been s**t upon for the last decade and a half with what’s going on in the digital world. That’s one of the good things when it comes to digital distribution of music. You can control all your rights and how you want to do things now instead of some Barney at the record label.

KW: Will you ever write the definitive Pennywise biography?

JL: Oh, man. I think everyone in the band would have to be dead. [laughs] I’d really like to. I have kind of like a group of books that I want to write that are relating to punk music in a lot of different ways and part of that will be kind of my experience in it. Pennywise is, was, and always will be a very dysfunctional band just due to the characters involved. Me being probably one of the biggest. It doesn’t mean I’m not extremely proud of what we’ve done, but like many other bands, we’ve got some serious psychosis going on in the band and I think every band should have a licensed therapist on hand at all times. It might make things easier on ‘em.

Yesterdays from Pennywise is available on Epitaph Records. You can catch Jim Lindberg on tour with Pennywise in Europe starting November 2.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin also writes for New Noise Magazine and plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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