Jim Lindberg has no interest in sugarcoating things, which makes sense considering he’s spent most of his adult life trafficking in unvarnished, no-punches-pulled punk rock.
The big question before the veteran singer is reached at his home in Hermosa Beach, California, is whether he’s going to take the Fifth on what happened with Pennywise or whether he’s going to dish the kind of details that make for the best Behind the Music episodes. Almost as soon as he picks up the phone, it becomes obvious that he’s got plenty to get off his chest.
In 2009 Lindberg had a high-profile split with Pennywise, leaving the band so he could concentrate on raising a family that included three young children. Guitarist Fletcher Dragge, bassist Randy Bradbury, and drummer Byron McMackin promptly soldiered on with replacement singer Zoli Téglás for the group’s 2012 album, All or Nothing. At the risk of understating things, Lindberg was not impressed.
“I’m sure there are plenty of people on Facebook who said ‘Zoli is rad’ and that All or Nothing was a great record, but it was pointless to me because it was a fraud,” the singer says candidly. “It’s one thing if they wanted to start another band and play new music. But to put a hat on a guy and pretend that he was me, to have him singing songs about friends of mine who have passed away—well, all the authenticity is gone. I’m sorry if that’s painful for them to hear, but it’s the truth.”
As for how he ended up leaving Pennywise in the first place, the singer says that by the end of the ’00s, after 20 years together, communication in the band had practically ground to a halt. By 2009, Lindberg was trying to balance the demands of fatherhood with being in a touring band. What he learned was that explaining what it’s like to have kids to those who don’t have them can be an impossible task.
“In a recent interview,” Lindberg offers, “Fletcher said, ‘I didn’t care at all about Jim’s family and what his concerns were. I just wanted to go and play shows and drink until 5 in the morning, and I didn’t want to hear his complaining about it.’ And that was absolutely true. Looking back at that time, he was like, ‘I just want to go out and tear it up, and you’re holding me back.’ Instead of looking at it like ‘Wow, I got here because of your help.’ Instead of it being four guys contributing to a band, he was very much in the mode of ‘I don’t care what anyone says—I just want to do my thing.’
“You can’t really fault him for that,” he continues. “In our lyrics, we preach a lot of doing what you want to do, but at the same time it made things kind of impossible to be in a band together. I was taking a lot of grief for not being able to go on the road, and eventually it just got to the point where I said, ‘I’m the singer in this band, and you can’t talk to me that way. I deserve some respect.’ ”
Lindberg describes the months before his departure as “out of control and over control, and out of my control”, noting that he wasn’t happy on the road or in the studio while recording 2008’s Reason to Believe. The bitterness in both camps didn’t stop after the split, with lengthy emails flying back and forth, and Dragge taking shots at Lindberg in the press. The singer, who stresses that he’s not entirely without blame for Pennywise’s past problems, says that he was surprised when Dragge called him up to talk last year.
Noting that, at that time, he couldn’t have been further removed from the band, Lindberg says: “I knew we could get to a place where we could all still enjoy playing music and making music together. It was just going to take some perspective, and for some people to remember that this band is important.”
Pennywise’s now-reinstated frontman says his first order of business is repairing the damage done to the band’s legacy over the past three years. As for convincing his bandmates that family needs to be made a priority, that’s evidently no longer the challenge it once was.
“The drummer in the band, Byron, had a kid, and I’ve never seen a more 180-degree turnaround,” Lindberg says. “He’s been very different in the way that I approached things like touring. He just says, ‘No—I’ve got a kid and I can’t go that long,’ whereas I would try and have a meeting and explain why I could only go for a certain amount of time. He’s much smarter than I was. Some people might call that selfish, but I admire him because he’s putting his family first and saying, ‘If you don’t like it—too bad.’ ”
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