Good Charlotte is back, reuniting after a brief six-year hiatus simply because it finally felt good to make music together again. Billboard spent the band’s record release day for Youth Authority (out July 15) with the group, following them from The Tonight Show to a 5 Seconds of Summer after-party. Here’s a day in the life of Good Charlotte in New York City.
4:30 p.m.: The day starts late. I’m at the stage of The Tonight Show, on which Good Charlotte will perform. Rachel Maddow is present, and Blake Lively, who is impossibly gorgeous and might not be human, glides around set.
4:45 p.m.: I sit in the press section of the show, high stools lining the furthest wall. The audience members directly in front of me cheer loudest for Good Charlotte.
5:30 p.m.: I loose track of time with my phone off while taping. Benji and Joel play a game of Password with Blake and Jimmy Fallon. Most bands don’t participate in the actual show, this is a band with real personality, an infectious energy that makes you want to put a mic in front of their face. They win the game.
6:15 p.m.: Joel tells me he wants one hour with all the original members of Blink-182: he could get Tom DeLonge back in the band, and Matt Skiba should stay.
6:30 p.m.: We load into a crowded Sprinter van to drive to the next destination, the iHeartRadio Theater in Tribeca. The air conditioning unit leaks rancid water onto bassist Paul Thomas. We hop out and grab an Uber so the others can ride comfortably.
6:45 p.m.: Benji, Joel and I are seated close, elbows touching. I ask them if today feels different from any other record release day. “It’s exciting but it’s very calm. This record already feels like a win,” Benji says. “We’re not doing the same things as a new band. We say ‘no’ to a lot more things, not in a mean way. We know what our limits are. We’re okay not to be number one to do things our way. We’ve discovered what success means to us. We’re doing everything that sounds fun, and it’s rewarding. We sacrifice it being bigger for it being interesting. We’re not on that grind. Naturally, we’re happier and we have more to give.” Joel jumps in: “We’re not trying to return to the past.” It’s a refreshing take on an emo revivalist culture. Good Charlotte in 2016 is present in the year 2016 — they’re not the same Young & Hopeless kids. “We’re always going to challenge people’s perspective of who we are,” Benji says, finishing his thought, “There’s a meaning behind ‘Youth Authority.’ It’s up to the kids, it’s not ours anymore. We’re here to lift up the kids. ‘Youth Authority’ can be defined by the fact that we came from nothing. We’ve lived the American Dream. People didn’t care about us and now they do. We feel a certain responsibility to the next generation. Sometimes we come off as a little idealistic and we choose to be.”
After today, Good Charlotte will head to the Alternative Press Music Awards and then Warped Tour for two weeks. I mention the controversial pro-life tent on the tour, and Joel goes off: “The problem is that the message doesn’t help people with their real lives, with their health, with their safety. It’s ignorant. They’re not thinking about the well-being of all of us.”
7:30 p.m.: We load up on green room sandwiches and wine while the iHeartRadio stage is getting set up. The space is crowded with friends, family and employees. At one moment, up-and-coming punk trio Potty Mouth enter the room, excited to share its latest news with the band. Potty Mouth is managed by MDDN, Benji and Joel’s artist company.
8:00 p.m.: The show begins. The band rips through hits like “The Anthem” and “Boys & Girls” while giving special detail to newer tracks like “Life Can’t Get Much Better,” Benji’s ode to wife Cameron Diaz.
8:40 p.m.: The radio taping ends. Good Charlotte is in trouble for cursing on air. They decide to play a couple more songs after, just for the fans. Joel reveals that he didn’t love the song “Riot Girl” because he didn’t love himself when he wrote it. It’s a different story now.
9:00 p.m.: We load into the van to go to Madison Square Garden to see 5 Seconds of Summer, Good Charlotte’s protégés. It’s the band’s first time headlining the world’s most famous arena.
9:10 p.m.: We’re late. We walk into the last song of 5SOS’ encore, “She Looks So Perfect.” Confetti blasts around us. It feels like an important moment.
9:30 p.m.: We’re backstage at Madison Square Garden. Young models and their friends make up most of the area. Benji and Joel stop to say hello to every single person there. We talk about religion and children. Calum Hood of 5 Seconds of Summer walks up to Joel, and they go back and forth sharing positive remarks. We talk about Twenty One Pilots being the biggest rock band in the world, how it’s weird they can do that without guitars. Calum says “but they’re different, that’s interesting.” He’s not wrong.
11:00 p.m.: We head to Dave & Buster’s, where 5 Seconds of Summer has a private room reserved. It’s singer Luke Hemmings’ birthday — he’s 20 today. He’s not a man of many words; the extent of his interactions include saying thank you and exchanging hugs throughout the back room. Guests of his party are given free gaming vouchers. Drummer Ashton Irwin darts in and out of the space saying things like “It’s a big night.”
2:00 a.m.: I leave. Good Charlotte’s lives are huge and over the top, and the boys of 5 Seconds of Summer are beginning to enjoy the same fame. If anything, I’m reminded of what Joel said earlier: that he refers to his past as 5SOS’ future. “When we were 5 Seconds of Summer,” he starts a handful of stories, more than happy to pass on the torch. It’s evident that the band wants everyone to do well, to succeed, to be positive forces in an unforgiving music industry. It’s impossible not to believe in them.