It’s hard to believe that Good Charlotte has been bringing us some of the best pop punk music that the world has to offer for over 20 years. Their seventh full length album dropped just a few weeks ago and it is already becoming one of my favorites of theirs. Generation Rx garners the energy, style, and punk spirit that the band started out with and takes it to a new level of consistency and maturity. The band is known for writing “The Anthem,” but they are also are known for writing anthems. The infectious, yet supremely open and honest songs they craft are anthemic, powerful, and memorable — there really isn’t a dull moment in their songs, their live shows, or their career, and they pride themselves in that. I spoke to Billy Martin — rhythm guitarist, keyboardist, artist, and family man — about all of this and more, just as him and his bandmates embark on a massive North American tour.
Can we talk a little bit about the writing and recording process of this new album, Generation Rx? Was it a quick and natural process or did it take some grind to get out this perfected music?
This was fairly quick and natural. The kind of cool thing is that Benji and Joel have their own management company called MDDN now and they have an office space in L.A. that has like, three studios as part of the office space. So, we kind of have a home base for the first time in our career where we can work in our own studio, at our own pace, on our own time versus in the past, when you would rent out a studio for x-amount of days and have to get the record done in that amount of time.
For this record, it was a little more casual where we could, you know, just go in when you wanted to and when it worked good for your schedule. So this record was really causal and easy like that. It wasn’t that grueling and I think you can hear that. We’re all really proud of this record and I feel like everyone feels very connected to it. It was just a really good time working on this record.
Absolutely! And I have to say that I think it’s fantastic.
I actually really love the title of the album, as well. Generation Rx: Where did that title come from?
You know, right before we started doing this record, we did a cover of Lil Peep’s “Awful Things” right after Peep passed away. We were fans of his music and he was a fan of our music and I think, and I’ve said this a couple of other times, that his fanbase most closely resembles Good Charlotte’s when we first started out. This sort of SoundCloud era of SoundCloud rap, emo rap, whatever you want to call it. It’s sad kids with tattoos with deep, sort of sad music and that was a big part of Good Charlotte’s fanbase when we first started out. We were writing songs for the misfits out there, the kids who didn’t belong and didn’t kind of know what their scene was: they connected over Good Charlotte and its lyrics, so I think that we were really influenced what was happening in that scene.
When we did this cover, it just sort of had this darker, grittier sound to it and we all just thought, “Man, this sounds like a Good Charlotte original.” Like, it just sounded really natural and we thought it would be cool to do a whole record like this. And so that really inspired the sound and kicking us off to get excited about making new music again.
The whole record, just lyrically, sort of deals with heavier, emotional issues that maybe we sort of shied away from in the past, and I think it’s very relevant with our fans now and the ones who have grown up and have been listening to Good Charlotte.
You know, we grew up in Generation X, but these young teenagers that are growing up now… drugs is a huge part. It’s like a big, big thing. The opioid crisis is real. Mental health is being talked about, because it’s also a real thing that people are dealing with, and all of these things that I guess were taboo and people weren’t talking about because it was “bad,” but it is real. It’s the truth. People are going through it and it’s happening. This record is there to sort of offer some hope to it and also show people that we all go through the same things and Generation Rx just sort of us a play on Generation X, you know, putting the prescription term in there. It seemed like a good way to sum up everything.
I think there is definitely a prevalent message with that, especially with mental health. Today is actually World Mental Health Day, so I think it’s good that it draws on that and listeners and fans are going to take that into account, which shows that it will be appreciated.
Yeah, for sure!
So, the core band has been together for about 20 years now. That is two decades of Good Charlotte! How do you keep that momentum going? Do you guys, as friends and bandmates, ever bicker or come up with song ideas and disagree? Essentially, how do you guys keep coming back to making such good music even with the possible mishaps along the way?
I think we definitely used to bicker and fight about stuff more than we do now. I think that is a big part as to why we took a four year break. I think that was sort of the peak of unhappiness, but I think that’s natural and is going to happen within any relationship or any job where you work together with people that you care about. Like simple things, like getting married and starting to have kids, then you start to resent going on tour, because you’re like, “I don’t want to go on tour because then I won’t get to see my family for weeks at a time.” And then you get out on tour and you’re grumpy about being on tour and then you start bickering with the people you’re on tour with because that’s who you’re with, you know? It’s not really their fault, it’s just part of the job.
I think simple things like that, like even just, “You didn’t like the idea for a song that I wrote,” or “I think my idea is better than your idea,” you know, dumb stuff like that happens, but the older you get, I think you really start to sift through the really trivial issues and they just don’t matter as much. It’s more about the big picture and it’s that, “Holy shit! We’re still doing this 20 years later and people still actually care about our band!” Our band still matters to some people and that right there is a huge accomplishment.
It’s hard to keep bands together these days and continue to work at a high level. I think we’ve all come to the point where we have realized that we all bring something special to the band and each one of us has our pros or cons. You have to learn that not every situation is going to turn out how you want it and none of us are going to get that. That’s reality. We truly love each other. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve learned to respect each other, and who has their quirks, and what situation is going to be better or worse for each other. You have to adapt and know that in the long run, we all have the same picture in our heads.
Speaking of the band’s personal history and music history, how do you decide what tracks to put on your setlist, now with seven studio albums to your name? Are there any songs that you miss playing that maybe didn’t make the cut to perform on this tour?
Yeah, I mean that is definitely hard. I always say that it is a good problem to have, like, “Oh no! We have too many big songs to try and fit in the setlist!” I think that is certainly not an actual issue, but there are some songs that we feel that we have to play, but don’t necessarily want to play. Then there are some songs that we know we should play, but just don’t because we just don’t want to play them. You know, you don’t want a moment in the set where the band is bored on stage, because then the crowd is going to be bored, so if we’re not into it, then there is no point in playing it.
Then, there are probably some deep cuts off some of the older records that are just fun, good live songs, but they are not a single and the casual Good Charlotte listener who is at the show won’t know that song, so that’s definitely an issue. There are a lot of songs off The Chronicles of Life and Death, I feel like there are just a couple of really cool, really good live songs that we love to play from that era that just won’t get played probably for a while. And now we have a whole new album’s worth of stuff to try and squeeze in when we already didn’t have that room for more songs on the last tour. It’s a challenge, for sure.
Sometimes we think about rotating sets where we do like 75 percent of the same each night and then every couple of nights we swap our three or four songs, just so we don’t get bored and to try different stuff. There are also a lot of fans who will follow the tour for days in a row, and you think, “Man, it sucks for them because they see the same exact show every night.” That’s cool because then they get to see us switch it up a little bit, too.
Definitely, and it’s great to have those dedicated fans and to have all of those songs that you can have the ability to swap out songs every few nights like you said!
This tour does kick off in a couple of days and you’ll be hitting New York at one of my favorite venues, Terminal Five, pretty soon, which is really exciting for us East Coast people. You did mention that it’s hard to leave your family and your kids behind a little bit when you do go on tour, but are there some things that you are really looking forward to this time around?
Of course, yeah. Playing music is fun and there is never a point where we have gone on stage and I’m not happy about it. I love doing the show and that’s exactly why we still do this. If playing shows wasn’t fun, we just wouldn’t tour anymore. You know, we’re lucky that we get to see all of these cool, different places in the world. Some people never leave the city that they grew up in. We have different friends in different cities like other bands that like in different places or people that we have met over the years, so touring is a cool chance to meet up with people and get to talk to your fans all across the world and play shows. Sure, it’s hard to leave your families, but we take our families with us on tour often, too. We’ve kind of got it all figured out these days.
That’s great! I guess that does come with having such a long history of touring and putting out music.
My last question for you, before I let you go on and continue with your busy rock star life is this: The new album, Generation Rx, does seem to go back to quite a bit of Good Charlotte’s roots with the energy it has and the vulnerability in some of the lyrics. But how do you think the band has evolved over the years, both professionally and musically?
I definitely think we all get better at our crafts. It’s something that we practice at and I just think that with something you do all the time you will get better at it. Influence wise, I know we all try to get an ear to what’s current and what’s cool. Even if I don’t like it, I want to know why this song is so popular right now or why does everybody in the scene that we’re apart of like this new band.
I love pop culture, I love learning, and I love dissecting songs and figuring out what makes it cool. I think that a part of the evolution is listening to new music and each time you get in to work new music, we’re five different guys who listen to different types of music, and I think that music is the result of different influences coming together. So, the evolution will just be natural with that with whatever we are listening to and whatever our influence is at the time; it will change that.
You know, career-wise, going on tour and doing that whole thing is a huge part of it, too. Tours have gotten big these days. I see these young bands going out with production, with a whole stage setup. When we were first starting out, if you weren’t doing arenas, you didn’t have anything on stage besides your gear and maybe a backdrop or something. Somehow, these young bands are creative, and they are using their laptops to run their light show and build their own props. I feel like you really have to step up the live show these days. You really have to bring it to sort of stand neck-in-neck with everyone else out there.
We kind of pride ourselves in always trying to make sure that our live show is the best it can be. That is the one tangible thing that is left in the music industry. There aren’t really videos on TV anymore; radio is cool but it is not necessary anymore because you can listen to anything you want to on the Internet; but standing in front of a band at a concert is one thing you can’t take away. You can livestream a live performance or whatever, but the concert is the concert. That’s one of the last things left so we really try to make sure that it’s like an experience and if you’re going to a Good Charlotte show, then you know that you are going to have a good time.
See Good Charlotte perform live on October 21 at The Fillmore in Philadelphia, and October 29 at Terminal 5 in New York.