Good Charlotte: “Philly is the Reason that We Made it Out of Maryland.”
Good Charlotte, the pop punk rock band from Waldorf, Maryland, has returned to the music scene.
The group, which formed in 1996, features Joel Madden on lead vocals, Benji Madden on vocals and rhythm guitar, Paul Thomas on bass guitar, Dean Butterworth on drums and Billy Martin on keyboard and lead guitar. After more than a decade of hits, they took a hiatus in 2011.
They will perform tonight at The Fillmore. Our McCall Cox spoke with bassist Paul Thomas about the band’s new music, touring again and returning to the City of Brotherly Love.
So Good Charlotte is officially back. How has it been for you all to be back together with new music and world tours?
It’s been very great. We took about five years off and everybody went home and made families and had something else to do other than the band, because we started doing this when we were sixteen. We just never stopped. So it was a well-needed break.
But it made us come back ready to work more than ever. So it’s been really good. And we’re doing everything all in-house now: management and label and all that stuff. The twins (Joel and Benji Madden) are pretty much running it through their company MDDN. And it’s just great because we get to do whatever we want to do. We don’t have people telling us what we have to do or anything like that. We’re just happy we’re doing things on our own terms.
And man, the fans have just been showing up to the shows and making us feel really good—singing loudly and telling us that they’ve been listening to us since the fifth grade and now they’re old enough to come to the show. It’s really cool, it’s really heartwarming. Every show has been really great.
Good Charlotte’s newest album, Youth Authority, was released in mid-July. How was recording this album different from the others? What inspired the album’s name?
The album’s name? It was just kind of throwing it out there that, you know, who’s really in charge of our careers anyway.
The youth is the authority. They tell you or let you know if you’re still cool or not.
And recording the album came about—I think the twins were working with John Feldman on 5 Seconds of Summer. And the 5 Seconds of Summer guys are fans of ours apparently? And they just threw out to them, ‘You guys really need to come back.’ And I guess they chewed on that for a minute and next thing you know, I got a call. And they’re like, ‘Hey we’re thinking about recording an album, would you be into that?’
And then they told me that they were thinking about doing it with John Feldman and he’s been a friend of ours since our first album. We met him touring on our first album. He’s been writing song with us and working with us for a long time but we’ve never done a full length album with him.
So, I was really excited about that. And he just really hit his stride. He’s had a lot of success lately which was really great to see. So I was super excited. I had just gotten accepted into Berkley—that’s what I was doing in my time off was trying to finish up some school.
Oh, wow, congratulations!
Oh, thanks! It was like, ‘Ah, of all the times.’ But yeah, I’d much rather be touring with Good Charlotte than school. School’s not going anywhere, it’s waiting for me.
Good Charlotte formed in 1996, so it’s been about 20 years.
How is performing and life on the road different now from 20 years ago?
Well, in the very beginning, we were too young to do anything. We weren’t of drinking age. We were closed off. We played the House of Blues and we were not allowed to leave a certain area of the backstage. That was an interesting touring time that actually lasted for a while until we became 21.
And then touring in our 20s, none of us really had homes. We were gone so much. One year we toured, we played 300 shows. And it was just work, work, work, go, go, go. But now, touring is very different because we all have families and kids so there’s a lot more trying to get home on days off. There’s a lot of trying to fly the family out and work out how to bring them out on tour. Like, my family is flying into Philadelphia and they’re going to join us all the way up to Boston.
That’ll be so nice for you, I’m sure.
Yeah, ‘cause that’s the hardest part is now I have something to leave. I used to just not have anything at home because I didn’t care so I would be very comfortable with touring for months at a time. Now the idea of leaving them for five week is, you know, gut-wrenching.
But it’s still the best job in the world. And like I said, our fans have just been so heartwarming—the stories that they tell us—it makes us feel like we’re definitely supposed to be doing this.
You have a variety of fans that range from a younger audience to fans who have been with the band since the beginning and have grown up with Good Charlotte. Is it hard playing before fans of multiple generations?
No, not at all, especially when they’re all singing all the lyrics at the top of their lungs. It’s always amazing.
I met somebody in Minneapolis, a 17-year old who said her mom really liked Good Charlotte and she’s been listening to us since she was one. That’s just a crazy idea but I guess it’s just the new variable that’s present now is the time that’s passed. We’ve been around for so long and that people have been listening to us for so long.
They were too young to come see us and now they’re not, or when they became old enough to see us, we decided to go on a break for five years. So it’s been really cool seeing how many different ages are out in the crowd. But like I said, we start our show with “The Anthem,” and once we do that, everyone is singing at the top of their lungs and it’s always a good time.
Your lyric video for “Life Can’t Get Much BetterLife Can’t Get Much Better” was such a great way for fans to interact with Good Charlotte for the return of the band and the arrival of new music. What was the inspiration for the video?
We came out of the box with a couple of goofy videos and we just wanted to put something out that just really showed where we are right now. It was a lot of shots of us with our family, us hanging out with other bands, playing shows and shots of passionate fans singing. It just kind of captures where we are in our lives right now.
We kind of did a follow up video for a song called “Life Changes,” which is kind of the same feel as that one—more family shots, more touring shots. We just wanted to do a video where there wasn’t any costumes or gimmicks or anything. And it got a really good response, so I think we might lean more towards doing videos like that. It’s whatever we feel like doing, like I said, we get to do whatever we want now. It’s awesome.
Is it difficult to recapture the teen angst from the first couple of albums as an adult?
You know, that’s a good question because the lyrics on the new album aren’t as teen-angsty.
So, the song writing has definitely changed with us but we obviously play a lot of those songs from the past. And I think those songs have just such a deep place in our hearts that it will never feel weird playing “Riot Girl” or something like that or something from the first album that was written when we were 17. Those songs gave us everything we have right now. I don’t think we have any problems doing it and when the fans go off—because that’s what they really want to hear is the old songs—it’s the best.
So yeah, we’ve been playing a lot of songs for a long time. And playing “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” even though rich and famous is a thing that some of us are—it’s not weird. We still feel the same way. We’re not as mad and we’re not out to try to stick it to the man anymore, now we’re just more about spreading positivity and trying to send out a good message, positive vibes.
The actual video later released for “Life Can’t Get Much Better” features a lot of Philadelphia as well as footage from your April show at the Theatre of Living Arts. Did you have any reason behind choosing Philadelphia or any connection there?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, Philly is the reason that we made it out of Maryland. There used to be a station there called Y100 and they got ahold of our demo. They used to do this thing called a cage match or something like that and they would play local bands against big bands. And we won.
We were beating out bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn—it was really amazing. That was the whole start of our career really of being professional musicians.
The TLA—especially that venue—that’s where we played the most. We actually knew a couple of people that worked there and we would rehearse there before we would go on tour. That place was our home away from home. I think we played in Philadelphia more than we played in D.C. Yeah, the TLA was a very big place for us. We played there a ton of times. It was funny being in that venue, just walking around, looking in each dressing room and just like flashbacks like, “I remember partying in here” or just whatever it was. We have to go get a cheesesteak, see South Street.
Is there anything in particular Good Charlotte is looking forward to for your show at the Fillmore here in Philadelphia?
Just looking forward to another amazing show in Philadelphia. The fans have always just been so cool to us there. It’s been more of a hometown show than in D.C. So, yes, I’m just looking forward to getting there, eating some amazing food and having a great show.
Well I’m sure everybody is so excited to see you here. I think the fans are ten times more excited to see you guys now come back around.
They’ve always been so good to us. They’ve given us everything we have. It’s nice to be able to try to connect with them as much as we can. We’re actually doing these VIP meet and greet things on this tour now and we actually get to do a Q&A for about a half hour and everybody that comes gets to tell us something or ask us something. It’s been the coolest thing—really connecting with people and hearing stories about how we “saved” them and helped them get through hard times and stuff like that. It’s just so heartwarming to hear that stuff, you know?
Anything else you wanna say before the Philly show?
We love Philadelphia! And we can’t wait to come and rock. We have a little production this time so it won’t be the same show it was in April, it will be a different show and it will be a good time for a show.