Good Charlotte’s Second Act: Inside Madden Brothers’ Pop-Punk Reawakening
When Good Charlotte reunites, the paparazzi follow. The band, led by twin talents Benji and Joel Madden, played an intimate comeback gig at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour in late November. The 300-cap room is usually occupied by indie aspirants; that night, it was the Maddens and their friends: 5 Seconds of Summer, Jessie J, My Chemical Romance’s Mikey Way and Madden better halves Cameron Diaz and Nicole Richie (joined by father Lionel.) Not bad for an early-2000s pop-punk revival.
In the years since “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” dominated TRL, Benji and Joel have launched a clothing company, coached multiple seasons of The Voice Australia (their second home — they say they were “adopted” by the country,) purchased Graham Nash’s old studio, gotten married, had children and launched MDDN, an industrious music media company specializing in publishing, production and A&R. But that night, they ripped through hits from their adolescence as diehard fans looked on. They were back as we’ve always known them.
The formation of Good Charlotte is like that of any other band (“We met in high school,” says Benji), but there’s certain folklore to it. Their longtime producer John “Feldy” Feldmann was playing a gig with his ska-punk band Goldfinger at D.C.’s 9:30 Club. Mid-show, Benji jumped onstage to scream “Good Charlotte” into the microphone. He approached Feldy after the gig and the rest is history. There’s fearlessness in that act of deviance, one Benji explains as desperation: “I was just knocking on doors. I liked his band and I knew he made records. He had just made the Reel Big Fish record. I was looking for a chance. As young kids, we had a lot of tenacity. Life was tough at home so it was easy to go out in the world and try.”
There’s a running trope in pop-punk, one of the teen desire to leave your hometown and everyone in it behind. For Benji and Joel, that was real, because suburban Waldorf, Maryland, was dangerous. “Our dad had taken off at that point,” says Benji. ” It was a broken home. No matter what anyone says, in your formative years, it affects you. It’s easy to look back and say that, but then, we just poured ourselves into the band. We didn’t leave home until we graduated high school, but when we did, we genuinely left. We went out into the world with 50 bucks, backpacks and acoustic guitars. The first apartment we rented was above a mortuary. It was really cheap because no one wanted to live there.”
They don’t look back fondly, but they appreciate the rough start. “We were lucky because we were unlucky,” Benji says. We didn’t have another choice. We were dreaming to get through the week, and it worked. I think I counted 33 different day jobs [at that time]. If they didn’t let us off for a gig, even if it was a gig we were playing for three people: ‘Sorry, my band is number one.’ We bought a Volkswagen for $1,200 so we could drive it to New York, so we could go meet people in the music industry. We had everything we owned in that car. We drove up to meet these guys from Columbia Records, and everything we owned got stolen.”
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