- Sam Jones
- The Offspring rescued the word “fly” from oblivion, establishing a bro-band reputation that will follow them forever.
Offspring bandleader Dexter Holland is reflecting on his group’s pioneering role in the ’90s “bro band” phenomenon, thanks in large part to frat-boy favorites like “Self Esteem” and “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy).” In just a few hours, he’ll be going into the studio to record a new Offspring song, tentatively titled “It Won’t Get Better,” which is about the current opioid epidemic. It’s actually one among many Offspring songs that can be characterized as socially conscious.
“The songs that people mostly know us for are the fun ones,” acknowledges Holland. “But we also have some more serious songs like ‘Gone Away,’ which is about losing someone who’s close to you, and ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright,’ which is a song I wrote about driving through my old neighborhood and realizing that all these kids that I grew up with ended up having lives where really bad things happened. So, there’s some seriousness there, as well.”
The same can be said for Holland’s extra-musical activities. Two decades after he dropped out of college to devote his time to the whole rock ’n’ roll thing, the singer-guitarist decided to take a break from The Offspring to finish up his Ph.D. in molecular biology. It was a sensible thing to do for a rock star who’d published a paper on HIV genomes in the peer-reviewed science journal PLoS One called “Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.”
“I’m specifically interested in virology, and I felt like HIV, which is literally a worldwide pandemic, was the most worthy place to put my efforts,” says the Orange County native. “I’ve been getting a couple of interesting offers from places like UNICEF, but just getting the degree took so much time that I felt like I had to go back to my day job, which is my band.”
As day jobs go, Holland’s doesn’t seem all that bad. Last week, he and his band set sail from Miami to Key West and on to the Bahamas as part of Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise, alongside The Buzzcocks, The Vandals, Lagwagon, The Adolescents and other acts with punk-rock pedigrees.
“When we started, we liked The Ramones and The Sex Pistols and The Dead Kennedys and stuff,” recalls Holland. “We weren’t trained musicians. The only way that we could have been a band that anyone actually knew was to do it the way we did it. We had to do it bratty and punk. So we wrote what came naturally for us at that age, and I’ve come to appreciate that we have these really great live shows where the music is upbeat and fun. So I’m actually very pleased with the way things have gone.”
Before they go back into the studio to finish up their 10th album, The Offspring will be embarking on a three-month tour that encompasses four dozen cities. The first five dates, which includes their Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater appearance — are as part of the Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival.
It’s a combination that’s near and dear to the musician’s heart, having developed his own line of “Gringo Bandito” hot sauces nearly a decade ago.
“I don’t really have a good reason,” he admits, “but I just always liked hot sauce and, being a white guy, there’s no family recipe, right?” So Holland decided to develop one of his own and, after a couple years of trial and error, bottled some to give to friends as a Christmas present. “I just kept going with it, and the response has been so great that it just feels like it’s a real thing. I don’t think I would be passionate about making a salad dressing.”
But the ultimate endorsement came during a subsequent tour. “We went and played Japan maybe eight years ago and Kobayashi was there, the famous hotdog eater.”
Holland invited Kobayashi to host a West Coast taco-eating contest, which has now been going on for five years, and subsequently gave birth to the
current Sabroso festival.
As if all that weren’t enough, this November marks the 20th anniversary of “Pretty Fly,” the song that, despite its underlying sarcasm, became one of the indie-rock world’s defining anthems.
“I always took ‘fly’ to be this kind of word that white people co-opted from the black world, going all the way back to Superfly and other blaxploitation movies,” says Holland, who was determined to write a song about it before the Beastie Boys beat him to the punch. “Once it has been taken up by white culture, it was kind of the opposite of fly, right? I knew that some people would pick up on the obviousness of the fact that the song was taking the piss out of a certain kind of person. And I figured that the guys who thought it was about them would think it was cool and like it. Even if they didn’t get that the joke was on them.”