Interview: Good Charlotte

GOOD CHARLOTTE – interview by skye

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So here it is, or here it was, and there it went; the 2002 Vans Warped Tour featuring over a zillion bands, or so it seemed, including on the main stage the east coast’s Good Charlotte.

During all the excitement at the Warped Tour Good Charlotte was kind enough to take time out of their day to sit down and chat with my dear friend and fellow writer Jason Pepper and I about their new album, the bands personality, music and more. After finding a cozy place in the rather dim lighted media room, vocalist Joel and bassist Paul joined Jason and I for the interview.

Jason: “Loser Anthem” that song totally sticks in my head all the time, I like the other songs too, but that one just sticks in my head more. Not that the other songs are bad…I’m just saying…
Skye: You’re going to make them mad and they’re going to leave.
Joel: No, no, go on.

Jason: I like the one that you haven’t done at the Warped Tour but you did at the House of Blues the “If You Want Me To Wait”…okay ask them questions.
Skye: Are you sure you don’t want to?
Jason: No, no, just go.
Skye: So where did you guys get your band name from?
Paul: It’s from a book called “Good Charlotte.” That’s pretty uncreative but it seemed like a cool band name.

Skye: How did you guys get hooked up?

Paul: We all met in high school. They [Joel and Benji], they’re twins they heard that I had played bass and they asked me if I would play with them then we found Billy later and we’ve been flying through drummers unfortunately. We have more solidarity now than we have ever had.
Joel: We never have had solidarity.

Skye: Is finding like a “solid ground” a difficult thing to do in your band?
Paul: Yeah it took a lot for us to get to where we are and our relationships with each other.
Joel: Even in our own lives, at least for me, I’ve never had stability until this band. It’s the only thing that’s been solid in my life for the past seven or eight years. People have come and go but I’ve had this band and music.

Skye: So do you guys like to do interviews with press?
Paul: I don’t mind it at all. It’s not that I don’t like them, but it’s tedious.

Skye: Do you find it annoying as a band when you’re just trying to do what you do but you have to stop and answer all these questions?
Joel: It’s hard to explain because you have to be careful with your words when you say you don’t like interviews. I like the fact that someone wants to interview us, but doing the interviews themselves…
Paul: It totally depends on the interviewer.
Joel: More people care about those kinds of things that we do, but Good Charlotte, us just general as a band we like getting on stage and connecting with fans.
Paul: Interviews in general we care about them because we care that someone is taking the time to put into us and write about what we’re doing.

Skye: Do you consider it more of like a by-product of what you’re doing as a band?
Joel: It kind of just comes along with it. The same way I don’t really enjoy taking pictures with fans, I don’t enjoy it, but I know they appreciate it and they want it so I do it because it’s one of those things that comes along with this. It’s not a negative thing. I’d say in some ways we are very introverted off stage.
(Paul makes a bunny rabbit shadow with his hand on the carpet…it’s so dark in here!)
Joel: Offstage we’re not very outgoing. We tend to just keep to ourselves.

Skye: Do you guys read any of the articles that are written up about you thinking oh my God I didn’t say that or Oh my God I wish I didn’t say that?
Paul: We did at first.
Joel: You have your own perception of what you wanna look like and it never turns out like that so we don’t really care at this point what anyone thinks about us or what we’ve said.
Paul: It’s cool that they’re writing about us. Good or bad.

Skye: So where are you guys originally from?

Paul: Maryland.
Joel: I’ve lived in a lot of different places.

Skye: A lot of bands just define themselves by a county like bands from Anaheim say they’re from Orange County, maybe they’re embarrassed or something, but is there a place you’d rather be from?
Joel: I would have rather grown up in California.
Paul: That’s a trick question because if I didn’t grown up in Maryland I wouldn’t have found these guys. I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened. But the weather in Maryland is horrible!

Skye: How do you define your music as far as being a “punk” band what do you label yourselves as?
Joel: We don’t label ourselves, we always get labeled.
Paul: When you hear this next album you’ll see that it’s hard to label us because we don’t limit ourselves to just one style. We listen to all types of music.
Jason: What are your guy’s musical inspirations?
Joel: Any music with passion. I like Rancid but I also like Tu-Pac. I like any person with originality, but also who is passionate and smart. I love Saves the Day and The Smiths too.
Paul: I listen to a lot of Indie music and ‘80s music. Benji listens to a lot of punk and Billy listens to mostly metal. In all of us we draw in a mutual love for Hip Hop because we grew up in the D.C. area. When you bring all those together, there’s us.

Skye: Do you feel you’ve been able to present that in your new album? A mix of a little of everything or is it geared more towards a certain genre?
Joel: We didn’t gear it towards anything we just wrote and whatever came out, came out. I think this record is more Good Charlotte than anything else.
Paul: It’s hard to explain, with the bands work put into it, it’s not anything you can label. I’m not saying skill wise or sound wise, but we as a band have created a sound that is very much ourselves so you can’t compare that to another band’s record.

Skye: When you say your record is “more Good Charlotte” what is Good Charlotte?
Joel: That’s the thing I don’t know! It’s everything, it’s where we’re from and our attitude, and it’s our lives.
Paul: Our live show is what we really tried to capture on the second album because we feel we didn’t capture it fully on our first.
Joel: Also, there is realness to our bands that a lot of bands don’t have. We didn’t get in this to be a big band, I don’t know why we got in this, but this is the only thing we had. It’s hard to explain, but we’re not every other pop punk band, I don’t even know if we are a pop punk band.
Paul: We’re not trying to bash those other bands or separate ourselves for that matter because we have a lot of the same fans.
Joel: That’s why I said we’re not saying that we’re better with skills or song writing but our songs might not be as good as other bands songs or my singing might not be as good as other bands singers. We are just separated from all that.
Paul: But we get along wonderfully with other bands, with everyone. Doing tours like this is just awesome we just walk around and see friends everywhere.
Joel: I don’t think we even have one enemy.

Skye: Now is that something you guys had to work on because there are bands that just can’t have that.
Paul: Yeah, we are outgoing-ly nice.
Joel: Just to pat ourselves on the back a little more [laughs]. I think we’re the kind of guys that want to have friends, we love meeting people.
Jason: But you hate taking pictures.
Joel: Hey…I’ll take a picture if you want one.
Jason: I’d have to say that that’s something that’s very apparent about you guys is that you’re really just normal down to earth guys.
Paul: We are normal guys, come on we grew up in a poor neighborhood.
Jason: Exactly you’re just like every other guy in a band, but you happen to be playing a main stage at the Warped Tour.
Joel: We’re not jealous people and I think that’s where a lot of bands go wrong because they get jealous of each other. But we don’t even see it like that. It’s easy to walk around and be nice to people when you don’t want what they have.
Paul: I wish I could do this every day of the week.
Joel: The main thing we feel is grateful that we’re here and not where we were two years ago. We’ve been doing this for seven years now. We ate shit for five years so the past two years have been really sweet and we’re enjoying it and we’re happy. This past year has been the first year of my life where I’ve been truly happy. Paul’s known me since I was 15 and I’m 23 now and he’s seen it all, some major changes in my life. There isn’t anything that can get me that down. Any problems you can have in a band like not selling records that doesn’t bother me. I hope we sell records but if we don’t it won’t break my heart. We’re still going to make records and tour and be Good Charlotte. All those major problems that a lot of bands are always worried about really don’t bother us because we’re here, now and we got out of a really bad place so everything else is just like a bonus for us.

Skye: What kind of things do you guys write about on your new album what are you saying in your album?
Joel: I write most of the lyrics, and Benji writes some of them. This album is more mature. My writing has gotten a little better where I can say what I’m feeling better so the songs are articulated a little more. Just my life experiences and my feelings on people. “Lifestyles” is the first song, video and single on the album and it’s about watching people worry about money when that’s not really a problem. For some reason lately I’ve been around a lot of celebrities and they way the are blows my mind because they’re not real. I can’t group all of them but I’ve noticed a few that just don’t realize what they actually have.
Paul: And it’s usually those who grew up with a silver spoon in their mouths.
Joel: Kids that come to shows that come from families with two cars, a nice neighborhood with a house with a garage, they talk a lot of shit because they’ve don’t know anything, they know what they don’t like and they bitch about everything. But then you get the kids who’ve had to struggle and they come to the shows to have a good time and that’s what they’re there for, to get away from life. The record talks about everything, family, people, everything going on. It’s a record our fans will really relate to.
Jason: I’d have to say that song wise you don’t get stuck in the whole making an entire album where only one song isn’t about a girl. There is a nice span.
Joel: This album, one or two songs are about girls.
Jason: Is “Bloody Valentine” on it?
Joel: “Bloody Valentine” it’s about a girl, but it’s more a story. It’s not a song I wrote about a girl; it’s more like Edgar Allen Poe – poetry.
Joel: So out of 14 songs there are three about girls.
Paul: When our band first got together it was all girl songs.
Jason: Because it’s an easy thing to write about.

Skye: Is there nothing else to write about? We’re not all evil!
Joel: Girls are messed up.
Paul: Girls hurt you the most.
Joel: Women are powerful and they have power over men and when you want something and you can’t have it you should write songs.
Paul: Do you write poetry ever?

Skye: Yeah, but I don’t write about women.

Joel: Do you write about men or love?
Skye: Of course, but I’m trying to gain a males perspective of it.
Joel: Women take control of our lives they have so much power.

Skye: Okay, do the girls that you write about know that you’re writing about them?

Joel: They can probably figure it out.
Paul: They’re mostly girls in high school.

Skye: Do they ever get you anywhere?
Joel: No.
Skye: How did you guys get involved with the Warped Tour?
Joel: We came on the tour last year and they asked us back and we said yes in like two seconds.
Paul: Last year we had a good time, but there was no steadiness to it all and we just bounced around everywhere. This year they kept us on the main stage every day and it’s great for our crew.
Joel: They treat you so great here. Everyone treats each other with respect and that’s our bands most important thing, how you treat people.

Skye: Do you guys spend time going around and listening to the other acts that are on the tour on the side stages?
Joel: Of course!
Paul: See The Used, they are awesome!

Skye: What would you say was your favorite song to play live like what gets the crowd going?
Joel: My new one is lifestyles.
Paul: Any song on the new album I love to play.

Skye: When does the new album come out?
Joel: October 1, “The Young and the Hopeless.”
Jason: One more question because I know you have to go but your demo stuff was released on your own right?
Joel: Yeah we did two on our own.
Jason: So what’s it like to go from that to major?
Joel: If we were on an independent label now, well when we sold our own CD’s it was hard work because you’re not selling a lot, but when you do a major label you have a machine working for you but there’s the possibility of things falling through the cracks which is hard work on another level. I think with a major we have more advantages.
Paul: But at the same time our CD costs $20 in the stores.
Jason: So they’re treating you well at Sony/Epic?
Joel: It’s all in what you make it. We demanded when we got signed to be treated well. Some bands can’t do that, but when you have majors fighting for you, you can do that and demand to be treated better.
Paul: We’ve seen a lot of bands get treated really poorly by labels.
Joel: It’s a game but we get our freedom.

And with that Good Charlotte were whisked away by who I’m guessing is their tour manager, so they could go prepare to go on stage. We said our thank-yous and goodbyes then Jason Pepper and I returned to daylight to enjoy the rest of the Warped Tour.