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Bryan “Dexter” Holland doesn’t talk nostalgically about growing up in 1980s OC. “Everyone was kind of bored. The houses and yards were all the same. There was a sense of oppression, a creepy side to Orange County,” the Offspring front man says. At the time, local hardcore punk bands such as Social Distortion and TSOL were trailblazers, unleashing feelings of frustration, boredom and ennui in the form of three-chord songs belted at high volume. For high-school kids Holland and Greg “Greg K.” Kriesel and school janitor Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman, these bands were an inspiration. They formed the Offspring 25 years ago, and that sense of alienation has fueled their music ever since. “It’s like looking in a rearview mirror,” Holland says.
Writing songs as a 21-year-old, Holland never imagined the Offspring would last this long. The band toiled in obscurity for a decade before punk rock went mainstream in the mid-’90s, then all of a sudden, they blew up with hits “Come Out and Play” and “Self Esteem” from 1994’s Smash. The album sold more than 16 million copies, becoming the world’s highest-selling, independently released full-length. Several gold and platinum albums, multiple world tours, and a Rock Band appearance later, the Offspring are still around—and still in OC.
Their music has changed, kind of. They’ve stretched out musically to touch on metal, ska and Beatles-esque pop, and there’s an eclecticism found on their upcoming, untitled album, due later this year and helmed by veteran producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Bon Jovi). “We don’t want to write the same stuff we did 20 years ago,” Holland says. “Each record is a progression, but they all have that Offspring core.”
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Aside from new influences, they also have a new addition: Pete Parada, former drummer for Face to Face and Saves the Day, is now manning the drum kit. Holland, who dabbled in political songwriting on previous records, says he doesn’t want the band to get pigeonholed. “On this record, the lyrics haven’t all come out yet,” he says. “Insanity is going on in the world.”
Despite songs like the short-but-not-sweet “Neocon” from 2003’s Splinter, Holland says the band confront the world with their songs instead of engaging in partisan politics. “I wouldn’t really say we’re a political band,” he says. “It leaves things open to interpretation and cheapens the value of trying to point out the dangers of a society that’s too uptight.”
The Unity Tour, which has 19 North American dates with 311, puts a halt on the recording process for a while. But it’s the first time the Offspring have been on the road since 2008’s tour for the album Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace. “For me, touring is fun for about two-and-a-half weeks,” Holland says. “After that, you have stinky clothes and aren’t getting any sleep.”
After 25 years, their audiences have changed, too. “They’re getting older,” Holland says. “A lot of them listened to us back in the day, but there are also young kids just finding out about us.” Occasionally, older fans pass their music down to their own offspring (pardon the pun). In full circle, TSOL keyboardist Greg Kuehn, who has known the band for years, recalls watching them at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas with his young children about 10 years ago. “My kids were big fans, and they had a great time seeing the Offspring and getting to meet Dexter after the show,” Kuehn says.
Holland still lives in Huntington Beach; that’s where the band feel comfortable, and they have no plans to leave. His recording studio, D-13; music label, Nitro Records; and hot-sauce company, Gringo Bandito (see Gustavo Arellano’s “Hot Licks,” March 5, 2010) are all within county limits. The Unity Tour winds up in the band’s homeland with a July 24 stop at the Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine and a set on the Main Stage at X-Fest in San Diego. They look forward to the fans’ support, even if the attention can be daunting. “I’m a little nervous to play at the show [in Irvine]. Noodles’ mom will be in the crowd, and I have to watch my language,” Holland says with a chuckle, adding, “We have a special connection with our fans [here]. This is our home.”
This article appeared in print as "Nostalgia: On With the Offspring: Front man ‘Dexter’ Holland recalls growing up in OC."