by Leslie Krouse
Pennywise is one of the most significant bands to emerge from Southern California’s second wave of punk rock. Formed in 1988 in Hermosa Beach, California, Pennywise has released nine full-length studio albums; one live album; two extended plays; and one DVD. Their most recent studio effort, Reason to Believe, was released to over 500,000 fans for free through a limited offering from Myspace Records. The critically acclaimed album was also sold physically and digitally the world over. “The Western World,” the first single from this watershed album, quickly became the most successful single of the band’s storied career.
After months of searching, the members of Pennywise announced that Ignite vocalist Zoli Teglas is now officially the new front man. After the sudden departure of former singer Jim Lindberg, a member of Pennywise for 19 years, guitarist Fletcher Dragge called Teglas a “natural choice” to take over the vocal duties for the band. Calling it quits was never in the cards for the remaining members of Pennywise. “We love this, we love going on the road,” Dragge explains, “There’s nothing more important to me than being on stage in front of our fans and having them sing our lyrics back at us and feel the energy. This has become so much bigger than just us as a band. It’s become a family and a brotherhood of people that I feel depend on us.”
The second I heard that Pennywise had given the lead to Zoli; I got straight on the phone and set up this interview. I’m glad I did. Here is some insight into the man who has jumped into a position most musicians may have shied away from. Taking on Pennywise Fans!
RIS: Congratulations! So how is this new experience treating you?
Zoli: Great, I’ve known these guys for a long time. I always jumped on their bus when we’d go on tour with them. It’s fun; we’d play practical jokes on each other. I come from a totally different writing style. Working with Pennywise is making my writing style move forward by leaps and bounds. I’m becoming a much better writer because of Pennywise, and it’s great. Fletcher actually wants to video tape our recording process. The stuff we say to each other is so cutting, hurtful, and mean, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the songs we are working on. It’s just a group of friends ragging on each other. It’s pretty funny.
RIS: Speaking of Fletcher, he had said that you bring a new passion back to the band. What do you feel you bring to Pennywise?
Zoli: We were just talking about that. Because I stand for a lot of different causes, I want to sit down with the band and talk about them. I’ve been rescuing Pelicans for about 15 years now. When I was a teen I was thrown in Jail, so I had to work it off somewhere. I opened a book for the judge and pointed to a picture of a pelican, and he sent me to work at this rehab center. From there I got involved with the Sea Sheppard Conservation Society. My family is European, so we had to move over there when I was a kid. I ended up being raised in a communist country, so I was politically educated from an early age. So when I got back to the states, I became very involved in political causes. I want to try to add some of that passion into our music. We are working really hard to write an album that emulates Pennywise’s earlier work, with melodic music and aggressive vocals. We want to tour as much as possible, and play for Pennywise fans all over the world. To me the live shows are most important. I think this new album is going to be either a make or break album. So I’m putting 100% into it.
RIS: As far as all the music, you basically had to learn every “verse” of every Pennywise song. Is that something you have already known through the years, or is this something you really had to focus on?
Zoli: Yeah, the verses have a lot of word in them. I knew the choruses “we’re the ones, only ones, strong ones, proud ones, we’re living for today.” Jim from Pennywise sings the songs on the top of the verse. Almost like the vocals start the music. With Ignite, and the Misfits, and some of the other bands I’ve been a part of, we’d start at the back of the beat, which meant the vocals were placed at the back of the songs. This is a completely opposite “verse way” then what I’m use to singing. Which is kind of cool, because now I get to learn a different way to sing, and write songs.
RIS: When are we going to be able to hear the New Album?
Zoli: We’ve got about 15 songs right now. One is almost completely finished. I don’t want to rush this album. Everyone who is a Pennywise fan will buy this album, just because they are curious about how it’s going to sound. So if the album sucks, they are not going to buy the next one. My whole purpose is to help them make this the best album Pennywise has ever done.
RIS: Do you feel a lot of pressure stepping into Jim’s shoes?
Zoli: Yeah, because there are a lot of people with Pennywise tattoo’s. Pennywise has fans that really, really believe in them. It’s not like a Nickelback fan that just likes the lyrics or the harmony. Pennywise fans have been raised for 20 years on the music. These guys are diehard fans, and I don’t want to let them down. I’m the new singer in their (the fans) band. I want to make sure I don’t let them down, musically or on stage.
RIS: Let’s talk about your causes. You and your family are pretty involved with the Pacific Wildlife Project, what is that all about?
Zoli: My brother is the head veterinarian for Pacific Wildlife. It’s a rehab center for sea birds in Laguna Niguel. I started a non-profit organization called Pelican Rescue. I work with Danny Thompson, drummer for Face to Face, he’s a really cool guy, and he’s out there helping to rescue these birds quite a bit. We go out about 3 times a week to rescue injured birds. There was just an oil spill off the coast: the Ocean is a fucking mess right now. We also get a lot of musician volunteers from the punk rock community. It’s cool, because if you have any outstanding moving violations (tickets), and you come and volunteer to help rescue some birds, instead of paying the man (Fuck the Authority) I can write the tickets off. The United States Fish and Game, have licensed me to write off tickets for people that help out. You can sign up for the coarse, I think it costs $50.00, but we just had a guy out there that owed about 2 grand, he volunteered, and we signed the tickets off. I’ll save you some money. If you’re interested you can sign-up on to the site at www.pacificwildlife.org
RIS: Who are your influences, music wise?
Zoli: I listen to a lot of Pennywise. I also listen to the Misfits, and Bad Brains. English punk rock bands like, GBH and One Way System, and a lot of Social Distortion, and a lot of Black Flag. Those are my influences, right there.
RIS: Any shout outs?
Zoli: I want to say WHAT’S UP to my friends at the Sea Sheppard Conservation Society; they are in Antarctica right now. They have stopped Japanese whalers from killing for the last 3 weeks. And I want to say what’s up to my dad; he just had open-heart surgery. He’s so stoked I’m playing for Pennywise, and I want to send him my love.
Wow, what a great guy, with a big heart, and an even bigger voice. I think he and Pennywise make a great fit. Be sure to catch them here in San Diego on March 12 at the HOB, or come hang with us up in Reno at the wrap up party for the Ultimate Border.