TWO YEARS ON, BENJI AND JOEL MADDEN RECALL THE, UM, LIFE-CHANGING CONVERSATION BEHIND THEIR COMEBACK ALBUM’S OPENING TRACK…
In July 2015, a currently-on-hiatus Good Charlotte had their first band hang-out in years. One Saturday afternoon, at guitarist Benji Madden’s home in Beverly Hills, the group sat in garden chairs, under a perfect LA sky, ate BBQ food and threw back shots of tequila, as they regaled their wives with tales of ‘the good old days’.
After nearly five years away, talk of a reunion had cropped up between every member of the band except frontman Joel Madden. “Joel was the guy that was like, ‘I don’t think I’m ever gonna do Good Charlotte again,’” explains Benji. “He was just like, ‘I feel like I’ve grown past it, and I’m not sure it’s what I wanna do anymore.’”
Hearing his twin brother make such a definitive statement cut Benji deep.
“It was sad to hear Joel say he didn’t wanna do Good Charlotte again, ’cause I knew it was more than just him saying he’s matured or grown past it – I knew there was some disappointment there for him.”
Then, out of nowhere, as the family men watched their kids splash around in the pool, Joel just decided, “Fuck it!”
“I was more surprised than anyone because Joel can be very polite when it comes to other people,” remembers the guitarist, “because he doesn’t wanna hurt anyone’s feelings. So the other guys [in the band] didn’t quite know how much he had told me that he was never gonna do it again.”
“It was just being with the guys,” says Joel of what changed his mind that day. “I guess I just felt satisfied in what we’d done,” he pauses to choose his words carefully, “and I didn’t feel like… I didn’t know if I wanted to answer to anyone anymore. Explaining your music and explaining yourself constantly is really not that fun. I said to the band, ‘I only wanna do this if it’s for us. Let’s just make a record that the five of us just wanna make, and that we love. And we all mean it and our hearts are in it, and we can do this our way, and we don’t get back on some train…’ And the entire band agreed!”
They hugged it out, and Benji hit up the twins’ long-time co-writing companion John Feldmann to book into his studio the following Wednesday.
Twenty minutes into that first session, and Good Charlotte were back to work; the first riff that found itself emanating from Benji’s guitar? The opening to Life Changes.
“Right when he hit those chords, those words,” Joel starts singing, “‘Go through these life changes’, came right away.” The conversation they had in the garden that day formed the lyrics, which poured out of Joel like the tequila at the BBQ. He didn’t write one word down ’til the song was complete, a mere 20 minutes later. “That’s the way the good ones come for me,” says Benji. “Really fast! Lifestyles [Of The Rich & Famous]… Girls & Boys… Hold On… all of our songs that have ever been big all came in 20 minutes to half an hour.”
“When I hear that song now,” he adds, “I think back to me and my band sitting around in the backyard – I think about how long we’ve been together, and all the ups and downs, and everything that we’ve done together. That’s why it’s one of my favourite Good Charlotte songs, if not my favourite. I just think about how much I love the guys and how great it was to have that second when Joel said: ‘You know what? Fuck it, let’s do it!’”