Ten Years On: Good Charlotte - The Young And The Hopeless
The album not only scored double platinum status in the US, it went onto going platinum in Canada (2x), UK, Australia and to this day, is looked upon as one of the most influential pop-punk albums of the last decade.
With this said, Alter The Press spoke to frontman Joel Madden to take a retrospective look back, "Ten Years On" since release of "The Young and the Hopeless".
Alter The Press: It's been ten years since the release of "The Young and the Hopeless". Did you ever think this would be the album that will break Good Charlotte into the mainstream world?
Joel Madden: At the time, when we made the record, I don't know what we were thinking. I was 22 years old, maybe even younger, but at the time and just looking back at it, I think we just wanted to make it.
We had put out our first self-titled record, which initially didn't do that well, but we stayed on the road for a couple of years and ended up doing well with it. I think we sold about 250,000 records in the US and selling out clubs, which, for us, was huge. By the end of that record cycle we were on Sony. We put out this shiny single "Little Things" with a shiny video with a big video director and they had pushed us in this shiny poppy kind of direction…and us being so young, we kind of went with it. At the time, we didn't know what we were even doing. We were from a small town and hadn't really been out in the world. When that didn't work, the label just left us to it. When we did the video for "Festival Song" - the last video we made from the first album - that was more of a real representation of what the band was at the time. When we shot it, we were out on tour and things were peaking.
Back in the day we were playing with bands like New Found Glory, Sum 41, MXPX and we were all just getting by, touring in vans, playing to a few hundred people each night, which was awesome, but at the same time, we were building a real fan base and really creating a model for the new bands yet to come from this genre that we were in. I still have a huge amount of respect for all those bands and all the work they put in because I saw it with my own two eyes.
By the end of that record cycle, we had a fan base and saw the record sales had gone up to a quarter of a million sold. The label, who had forgotten about us, just said "whoa, when did this happen!" One guy who really believed in us at the label was David Massey. He had signed us and always stayed strong, believed in us and said that we could do bigger and better. He told us we get to make another record. At the time we were playing a show in LA at the Troubadour and this producer named Eric Valentine was coming to see us. I didn't know a lot about him at the time, or knew how interested I was in working with him, not that I wasn't, but didn't know a lot about him. I just thought it was cool he came to the live show. We always said you needed to see us live to understand our band. The fact that he came to the show made me want to work with him. A few weeks later, we ended up making what was to become "The Young and the Hopeless".
ATP: What were your fondest memories from the recording and writing process for the album?
Joel: The biggest thing I remember about the writing process was that we had written literally 14 songs in like 14 days. Every day me and Benji [Madden, guitars/vocals] would turn up to the studio and the guys would come in and set up. We had a live room where we would play all the songs through live before we started recorded them, but we would record the jam session too.
Me and Benj would go in early every day, around 9 or 10, and just write for the first three hours. Eric would be there and we would sit out in the front of the studio and just write a song, and when we would go in, play it for Eric on the acoustic guitar and he would say “yay” or “nay”. Generally, we would come in and usually get one song a day. It was crazy. By 12-1 o'clock we would have written a song, play for him and would say “great”. After, the band would show up and before you know it we would have a song going. That was a really cool process at the time. We wrote a lot of songs in a short amount of time.
ATP: When you had finished writing songs like "The Anthem" or "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", was there a point when you said to each other "I think we are onto something here" or was it just like writing every other song?
Joel: "The Anthem" was a special song. When I was 19, the first time we went out to LA I met one of my heroes, John Feldmann [producer], who is a really dear friend of mine and still is today. I remember the first time we met, he took me surfing. A movie was interested and had called asking that they needed a song. We were hanging with John at the time and said we should just do it. We went and wrote "The Anthem" – me, Benj and John. It turned out the movie didn't even want it but we really liked the song and the fact we wrote with John made it extra special. We only went into the studio with one song and that was "The Anthem".
ATP: If you could change one thing about the album, what would it be and why?
Joel: I honestly wouldn't change a thing about that record.
Looking back on it, it was one of the moments where, at the time, I don't think we had really grasped what it meant to have a record like that. I would have told myself to enjoy it more but at the time, we were in a scene back in the early 2000's that was a very cannibalistic kind of scene. Bands were always accused of selling out and this and that. It seems a little different now, but I might be out of touch. A lot more of it is accepted now whether it's corporate sponsorship or going on TV, just shit like that. I think at the time we were one of those early bands to break out into that pop world. We really scrutinized ourselves a little bit. We were kind of conflicted with the scene and fans before we had recorded "The Young and the Hopeless", but I think we finally felt somewhere where we belonged and where we were cool. We grew up our whole lives not happening that, not being cool and not knowing what is and I think with the band we came onto the scene and we were really loved it. When that record came out and did what it did there was a backlash, like always, and now, as an older guy, I understand. Fans protect music because they need it as much as we need a place to belong. They need a place to belong and need their little club. "Oh great, we are playing arenas, a big record. A dream come true! This is the greatest, isn't guys?" and everyone would have their arms crossed and backs to us, metaphorically.
At the time, we took it to heart. By the end of the record cycle we had gotten a little bitter and you can hear that on our next album ["The Chronicles of Life and Death"]. We felt rejected and abandoned and I wish I had the understanding then that I did now of how things work out and the acceptance I have of people and their feelings. I could have enjoyed that record a little more. That’s not to say we didn't have a lot of good times, because we had a wild ride, but there was a side of it which was really hard to deal with, like feeling abandoned by a scene which we really loved.
ATP: Speaking about the scene you guys were associated with. Would you say ten years on, are you disconnected with the new breed of bands in that genre? And what is your take on today's pop-punk scene?
Joel: I actually feel completely connected. Benj was actually at Warped this summer and had called me. He was seeing old friends, checking out some new bands and called because I really wanted to go out there. It's funny, I've got two kids and I can't go to Warped Tour! I had my kids all day.
We reconnected in a big way. I really love All Time Low and You Me At Six, and there are a ton of bands that I have gotten to know that I just like and like them as guys and their music. I don't want to name-drop, I can name like 20 bands, but I don't want to make it sound like I'm trying to be cool to stay connected.
I really like these guys and the scene. I like what is going on. It's not like we are disconnected, it's like we are unaffected now. I don't care what anyone in the scene thinks of me, of what I like and what I say. I feel like I have a birds’ eye view. Benj and I love the scene, we love the new bands, we love what's happening and we are a part of it as much as older brothers would be. I'm 33 years old and I'm watching these bands go through the same thing as I did, and of course you hear rare rumblings of bands who have their opinions etc but I love all that. Now as a guy who is 33, I produce records, I write songs, tour in a band still and have had a career that I could never have dreamed of, I understand how important these fans are and their opinions and their complaints and when they talk shit. It's all important, it's an important cycle of life in music. It's something that I had to grow to understand in my life. I couldn't be happier with the way things turned out for me, but it's funny to watch all these bands go through it. It's a trip.
ATP: When was the last time you listened to "The Young and the Hopeless" cover to cover?
Joel: Oh man, I haven't listened to it in years.
ATP: In support of the record, how was it co-headlining arenas for the first time in your career?
Joel: If I had to put it into a sentence: it was an endless summer. It was just good times, all the time. We were living in our own little world, playing arenas; the tour was our world and the world was our playground. We did whatever we wanted. We were living the dream. When looking back, to think we got to experience that in all capacities. Whether it was excess, a great show, seeing shit and going around the world for the first time, going to countries you had never been to and playing arenas. It was the greatest roller coaster ride I had ever been on. It was an endless summer.
ATP: It must have been the biggest accomplishment when you played the home stop of the tour in Maryland. How did that feel?
Joel: It was great, but overwhelming. We come from a very small place and it's almost a little disconnected. I don't even know if they knew what we were doing. When it comes to our home and Maryland, there is a thing all Marylanders have and that's a lot of pride of where we are from. We're Maryland until we die. When I meet people from Maryland, it's a special thing. It never changes. It's a kinship, and to come home to sell out an arena was a proud moment for us.
ATP: Was there a moment in your career when you realized you had made it?
Joel: Absolutely. When we won the MTV Viewer's Choice Award, we had won by a landslide. We also played the awards show. It was nuts. We had come from a different world and not a lot of pop-punk bands had broken through except Blink-182 and The Offspring at the time. It was kind of an impossible thing. I give Blink-182 a lot of credit because they created the space in pop music for bands like us. If I'm talking chart and record sales-wise, three bands I really credit for creating the space for that genre to get big were Green Day, The Offspring and Blink-182. They really created that space for bands like us to be as big as we could be. We would never have been able to do that without those bands and what they have done. At the time, it was still kind of a new thing and people were expecting it to just go away, but when we did the VMAs and played on that stage and saw people who I had admired for years as musicians, it was a real surreal moment. We had won that award and it was the first real award we had one. That was definitely the moment when I said "Wow, we did this! Everything we dreamed of came true."
ATP: You toured 2-3 years non-stop, traveling from country to country, with barely a break, in support of "The Young and the Hopeless". Were there ever moments when said to yourself that you had enough?
Joel: It was never about not doing it but there was an exhaustion. I remember with "The Young and the Hopeless" that we had toured for 25 months straight before we got a real 3 week break. It was that crazy. I remember at the end of that we were in Japan and we had gotten big there. Our third record ["The Chronicles of Life and Death"] was actually influenced by what happened with us in Japan because it was like a phenomenon. It was crazy. You can hear the Japanese influence on the intro to that album. Speaking of things I wish I could take back…that intro!
In one year - we actually clocked it - within 365 days we played 367 shows. It was crazy, and we had two years in a row like that with "The Young and the Hopeless". It was a crazy time but at the end of the last tour, we were all exhausted and we also had a lot of new shit to deal with, like getting money for the first time. We had fame and attention for the first time. We were going places with people knowing who you are and all of this shit fucks with your head in a good way and bad way. There was a real adjustment period for us, but I think it's a good thing that we stayed on the road as it kept us away from what we could have fallen into - essentially extinguishing ourselves and getting too wrapped up in the bullshit.
At the end, we were all just exhausted and confused and thinking “what do we do now?” It was weird. At the end of the tour, I stayed in Japan for like a month because I freaked out. I was afraid to go home because I didn't know what to do. When I finally went home, me and Benj talked and said we should move to LA with the next record. I got home and 3 weeks later we were already starting the record. I went home to Maryland and Benj said, "What do you want to do next? That shit was crazy" and wasn't sure what we could do. I said to Benj we should go to LA, really try and go for it and be a part of music history. So we packed our bags and when I got to LA, I literally crashed on John Feldmann's couch, which is still funny. I just came off this crazy huge tour having this money to spend and I'm just crashing on my friend's couch.
So we set off for LA where we really started working on "Chronicles" and we've been here ever since.
ATP: Ten years on, are you happy with "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" being the most associated song with Good Charlotte?
Joel: Absolutely. I think "Lifestyles" is the best example of us. I think it has the sarcasm, the attitude. I think when people understand the song they really understand everything about us, because we're not talking shit. This is what we want, give it to us. That was our moment when we said, "We want this shit. You want to complain about it? We'll take it." The song really speaks to our attitude and before "The Young and the Hopeless" everyone counted us out except our fans, and they have always let us say what we wanted to fucking say. We want to write big songs, we want to make big records, we want this shit and that's what "Lifestyles" said. I really love that song, it'll be always important to me.
ATP: This fall, Taking Back Sunday and New Found Glory, both bands who broke out in the same era as you are performing their breakthrough albums on tour across the country. Can we expect something similar from Good Charlotte with "The Young and the Hopeless"?
Joel: I don't think so. We love that record and already play a lot of those songs live, but we have decided already that our next record is really going to matter for us. That's where we are at right now. I respect those bands and think it's awesome what they are doing, but I don't believe we’ve made our best record. I think we’ve still got it, it’s a natural process and whatever comes has to come by hunger and wanting to create. That's why we’re trying to give each other the time and space to do it in. We love each other, we love making music together and we talk about it all the time. When the day comes where we all can't stand it and need to get in the studio, we're going to make a great album. That's where "The Young and the Hopeless" came from - five guys that had to be together and had to be in the studio and make a record that had to say something. We will do that and I don't think it's far away. It might be two years away, but when we make that record it's going to be a really good fucking record and I think that's where we are at, man. We're always looking forward.
ATP: "The Young and the Hopeless" was such a huge and important album to millions of people around the world. Do you think you will do something to commemorate the 10th anniversary at all?
Joel: We haven't even thought about it. That's the thing. I understand that it's a fan favorite and a lot of fans like it, but every record is special. I have really special memories about each record, and to me, it's just another Good Charlotte record. I guess if people really wanted us to do something then we would, but I’ve never really thought about. We're not really ones to celebrate ourselves and I think that's what it really comes down. I recognize the success we've had and I feel very lucky. As much as we love what we do, we’re not ones to really pat ourselves on the back and celebrate anything we have really ever done other than having a good time doing it and talking about how great it was. We’re just not ones to really celebrate ourselves.
ATP: In closing, what is the current status of Good Charlotte?
Joel: The current status is that we are taking our time. When we make another record, it's not going to be just to make another record. When we make another record, it's going to be when we have something to say and that's what it's going to come down to. We are doing shows here and there for fun because we love to play together. What it comes down to is that we are a family and we love each other. We have been together for 17 years and it's our life. I think for the first time in our live we have decided something strictly for ourselves. We’re just going to take our time and get to know our families. It's been amazing, man, just being at home and being with the kids. We’re still all creating and doing stuff. Billy [Martin, guitar] has is art and comic books, Paul [Thomas, bass] has his side-project and he is going to school, Dean [Buttersworth, drums] is a studio guy and playing on some records that you will probably listen to and me and Benji have our Madden Brothers project. We’re all just being creative right now and we are not even talking about making a record or going on tour.
It's really fun. Me and Benj have a really cool studio in LA. We love it but, there will come a day…I would guess 2013, but who knows? It's all good in the Good Charlotte camp. We just don't feel the need to say anything right now.
- Jon Ableson