David Marks: You could tell the chemistry was still there. When we started rehearsals we really did pick up where we left off.
Al Jardine: We all had to give up a lot to be on this tour because we all have our own individual bands. I have a new solo album, David has a new solo album and a wonderful book. So everybody had to give up something to receive. It's the legacy that's important.
At what point did the idea of doing an album kick in?
Love: This band has always been about us singing songs Brian writes, so we sat down to hear songs he had.
Wilson: Michael wrote a song called "Daybreak Over the Ocean" and I wrote "Shelter." Joe Thomas [Wilson's chief songwriting collaborator on the album] and I wrote some songs together in 1998.
Did you each bring in songs, or was this strictly a job for Brian?
Bruce Johnston: Brian had scraps of songs and we've just been shoving them together. It's more Brian-heavy than Al or myself. This band is about the songs Brian wrote with different collaborators.
Love: Brian's mainly carrying the lead on our single "That's Why God Made the Radio." We've all got our parts and when you listen to it all coming back . . .
Wilson: It's like heaven.
Love: Yeah, it's like 1965 again.
Wilson: Actually, it's like revisiting an old town you used to live in 20 years ago.
Is there anything that carries over in your songwriting from your Beach Boys work in the '60s and '70s?
Wilson: I tried to make each guy's part mean something. Writing parts for the five guys, when you put it together, it all means something. Each part is important.
How much of the new album will make it into the live sets?
Love: The album doesn't come out until June 5, so maybe by that time we'll incorporate a song. We've got so many recognizable hits, people are showing up saying, "I want to hear 'God Only Knows,' I want to hear 'Wouldn't It Be Nice,' 'California Girls.'" How are you not going to do those songs?
How many songs are you performing each night?
Marks: We've rehearsed at least 50 songs so far. When we did a two-hour show in England a couple years ago we had 50 songs. Actually, the nightly set list will change according the venue, the appropriateness of certain songs. Some are two minutes long and we do [them] exactly like the records.
Is there much negotiating to get the set list together?
Wilson: It's mostly up to Michael. I just want to make sure I get four or five in there.
Wilson: "Please Let Me Wonder," "This Old World" and a few others. Just enough.
How do you put the list together?
Love: There's a big master list that we put together by saying, "OK, which ones are going to be best for the amphitheaters we're doing this time?" It's a collective thing-Brian's got some leads, Al's got some leads, I've got some leads; Bruce, too.
When Brian mentions "This Whole World," a wonderful song from the overlooked "Sunflower" album in 1970, it seems like you're willing to go beyond the big hits and the songs Brian is known for. How far afield are you going?
Marks: I am hoping to do "Summertime Blues," the Eddie Cochran cover, in the set, which Carl [Wilson] and I did.
Jardine: I want to do an environmental message, but also Mike wants to do one we wrote, "All This Is That," which is kind of a spiritual song. It's all a matter of testing on audiences.
Marks: Yesterday at rehearsal, "Cottonfields" came off really well, so that has been becoming one of my favorites. It's an old Leadbelly song. "Heroes and Villains," all the car and surf songs are coming off nice.
When most people talk about the legacy of the Beach Boys, the conversation focuses on the early singles, and the albums "Pet Sounds" and "Smile." In your opinion, what other works are important for understanding the Beach Boys' legacy?
Jardine: The main thing is that we always had a positive message. The sound of it is positive, the lyrics are positive.
Marks: I send people to the "Surfin' USA" album. It has a lot of instrumentals and that was the roots, the base of the band. It also shows Brian's arranging ability for vocal harmony. The guitars meet Four Freshmen harmonies-that's what hit people and they fell in love with it. No one had ever heard anything like it. I also love "Holland," [the 1973 album that includes "Sail On, Sailor"].
Wilson: That's a hard question to answer. Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) has a rock'n'roll thing about it.
Love: What album was "Darlin'" on?
Wilson: "Wild Honey."
Love: "Darlin'" and Carl Wilson doing "I Was Made to Love Her"-oh, my gosh.
Wilson: It kicked ass.
Love: That was a cool album to work on. It had an R&B flavor to it. Brian used a theremin on ["Darlin'"] like he did on "Good Vibrations." They were doing the track at his house in Bel-Air and I went into the kitchen to raid the refrigerator and make some tea. Brian had a health food store back then called the Radiant Radish and I look up and see "wild honey," and the track is pumping and I thought, "I'll make up a song called 'Wild Honey.'" So I made it about a girl and this guy-I was even thinking about Stevie Wonder at the time. What would Stevie Wonder say to his mother about a girl that maybe she didn't want him to get involved with, but he says, "Screw it"-he really digs this chick. That was the premise of the song.
Wilson: It came together [snaps his fingers] just like that.
It feels like everyone is in agreement on where the Beach Boys need to go and how you'll get there. Was there anything in particular that got you all on the same page?
Marks: We picked up right where we left off-the chemistry was there. All successful bands have that: When certain people get together there is one certain fantastic thing.
Jardine: And it's built from there.