Good Charlotte

When POLLSTAR caught up with Joel Madden, frontman for punk band Good Charlotte, the group was in Los Angeles enjoying a rare day off. But to hear him tell it, you’d never know the band’s odyssey into the music business has been anything but glorious.

“It’s been nonstop [touring] for the last three-and-a-half years, 11-and-a-half months out of the year,” Madden told POLLSTAR. “Even in making our record, we didn’t get a break. We chose to do that and it definitely pays off. On the 300-plus shows we play each year, we just love doing it. It never gets old.”

Since hooking up about six years ago, the Maryland-based group, comprising Madden, lead guitarist Benji Madden, bass player Paul Thomas, guitarist Billy Martin and various guest drummers, has toured the States and Europe, including stints on the Vans Warped Tour, opening for No Doubt, Blink-82, and Lit in addition to headlining.

Add to that a regular gig for the Madden brothers hosting MTV’s “All Things Rock,” and platinum status for the band’s second album released in October, Young and the Hopeless, and you get a buzz that keeps on growing.

“When you have something that’s really honest and very real, it seems to affect people in a different way,” Madden said. “We get really passionate fans that feel they know us really well because our songs are honest. They either love it or hate it.”

As far as songwriting influences go, Madden cited Green Day, Beastie Boys, The Cure, Goldfinger, Morrissey, the Smiths, Elvis, and Frank Sinatra as some of the artists he looks up to.

“I really feel that Robert Smith and Morrissey, when they write, … they put it there so naturally, it’s like they’re crying on paper,” he said. “In no way do I feel, lyrically or artistically, anywhere close to that [in my writing], but it definitely influenced me. It’s a little embarrassing because I’m a very honest person. It’s almost like it’s coming from a diary.”

Behind the Madden brothers’ songwriting, Good Charlotte made a name for itself playing numerous local radio station shows, the HFSFestival in 1998 and 1999, parties and clubs. That eventually led to a meeting with manager Steve Feinberg. He met the band through his partner, Mike Martinovich, who was with Epic Records in Washington, D.C., at the time.

Feinberg, a punk rock lover himself, said he was hooked after hearing the band play to about 19 people in a Maryland bar. Since that time, the band has played from 500-seat clubs in Europe to 10,000-seat arenas in the U.S.

“Catchier punk was really what interested me and I felt that they were that new breed. They have a rapport, even today, with the audience that you just don’t see very often,” Feinberg told POLLSTAR. “I was thoroughly entertained and I loved their music at the same time.

“The beauty of Good Charlotte, especially Benji and Joel, is that unlike other artists who excel at one thing, they’re an entertainment company themselves. I don’t lead them [in their career], we talk and sort of adjust our sights on a regular basis,” he added.

Madden said “When we met Steve, we really just kind of hit it off right way,” Madden said. “We all value the same things. It’s been pretty amazing, we really have a great relationship.”

The band’s European success has been due to the Internet since its self-titled debut album, which has gone gold without a radio hit or top video, was never released there. The current album is scheduled for release in February.

Good Charlotte

“Good Charlotte is very much a live band and they tour over 200 days a year,” Feinberg said. “That’s how they want it. They want to work until they can’t work anymore.

“They’ve truly grown up on the road and in the eye of record labels and industry people; no one seemed to care about the first record except kids. It’s a truly unique experience when you don’t have a hit, but a record label continues to give you money to tour.”

Madden said the band kind of slipped in under the radar.

“With the new record, we got to reintroduce ourselves,” he said. “We’ve always been the band that most people either don’t notice, don’t pay attention to, or they kind of write us off … like, ‘that band, they’ll probably go away.’ We don’t mind being the underdogs.”

Well, the fans are definitely noticing the quintet. Young and the Hopeless was listed at No. 25 on SoundScan’s Top 200 album charts at press time. And the group is far from “going away” with more ambitious tour plans for 2003.

“When we play the sold-out shows in America, we don’t take them for granted. It’s great, but when we go over to Europe, it feels good to prove ourselves again, even to ourselves.”

Good Charlotte will have plenty of opportunities to do just that. The band kicked off the new year touring Japan with New Found Glory. After that, the guys will keep busy with more dates in Europe and the States, and work on songs for the next album.