Within the first mi-nute of conversation, Al Jardine is marveling about the fact that the Beach Boys are together again, celebrating 50 years of music, with a new album called "That's Why God Made the Radio" and a tour with a setlist that reflects half a century of sunny surf songs.
"It's truly amazing that we're cognizant enough," he starts. "No, that's the wrong word, that we're capable enough of delivering the goods at this high of a level for a 50-song set."
Jardine is funny, candid, self-deprecating and acutely aware that the history of America's original party band includes more than a few chapters that are not at all "Fun, Fun, Fun."
The guitarist and singer was one of the founding members of the legendary band and he performed as a Beach Boy through the late '90s, when the death of another founding member, Carl Wilson, caused the band to splinter into a situation where members with different names for their projects played Beach Boys tunes. Jardine's project was called the Endless Summer Band.
He says the years of playing these classic songs without his fellow founders necessitated a little adjustment when all of the surviving members came together again.
"We had to get used to everybody's personalities in the band, because we didn't use our own bands," he says. "Brian, for the most part, used his own band, because he's the most sensitive to that as his people have been a component to his resurrection, really. He's really insistent on keeping that chemistry together, and we went along with it."
The Brian he's speaking of, is of course the genius in residence, Brian Wilson, who stopped touring with the band in the mid '60s to focus on writing and producing the band's albums (as well as to reduce the stress on his notoriously fragile psyche). But even the pressures of producing, coupled with drug use, caused Brian Wilson to have a nervous breakdown when the Beach Boys were at their creative peak. The album that Wilson was working on with the band, "SMiLE" went unfinished for almost 40 years until that resurrection period Jardine mentioned.
But Jardine seems very happy to have so many members who are so close to Wilson on the stage with him.
"For the first time in the history of our music-making, we've had enough people on stage to do all the parts," he says. "We overdubbed so much -- we were like harmony fanatics -- that we never could put all of it together in one place at one time. Now you have the original voices and pretty darn good players and singers doing the parts that the three or four of us haven't ever done. We used to combine everything, like in 'Good Vibrations.'"
They've got the sounds of "Good Vibrations" down, but are there actual good vibes between all of the members?
"It's a good sign for the world, that these guys, these litigious Beach Boys have been able to bury the hatchet," he says. "We can still share a positive thing. The good vibrations are alive and well -- let's put it that way -- in this band."
Do it again
So how did the reunion happen? Jardine says he's somewhat responsible for it.
"I was inundated with requests and pleas, and I said, 'You know, it's the right thing to do. We're going to do it and don't worry about it.'"
"And I kept saying it until it became true. ... I didn't want to let anybody down once I started saying it, so I had to come through, big time. ... It was inevitable because of the milestone we were approaching. ... And Brian showed some signs of life by delivering a couple cool tracks to Capitol, and they said, 'Hey, I like that, let's make a whole album,' and he said, 'Yeah, with the Beach Boys.'"
"He wanted to do it with us, and not a solo thing. And everything came together."