Following the release of their breakthrough album and third overall with Smash, the Offspring were beyond riding high. They had multiple hit singles with “Come Out and Play,” “Self Esteem” and “Gotta Get Away.” Former USC student Dexter Holland, who earned a BS in biology and MA in microbiology became an unlikely rock star and the Garden Grove natives were all over MTV and set the all-time record for most units sold by a non-major label band with a total 16 million records.
Not bad, right?
Well, with expectations sky high for the follow-up, the band was going through some internal issues. Everything was fine between the respective members, but the band was battling then-label Epitaph before eventually jumping to Columbia. The resulting record, which was written during the squabble, ended up being the band’s fourth, Ixnay on the Hombre.
“That was a difficult time, for sure,” Holland recalls. “It was weird as far as changing labels. At that time, it was a big deal when you went to a major label. It was kind of like, ‘Are those guys sell outs?’ There was a real stigma attached to it. We were genuinely concerned about it because we tried to stay true to the indie spirit. The fact of no matter what we did, it was probably going to be perceived as a sophomore slump. At the time though, it was like ‘Gosh, I hope it goes over.’”
Released in Feb. 1997, the album is beloved by diehard Offspring fans. Featuring singles “All I Want” and “Gone Away,” Ixnay did well, but not 16 million well. But there’s a certain soft spot that the album holds for fans and for the Offspring. Another plus to signing with Columbia is that they stayed away from the in-demand band and let them do as they pleased due to the clout of having a hit with Smash.
“We also didn’t want to just repeat what Smash sounded like,” the singer says. “We wanted to expand the boundaries of what we were doing musically. I’m really glad we did because we set the stage to do lots of stuff later on. Now, it’s sort of become a fan favorite since there, and I mean this a positive way, but we went to do our Pinkerton now.”
The album deviated a bit from the band’s West Coast punk roots more towards a harder rock sound. Yet, it kept them firmly entrenched KROQ’s heavy rotation, which enabled them to continue to cement themselves in the Southern California music landscape as a band that wasn’t going away.
In hindsight, the album was a turning point for the band. Their next record, 1998's Americana, saw the Offspring once again soar to commercial heights forged upon by Smash. But if not for Ixnay serving as the transitional album that bridged both of those sounds, Americana’s success may not have happened.
“Once we did different kinds of songs our way, it wasn’t such a stretch to do songs like ‘Pay the Man’ or ‘Get a Job,’” he explains. “I’m glad that we did it that way.”
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In 2014, the Offspring toured behind the 20th anniversary of Smash. Instead of doing the same for Ixnay, they’re only doing three club shows back where it all began in Orange County. Citing tour commitments, Holland says that the band initially wanted to do the shows earlier in the year but always to keep the celebration “small and local.” Taking place next week, the band will be performing the album in full, and the shows will feature a costume contest — which will go over well on Halloween, which happens to be night two.
The legacy of Ixnay remains cemented in Offspring folklore. Even today, Holland says the fans will receive request for obscure tracks from that album, like “Mota.” Either way, the band is proud of Ixnay and its status as a cult album within their catalog.
“The longer we’ve toured in the past couple of years, the better the response has ever been,” Holland says. “It’s like what is going on? The songs are still the songs, somehow they’re being received better. Maybe the longer you know it, it became engrained after a certain point. I’m noticing a lot of kids who weren’t born in ’97 when this record came out. It’s interesting how they got to it, but it’s really cool and flattering. We can’t usually play some of these songs during our regular set because people are just not familiar with it. It’s going to be fun to play this music to an audience that’s so receptive to it.”
The Offspring perform at the Observatory Oct 30-31 and Nov. 2. For tickets and full details, click here.