The reformed Good Riddance plays Dec. 20 at the Catalyst. The band has asked fans to bring canned food for Grind Out Hunger to the show.

{Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part story. Part one ran last week.]

After establishing themselves as the most popular punk band to come out of Santa Cruz—perhaps ever—Good Riddance was riding high after seven albums on Fat Wreck Chords, the label that had signed them in 1995 and pushed them into punk stardom.

Vocalist and primary songwriter Russ Rankin was proud of their successes, remembering the local punk band he had looked up to, and what it meant to the Santa Cruz scene when they made a mark.

“Bl’ast was my favorite band from Santa Cruz. They still are,” says Rankin. “I felt pride that these guys got out there and put us on the map.”

Still, in some ways, not much had changed for the members of Good Riddance 10 years later.

“I don’t think any of us ever thought we had ‘made it big,’” says bassist Chuck Platt. “We were just guys playing music. I’ve never had a roadie, ever.”

But cracks were starting to show. By the mid-2000s, their process of songwriting had changed quite a bit from the early days, when they’d be practicing five hours a day and writing records in drummer Sean Sellers’ garage. Guitarist Luke Pabich remembers that the shaping of the songs could be incredibly organic.

“Somebody would have a cool riff, and that would lead to another riff, and that would lead to a song,” says Pabich.

Now, thanks to new circumstances and sheer exhaustion, they were no longer the same unit, and it took its toll.

“When we were a working band, we unconsciously put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to enjoy what we were doing,” says Rankin.

A major breakdown was on the way, and it came on May 27, 2007, when the band played the Catalyst, unleashing an epic set of 30 songs that was later released asRemain in Memory: The Final Show.

Platt has one regret, though. “We probably shouldn’t have called our last show the final show,” he says.

Except that it the time, all of the members were absolutely convinced it was.

“It was really it. I held back tears. I choked up. I even choke up now,” says Platt.

“I was 100 percent sure it was the end,” says Pabich. “No doubts. We were just so burned out. I think we were just tired and ready to do other things in life.”

He went back to school, got a business degree and started a family. Platt got a job he still loves with the Santa Cruz sports equipment company Giro. Rankin, a hockey superfan, got a high-profile gig as a hockey scout with a Canadian junior league known for producing NHL stars.

They also all kept playing music, with Rankin remaining in Only Crime, the old-school hardcore band he formed in 2003 with Bane guitarist Aaron Dalbec and punk legend Bill Stevenson, a veteran of Black Flag, Descendants and All. Stevenson had produced their last album, 2006’s My Republic, at his Blasting Room studio in Colorado.

Despite big offers for the band to reunite, Rankin resisted, until Pabich and Platt sat him down one day and explained to him how much they missed the band. And when they first reunited in 2012, Rankin discovered he did, too.

“We’re able to have fun and get along,” he says of playing together now. “Before, I was too busy worrying about stuff I couldn’t control.”

The reunion has gone so well, they’re planning to record a new album with Stevenson, aiming to have something new ready by the end of 2014.  But they don’t want to be held to that, since escaping the pressure they used to put on themselves has been one thing that’s made Good Riddance fun again. Still, they’re writing new songs in preparation.

“We’re playing songs that people, including us, have wanted to hear for a while,” Rankin says of their classic canon. “But if you keep doing that, it becomes basically karaoke.”

 

Good Riddance plays Friday, Dec. 20 at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz at 8pm; $16/$18. Grind Out Hunger will be accepting canned food at the show.