Nothing could have prepared Good Charlotte for the demands of fame. Brothers Benji and Joel Madden were always small-town Maryland kids at heart. Regardless, songs like “Anthem,” “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” and “Hold On” had become the angst-ridden yet paradoxically positive soundtrack for any of the dateless, picked-last-in-gym, misnomered “freaks” (“Little Things,” anyone?) who ate up the early 2000’s pop-punk scene. Good Charlotte had conquered the world.
So when the band found itself confronted with the two words no musician ever wants to hear, it was nothing short of heartrending: For some, Good Charlotte had sold out.
“Next thing you know, you’re valuable and you’re worth a lot of money to a lot of people, and you have all kinds of people wanting you to do certain things that don’t necessarily line up with what you started for,” Benji said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “You’re just kinda going like, ‘Well damn, I want to make all these people happy, because I want to be their star player,’ especially when you have low self esteem.”
For Benji, working in the music business evolved into an exploitative cycle of industry bigwigs mining music from the brothers’ deep-seated sense of low self esteem, a holdover from a tumultuous childhood. Eventually, Benji and Joel had enough and announced Good Charlotte’s hiatus in 2011. For Benji, time out of the public eye meant having the independence to explore different avenues of music. He and Joel released an independent album under the moniker the Madden Brothers.
“The only way we’re really going to have an impact on this industry is if we start our own company, and we do it the way we think it should be done,” he said. Because of their newfound independence, the Maddens started their own label, MDDN, which manages artists such as Jessie J, Sleeping With Sirens, Waterparks, Big Jesus and Potty Mouth. Starting MDDN was Benji’s chance to navigate the music business on his own terms without the exploitative nature of a major label.
In addition, the Maddens teamed up with 5 Seconds of Summer to pen songs including “Amnesia” and “She’s Kinda Hot.” Madden said that he regards 5SOS as friends — appreciating the chance to be creative with a band that was a mirror image of early Good Charlotte. If anything, working with new artists stems from the constant crave for new music. “I’m never gonna be a dinosaur,” he said.
During its hiatus, Good Charlotte worked extensively with young artists, becoming like “older brothers.” In doing so, Good Charlotte rekindled its own youth. This led to the conception of Good Charlotte’s comeback, which took shape with its latest release, Youth Authority. “On this record, we gave ourselves permission to be the kids again who weren’t jaded, and who hadn’t had that experience. We did it old school, just like we did on our first couple records.” Benji said.
The record reveals a Good Charlotte that is comfortable with the state of the music scene and the band’s place in it. With “40 oz. Dream,” Joel sings a line about not hearing any guitars on the radio, but he seems OK with that. “Keep Swingin’” is a confident affirmation of Good Charlotte’s identity as a pop-punk group; it is aware of the haters, but it doesn’t care as long as brazen power chords and an emphatic beat drown them out.
For now, Benji hopes that Youth Authority will convey the same amount of vibrancy that was put into making the record — the same vibrancy that he hopes will imbue the pop-punk scene with Good Charlotte’s signature positivity. “Whatever world we’re in, I want to put something positive into it,” he said.
Contact Harrison Tunggal at [email protected].