It's been a long, weird road for Pennywise, the iconic punk band from Hermosa Beach, but the past five years may have been the strangest. Their new album, Yesterdays, features the return of singer/founding member Jim Lindberg, who stepped off the hamster wheel of touring and recording in 2009 to stay home with his wife and three kids.
"It was time for a break," Lindberg says. "The other guys wanted to keep going right away, and unfortunately, it led to a split. . . . It was time for me to reconnect with my family."
Pennywise soldiered on after Lindberg's departure with Ignite front man Zoli Téglás, who performed with the band for about three years and provided vocals on the 2012 album All or Nothing. Sadly, during a show in Germany, Téglás was hurt and needed emergency back surgery. Lindberg and guitarist Fletcher Dragge had quietly mended fences since the split, and with Téglás ready to leave the band, the door was open for Lindberg's return.
"We were due to have Jim back–let's put it that way," Dragge says. "We wanted him back, and he wanted to come back, and it all worked out."
After some international and West Coast tour dates, the reunited members of Pennywise cut Yesterdays, their 11th album, out July 15 on Epitaph Records. The 11 tracks come from the group's backyard party days, and many were written by deceased bassist Jason Thirsk in the late '80s and early '90s.
"The core part of the album [is] the songs that Jason wrote, which reflect the whole PMA [Positive Mental Attitude] that he created in the band," Lindberg says. " I thought it was really daring to be a punk band that wasn't singing about how everything sucks, and instead singing about how things could get better."
The band tracked the album over a few quick days in a Hermosa Beach studio. "We just got in a room and said, 'Fuck it, we're playing these old songs; we're having fun,'" Dragge says.
Recovering the roots of Pennywise's punk rock after 25 years was crucial to Yesterdays. "We were definitely more of a melodic hardcore band back then, in the style of 7 Seconds and Descendants. There's a lot of cool bass lines going on and a lot more melody than we had on later albums," Lindberg says. "Going back to these songs kind of opens the door to say, 'Hey, we played this style of music when we were starting out; there's nothing wrong with opening it up a little bit.'"
After some local album-release shows, Pennywise will hit the road for the 2014 Summer Nationals tour, with Epitaph alumni such as Bad Religion and the Offspring. It's the healing at home, though, that has made the road rewarding again.
"We were at a birthday party last night in Hermosa, and Jim got up and started singing with the band," Dragge says. "Before you knew it, he was singing four or five songs, and I was playing guitar, and we did 'Bro Hymn.' That kind of stuff wouldn't have happened five or six years ago because we weren't in that place. But last night, we were just up there randomly, rockin' out, having a good time, and I guess that's a good testament to how things are going these days. It's all about the fun."