Touring the country in a smelly, run-down van isn't responsible for the Goo Goo Dolls' breakthrough -- the pop gem "Name" did that -- but a decade of swindling cigarettes from bartenders, snagging showers in college gyms and winning fans one dive-bar gig at a time makes for some good back-in-the day stories for lead singer John Rzeznik. One vivid memory? The art of finagling a place to sleep from strangers.
"Generally, when somebody invites you to their house to spend the night, you gotta stay up and party with them." said Rzeznik, 48. "So we learned that we had to do it in shifts. 'All right, it's Tuesday night, you gotta stay up and party with these people. We're gonna get some sleep.'"
But the days of being "little hustlers" are distant memories for the successful post-grunge trio, who have sold more than 10 million albums since the release of "A Boy Named Goo," their 1995 breakout. The band shares a bill with Daughtry and the Plain White T's at a concert July 23 at Rabobank Arena.
Though they started out in Buffalo, N.Y., as a fiery little punk outfit, opening for acts like D.R.I. and The Dead Milkmen, it would be in the rock radio format that the Dolls would make their mark. The band's peak came in 1998 with the release of the single "Iris," featured on the "City of Angels" soundtrack and the band's "Dizzy Up the Girl" album. That song is still a mainstay at weddings and karaoke bars and probably the main reason Rzeznik was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame a few years ago.
So who is this Iris?
"I came up with the name for 'Iris' because I didn't have a name for that song and I needed one," Rzeznik said. "I was reading an LA Weekly and came across the name Iris DeMent (a singer/songwriter). Check her out; great singer.
"I just thought she had a cool- sounding name."
The band's output has remained consistent -- generally a new album every three years or so. "Magnetic," the latest album, expands the Dolls' set list (their show is nearly two hours) while slightly modernizing the trio's established sound.
But the changes extend to personnel as well, with the departure in December of drummer Mike Malinin, just shy of his 14th anniversary with the band. He has been replaced by Craig Macintyre, whom Rzeznik champions as "a truly fearless musician."
As for the split, no one can say what goes on among bandmates but publicly, at least, both sides are taking pains to be civil. Malinin, on his Twitter page, wishes the band the best of luck. Rzeznik, too, is tactful, if a bit elusive.
"You know, um, that's kind of a good question ... but, you know, it was just time to part ways. I don't know. ... It was just sort of time for all of us to move on. I wish him the best -- he's doing really well. It was mutually good for all of us."
Co-headliner Daughtry -- named for lead singer and "American Idol" alum Chris Daughtry -- has a new release (and a new drummer) as well. "Baptized" experiments with the band's middle-of-the-road, post-grunge rock, the apotheosis of which came with the mid-tempo, synth-tinged 2013 single "Waiting for Superman."
Opening the show are the Plain White T's, who launched onto the national stage in 2007 with the acoustic ditty "Hey There Delilah," which has become the band's signature song.
At every show, a $1,000 guitar signed by all the bands' members will be sold. Proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior project, a charity that impresses and motivates Rzeznik.
"I had a chance when I was down in Texas, maybe an hour outside of Austin, there's a hospital where they're just advancing prosthetic limbs to the point where there are guys just walking around in the place -- you wouldn't even know they had a prosthetic on.
"I mean, it was really brilliant, man! It was a great place. Everybody's in the gym working out, listening to heavy metal. These guys are badasses."