Some things change, while others stay the same, and for Good Charlotte it is that exact blend of nostalgia and valuing the present that have made their comeback album Youth Authority so endearing. For the once Maryland hailing five-piece—vocalist Joel Madden, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Benji Madden, guitarist Billy Martin, bassist Paul Thomas and drummer Dean Butterworth—their uncontrived pop-punk roots still break through. Frank and catchy tracks like “The Outfield” and “Life Can’t Get Much Better” portray how time and experience have given them perspective on the past, while allowing them to revel in all they’ve achieved.
In the midst of their record-supporting Youth Authority Tour, Benji took some time to discuss creating new music, growing up and the importance of family.
Coming off of a hiatus, did the band have a specific mindset approaching the album?
We didn’t! You know, we had taken an extensive amount of time off and we didn’t even know if we would ever do Good Charlotte again. We were working on the last two 5 Seconds of Summer records, we work on an All Time Low record, a Sleeping With Sirens record. We were working with all these energetic, great young artists and during that time I think we just got this vibe back. It was like the energy, you know? And it was exciting and it felt good, and I think that’s just kind of how we do things, we just kind of go with our feeling.
Joel had said he was never going to do Good Charlotte again, and it wasn’t in an angry way. It was like, “Yo, I’m at the point in my life where I just have to be honest. I have to keep it real and it’s just not where I’m at.” And then, like I said, over a little bit of time, working with some great, young artists we got this energy and Joel’s like, “I feel like I’ve got some things to say. I want to make another record.”
And we didn’t even know if we were going to put it out. I was like, “You know, I haven’t heard a good pop-punk record in a while that I could work out to, drive to.” And I was like, “Let’s make one and we don’t even have to put it out. We can just listen to it and enjoy it.” So luckily, we have the relationships and the resources where we can do that. So that was the plan. We just wanted to make a record we loved and we didn’t even know if we were going to put it out. And then as we made it, there was no master plan of what the record was going to be about. So I was like, “Let’s just do it like we did The Young and the Hopeless and the self-titled.”
We went in the studio every day, we wrote a song, we showed the guys, and we all kind of rehearsed it a little, and we recorded it. And at the end of every day we had a new song at least started, like the blueprint, and then we’d do the same thing the next day. And then we’d go back and we’d finish them up. So that’s what we did. We did a song a day.
The first song we did was “Life Changes,” and you can feel what we did on that song. On that song, that’s a band that’s been a band for 20 years, been through highs, lows, all of it, and took five years off. And that’s the first day in the studio, and that song I think encapsulates that so well. It’s very energizing, very uplifting. And that’s where we’re at in our lives right now. We’re very optimistic.
Thematically, your music has always given a candid picture about difficulties you guys faced growing up. Now that you’re older, as you recorded the new tracks did you feel it was an easier or more difficult to remain that open?
It’s never easy to be vulnerable, for anyone I think. I mean, it doesn’t even matter how many times you’ve done it. It doesn’t get easier to be vulnerable because you’re vulnerable. You’re putting yourself out there and you could get hurt. When you tell someone how you really feel, they may not feel the same way. They may not understand.
So it’s never easy to be vulnerable. But what we’ve learned is that it’s so powerful. It’s the greatest thing you can do in life. It’s an extremely powerful thing to be vulnerable and to put yourself out there and be willing to be hurt. And sometimes you do get hurt, but you can’t get jaded. You have to go back and find power in that. So in a way, it’s gotten easier to share our feelings but in a lot of ways it also hasn’t gotten any easier to be that open. There’s just so much power in it to share your true feelings with someone. Whether it’s your wife, your friend, your brother, or your parent or the world. But it’s so powerful.
Absolutely! Speaking of wives and family, what has touring been like now that you all have families of your own?
Now that’s really the challenge. We can’t be on the road as much. Last year was a bit of a challenge because we were on the road a lot. But our families are really supportive, so we all get together and go, “These are some of the things we need to do.” And our wives have their careers and we all just put it out and try to find a way to make it work for everyone and say, “OK, so we’ll go there together, we’ll go there…” and we all just plan it out.
It sounds funny but we do because we all want to be together, and there’s nothing more valuable to us than that. We live on the same street, five houses apart. We’re all best friends, we have a really close family and we love. We wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That really is something special.
It is! You know, we came from a really tough place and we didn’t have a family like that. And when we were little kids, when me and my siblings would be together… and we all got torn apart as well, but when we were together we always said, “When we grow up we’re going to stick together and we’re not going to be like this.” And we would look around at our surroundings and go, “We’re going to be friends and it’s going to be peaceful. It’s not going to be cops to your house. When we grow up we’re going to make it.”
And this was us when we were little kids, we hadn’t even started the band. But nothing was going to stop that, you know? So me, and my brothers and my sister are close. Me and Joel live on the same street, we have family dinner together three or four nights a week. We’re lucky our wives are best friends and we have a close family. Record or no record we’re not changing that.
It’s great to be able to have those bonds! Now I know we’re running low on time, so before we go, do you have anything to say to the fans coming to your shows in the NY/NJ area?
New York, New Jersey and Philly, all three of those have always been incredibly special to Good Charlotte. The New York show, when we did the four comeback shows, the New York show and the Philly show were just insane: just the vibe and the fans. And I really think that these shows are going to be the same. I think they’re going to be really special and nights not to be missed. I don’t know when we’re going to do another U.S. tour so these are going to be really cool and really special!
You can catch Good Charlotte performing Nov. 10 at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, Nov. 14 at the PlayStation Theater in Manhattan, and Nov. 16 at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville. Good Charlotte’s latest record, Youth Authority, is available now. For more information, visit goodcharlotte.com.