Pennywise: New Album, New Singer, Same Contentious Vibe

Punk and hardcore bands aren't usually known for lineup stability, but Hermosa Beach, California, rockers Pennywise had a pretty solid run for their first 20 years of existence.

Beyond the death of bassist Jason Matthew Thrisk (they dedicated "Bro Hymn" to him) Pennywise's lineup remained solid as the band toured relentlessly and released an album every couple of years. When singer Jim Lindberg decided to leave the band in 2010 to focus on his family, it seemed entirely reasonable that the band would call it quits.

But they didn't. Zoli Téglás of OC hardcore band Ignite stepped in, and though it took some adjustment to Pennywise's style, he's pulled it off and has released a new record, All or Nothing, with the band.

Pennywise is scheduled to perform Thursday, May 24, at Marquee Theatre

Up on the Sun: You played a couple of shows with Pennywise before you were invited to be a permanent member. What was that like? I read that one of your first shows was a hometown show. That must have been pretty daunting.

Zoli Téglás: Yeah, my first show with them was their hometown in front of 75,000 people at the Smokeout Festival. The first three shows were at home, fronting Pennywise. It was difficult, to say the least.

What happened was, after I got the gig, I still didn't feel comfortable being the singer of Pennywise yet. They have 25 years of growing together, working together, [and] becoming a unit. Then you got a new singer that's singing the old singer's songs in an entirely different vocal range than he did -- I have a higher voice and different mannerisms. I can't just go out and try to emulate Jim [Lindberg], but I can't lie, either. It was a difficult thing, you have to be yourself, but at the same time you have to be yourself playing Pennywise because people want to see Pennywise, not Zoli's version of Pennywise.

I didn't get the gist of the whole Pennywise world until we went to South America. For some reason on stage in Sao Palo, and Jesus Christ, everything clicked, I've been very comfortable on stage from that point on. I needed to play and tour with these guys to finally get my groove with this band. It takes a minute.

Tell me about the recording process of All or Nothing. Did you have to consciously remind yourself that you're writing Pennywise songs, not Ignite songs, or did it come naturally at that point?

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You've got people with Pennywise tattoos on their backs. They've adorned their body with Pennywise tattoos -- Pennywise fans are really, really dedicated. You've got a guy from the band Ignite, which is a completely different sound. I'm not here to write a Zoli album and I'm not here to write an Ignite album. I'm here to write a Pennywise album, so how do you do that? We all collaborated and beat the crap out of the songs. We would take a song and go over it, and go over it, and go over it and, well, that sounds too much like Ignite, that doesn't sound enough like Pennywise. We put blood, sweat, and tears, and a lot of arguing and a lot of compromise . . . It was a lot of work; tons of work. A lot of sacrifice, it was a lot of believing in your side and sticking to it. When you work with a guy like Fletcher Dragge, it's like going to get a root canal every day in Afghanistan with a wooden spoon, that's how fun it was. It was a very difficult time, but I think it was worth it because the album that came out turned out to be really good.

Do you think the challenging environment made for a better end result?

This is the thing about bands and writing albums. There's a couple bands that really get along and are nice and kind to each other, like U2 and Coldplay, and then there's bands like Rage Against the Machine and Korn that have to have strife and turmoil to make that sound that they're looking for. I think if it wasn't for the environment that it was, we wouldn't have made this album. I told Randy [Bradbury, bassist], the fans are either going to love it, or they're going to totally hate it. I didn't know what to think of it, I didn't listen to it for the first two months. I couldn't figure out if it was good or not.

What do you think of it now?

The reason why I like it now is because the fans like it. Say you front The Misfits [in 2000, Teglas did] and you write this album. It might be an album that you really love, but the fans will be like, 'This sucks.' I like it now because I've had so much experience with people that are giant Pennywise fans.

One guy came up to me teary-eyed in Salt Lake City, thanking me for keeping this band alive. [He shared] how scared he was that I was fronting the band because he didn't believe in my scene. He was thanking me up and down while he shook my hand and gave me a giant hug for keeping his favorite band alive. He's got his whole body tattooed with Pennywise lyrics. It's very important that the fans like it, way more than if I like it. Who cares if I like it?

You and Fletcher butted heads quite a bit. Is that just in the studio, or do you have your share of conflict on the road as well? One quote that comes to mind is when you said you weren't sure if you'll write another album because you guys may kill each other in the process.

[Laughs] It's a shtick between me and Fletcher. We went out to dinner on tour. It's funny -- I'm very close to these guys; we're good friends. Me and Fletcher talk on the phone every night. He's an alpha male. It's hard to give your opinion as the new guy coming into his world. When it comes to music, he just won't stop. As a singer, you've got to hold your ground on some things, so it's not like a personal beef that we have -- it's a professional musical thing.

Fletcher and I are friends, and I respect him a lot as a musician. He's really difficult to work with sometimes. It's a good guy/bad guy kind of deal. They love drama and, in the studio, when it comes to music, we're very serious. I rescue pelicans, he rescues dogs from dog fighting, and he helps people get into relocation centers. He's a good guy. When it comes to music, we argue a lot, but we're screaming at each other in the studio, then we laugh about it. It's not a violent thing, it's kind of like Laurel and Hardy, except he's a seven-foot-tall sasquatch.

But I know deep down inside he's a little pussycat -- he really is. He's a little baby, so that's why I kind of get at him too because he doesn't intimidate me, he doesn't scare me, so I'm the only one in the band I think that he can't push around.

How has Jim reacted to you taking over, or have you heard anything from him?

I asked Jim for his blessing. I called him up, I said, "Jim, they're asking me to take over for you and stuff, can I have your blessing, is it okay?" Because we're friends and I want to make sure that I'm personable, number one, and that I'm doing a good job. He wrote these songs almost 20 years ago and I'm just stepping in and just karaokeing your sound and I don't want to do that, I want to believe it, I want to know what these songs are about. Can I come over and can we have dinner and can you go over these songs with me? He said, "You know, Zoli, you'd be the number one person I'd want to represent and replace me in Pennywise, and you do have my blessing."

I stayed friends with him. I call him on occasion to try to talk to him. I guess he's doing really well, him and his wife. He wanted to spend more time with his family. He's a good guy, he's very talented, I think Black Pacific did really good, that album's great.

So, no hard feelings.

No, no way. When I was [fronted] The Misfits, I called Danzig twice. I loved that gig, I was getting paid really good money and it was like, I was a young kid and I'm fronting the Misfits, I was like, "Dude, you gotta come back, man. You gotta come back, everyone wants you, everyone wants to hear you sing these songs."

I go day to day with Pennywise and I'm very thankful for all of the opportunities that I've got singing in this band and singing Jim's songs. That's why it's been so important for me to do it right.

What does you joining Pennywise mean for Ignite?

We have about three new songs for Ignite that I just want to put out online. Ignite fans are very important to me as well, and Ignite is a very important band in people's lives, as is Pennywise, bringing people through tough times as well. I want to make sure that I don't let them down, my fans are very important to me and I love Ignite, so we're going to do three songs and we're just going to put them out online, then three songs and put them out online, and we'll just keep doing that. Between Pennywise, I just had a brand new baby, it's been really, really busy, so my next step is to do some new music as well.

How do you keep up with all of that?

I'm tired [laughs], a lot of coffee and not too much sleeping.

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