Few bands have been as influential to the Southern California punk rock scene than Hermosa Beach’s own, Pennywise. For the last 34 years Pennywise has been the gold standard for surfers, skaters, and future musicians alike. With all the craziness that comes with being the lead singer of one of the biggest punk bands on the planet, Jim Lindberg has managed to do it all. We caught up with the punk icon to talk about the surreal life of Jim Lindberg.
Truth is, every rock superhero has an origin story, and Lindberg’s is eye-popping. With a degree in English form UCLA, it should come as no surprise that Lindberg is also a published author.
His book “Punk Rock Dad,” opened eyes and hearts of many in the industry and beyond. The book inspired the documentary, “The Other F Word.” Both focused on the struggles about parenting while being in a punk band. Lindberg said; “it’s tough to be a punk rock hero and to be a good authority figure to your kids.”
With that as a backdrop, it’s his time behind and away from the mic with Pennywise that has made him famous and infamous. Ask all his friends, and Jim is a pretty down-to-earth guy. Ask his fans, and he is a bad-ass punk rocker.
Lindberg is a man of many talents. Not only is he a co-founding member of the band at just 23, but he has also released albums with side projects, such as The Black Pacific, and WRATHS. Just last year he released his first solo album, Songs From “The Elkhorn Trail.”
With songs like “Bro Hymn,” “Victim of Reality,” “Alien,” “Fuck Authority,” and “My Own Country,” just to name a few, Pennywise has become part of our punk rock heritage.
So how did Pennywise get here? The band released the iconic self-titled LP in 1991 on (Bad Religion guitarist) Brett Gurewitz’s Epitaph Records and they have never looked back. They have since released a dozen albums, with their latest, Never Gonna Die in 2018. The album has been hailed by critics as being one of their best albums yet. The rest is history.
Pennywise today remains a sonic experience like no other. The band features Lindberg (vocals), Fletcher Dragge (guitar & backing vocals), Randy Bradbury (bass) and Byron McMackin on Drums.
In more recent times, he has established a role in the BeachLife Festival which announced its 2022 lineup earlier this month. As if that was not enough, Lindberg just announced last Friday, five upcoming shows with Pennywise at the Garden Amp.
Jimmy Alvarez and I were fortunate to catch up with Jim to talk about all of the above.
Jimmy: I remember going to a Pennywise show and it was a Friday night. Not even one chorus into their first song, I got kicked in the head by a crowd surfer and just saw stars and birds flying by. Anyway, it’s been a crazy last couple of years. What have you been up to the last year and a half or so, since I spoke to you last?
Lindberg: Well, like everyone else, it was kind of like when you got kicked in the head. (laughs) Kind of seeing stars the last couple of years. We played some shows last year and did the big, Punk in the Park Fest. But now everyone’s kind of clamping back down again. Just like everybody else we’re just trying to weather the storm and stay as safe as we can, and support everybody. But the music goes on. We’re looking forward to going back out there.
Jimmy: I feel terrible for not knowing this about you – we’ve met a couple of times, and I know you’re an accomplished musician, author, filmmaker, but you’re also one of the organizers of the BeachLife Fest. Tell us a little bit about your involvement.
May 13th- 15th, 2022
Redondo Beach, California
Lindberg: Basically, the short story is Pennywise played a couple shows at a local venue called Saint Rocke, which is owned by Allen Sanford. He put on a few shows at the beach and decided to take it to the next level. So, he contacted me and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about having Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson, Bob Weir, and Violent Femmes for this big show. Did you want to be part of it?” That’s a hard offer to turn down. It started really easily like that, and I was just kind of the face of the festival and just trying to get people to come down. The first year went so well, we just decided to keep doing it. I guess they’ve labeled me the…”Brand Director.” (All laugh) But it’s been really cool, and last year we killed it with Jane’s Addiction and Cage the Elephant.
Jimmy: Yeah, I saw Jane’s there. I’ve gotta tell you, that seemed like a surreal moment in time. It was as if the world stopped moving, while Perry Farrell and the guys did their thing. And it’s a testament to you guys that you were able to pull that off.
Lindberg: Yeah, they were so great. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that they sounded that good. But they just absolutely killed it. Perry told a story that he worked at the Chart House in Redondo Beach that night and everyone that I know that lived down there was telling me, “What? Perry Farrell was serving steak and salad bar?” It made for a great story. It’s just a really cool community vibe down here each year. This year, we’ve got, Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, 311-I can’t wait for it.
Jimmy: I’ve got to ask you. Our own Rachel Contreras is the ultimate Pennywise fan. She said you guys have got a lot of cool merch. She showed me this really cool Pennywise throw that she got from your website. What kind of items are you doing for Pennywise or BeachLife?
Lindberg: My wife will tell you, I’m such an avid collector of all that kind of stuff. I have so many t-shirts in our closet, my wife is ready to kill me. I love band gear and merch. Pennywise had Christmas ornaments this year, blankets, all kinds of stuff. Same with BeachLife. I was involved with that. We partnered with a lot of local artists to make some surf-related graphics. That part is fun, just getting all the gear together. For the Garden Grove shows, we’ll probably do some album-type merch for each of the albums we’re playing.
Kevin: You’re scheduled to do a solo set at BeachLife in March. I’m assuming you’ll be playing some songs off your Songs From The Elkhorn Trail album solo record from last year. Can you tell me what inspired you to finally put out your own album?
Lindberg: You know, I’ve been writing songs since I was like 14 or 15. There’s a song called, “The Basement” that I wrote when I was 15. My friends and family have always been saying, “when are you going to put this stuff out? It’s been over 30 years you’ve been doing this.” I finally listened to them and found my favorite producer, (Grammy Award-winner) Tedd Hutt, who did Gaslight Anthem and Dropkick Murphys. I’m super stoked on the response it’s been getting, even though it’s definitely not as crazy and out there as Pennywise.
Kevin: One of my favorite documentaries is “The Other F Word.” Your book, “Punk Rock Dad “was the inspiration for that doc. I read a while back that actor, Jason Segel had bought the rights to that doc to turn it into a major motion picture. Is that still going to happen at some point?
Lindberg: I hope it does at some point. I saw the script for it years back, and it was killer. Then they have this thing called, “limbo,” and it’s apparently stuck in limbo somewhere. Hopefully someday, someone will put their head out of wherever it is because it’s going to be a big hit when it hits the big screen.
Jimmy: So shifting gears here, everyone in Orange County is losing their minds about Pennywise’s announcement last week. You will be playing five albums in their entirety on five nights: March 4, 5, 11, 12, and 13 at the Garden Amp in Garden Grove. And you’re bringing along bands like T.S.O.L., H20, Adolescents, Chaser, Authority Zero, Strung Out, and Voodoo Glow Skulls. That is going to be one of the most insane shows ever, that is if you survive it. (All laugh)
Lindberg: Yeah, that’s exactly right. If I survive it. I think (Pennywise guitarist) Fletcher suggested it and I said that’s insane, it will never work. But it’s hard to say no to Fletcher. We were lucky enough to get a great group of guys and bands to come out and join us. But I’ve got a lot of cramming to do. That’s a lot of lyrics to try and remember.
Jimmy: What’s always amazed me about artists, is how do you remember all those words? I do a two-hour radio show and write everything down and still forget about half the stuff I’m supposed to say.
Lindberg: It is hard. I remember the first time we did a full album show, I usually have our setlist on the floors. For this, I had about six pages on the ground, and it looked like I had newspaper set out for the cat (laughs). I had all my little cheat sheets, but then I couldn’t even read them, so I ended up having to memorize them anyway. It’s worth it, though. It’s fun to get back into those albums and get to play those songs we never play.
Kevin: It’s funny that you mention that. I just saw T.S.O.L. play a show celebrating the 4oth anniversary of “Beneath the Shadows.” Sure enough, Jack Grisham’s got a music stand up there with the lyrics, because some of those songs they haven’t played in 30 years.
Jimmy: That’s funny. Jim, I don’t know if you’ve done this, but I know John Doe of X very well. I’ve seen him at shows, and he will literally write lyrics and announcements on his arm with a Sharpie.
Lindberg: Oh, I’ve done that. I’ve done that for sure. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
Kevin: Coming from the energy and aggression of a Pennywise show, how different is it to be performing live solo acoustic at BeachLife? Is it intimidating to be playing stripped down, by yourself?
Lindberg: Yes. (dramatic pause)… (all laugh)
Kevin: Moving on….(laughs)
Lingberg: That’s a one-word answer for you. Yeah, especially because I wrote a ton of Pennywise songs on the guitar. I think I can handle myself pretty well on an electric guitar with a lot of distortion. But the acoustic guitar, you’re laying it all out there. Luckily, I’ve been playing with some really cool guys and have some backup. But yeah, it’s definitely more intimidating because I should have probably taken a couple more guitar lessons back in the day (all laugh).
There are few people in the industry that can talk the talk and walk the walk… but Lindberg is one of those who can. His persona fits the band perfectly. Keep an eye on Lindberg and Pennywise in 2022, big things are coming!