These aren’t the words of a sullen teenager; this is Joel Madden admitting that he and the members of Good Charlotte were just as emo as the rest of us. While we less-famous people were scribbling song lyrics on our Converse in the early 2000s and turning to songs like Good Charlotte “S.O.S.” for an escape from the woes of adolescence, Madden and his bandmates were literally growing up in front of everybody.
“The only place we ever got to rebel was in our songs, but really we were just kids in over our heads in the music business,” Madden says. “From the time I was probably sixteen, I was completely and solely focused on making my band work, and once that train was going, it felt like I had to keep it going until I finally had exhausted that vision.”
So he got off the train. In 2011, Good Charlotte stopped making music and just “took a step back.” Madden says that for the first time in his life, he wasn’t worried about whether or not the band's next single would be a hit, and the members started to wonder what life would be like without the label of Good Charlotte attached to each of them. After having started the band in 1996, that’s all any of them had really known up until that point.
“Here we were at thirty or 31, and it was the first time any of us had asked ourselves, ‘Is there more to life than just being guys in a band?’ and we realized that maybe we don’t have to ‘be’ anybody,” Madden says. “It was a growth thing for all of us, and for me I thought, ‘Maybe I can just be a guy who’s married and has kids.’ Who are we now, anyway?”
Over the last six years, all of the members of Good Charlotte have had the opportunity to answer this question for themselves. Guitarist and keyboardist Billy Martin has become an accomplished illustrator in the comic-book industry, and bassist Paul Thomas has gone on to complete his degree in computer science. Dean Butterworth, who joined the band eleven years ago, is a working musician. “Me and my brother wanted to start our own thing,” Madden says, referring to MDDN, their artist-development company.
After six seasons of participating in the Australian version of The Voice, the Madden brothers launched their media company, which emphasizes management, production and publishing. Now in its third year, the MDDN ranks include artists like Jessie J, Pottymouth and Waterparks.
“We don’t produce and write everything we find,” Madden says, adding that he and his brother are taking on a different style that that of their longtime producer, John “Feldy” Feldmann, whose songwriting can be heard on some of the most well-known pop-punk albums. “We want to keep our involvement to an appropriate level. With bands like Pottymouth, we don’t touch any of what they do, they’re so passionate about their music.”
During this “self-discovery” period for the members of Good Charlotte, the Madden brothers took on a few more musical projects that would eventually lead to the first full studio album since 2011 and a supporting U.S. tour.
“Benji and I were working with All Time Low and 5 Seconds of Summer on a few different things, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could make a record on our own terms, just for fun? We were all out of other contracts, and we have our own label with MDDN.”
Though he’s reluctant to call Good Charlotte’s comeback part of any “pop-punk revival” and can’t definitively say how long the group will continue after this tour, he says bands in this genre all move together “as a culture,” which is why it’s not surprising to him to see so many pop-punk reunion tours and new albums in recent months.
Good Charlotte’s Youth Authority tour kicks off October 23, and while the pop-punk nostalgia is still there, the teenage angst is gone. Madden says the group is just transitioning, and while that can be hard, he’s okay with that.
“Transition is natural and can bring anxiety and be tough, but we all have these moments where we ask ourselves, ‘Am I gonna be okay?’ and we get through it,” he says. “That’s what happened with Good Charlotte, and it was a huge transition for me, but we took a step back and decided we’re all just going through this experience and won’t give up.”
Catch Good Charlotte at the Gothic Theatre on Sunday, October 30. Tickets to the 16+ show are available on the Gothic's website.