The Twins Take Toronto

Artist: Good Charlotte
Published: 2003-08-20

"The last seven years have definitely been a trip," says 23-year-old Good Charlotte lead singer Joel Everly.

He's not wrong. The American rockers have come a long way to get where they are today. Fair enough, he is talking hours before a small show at a London, England venue 'The Garage', its not exactly headlining SARSstock. But Good Charlotte are big news in North America.

Their eponymous debut album went platinum in the US, and their first UK release, "The Young and the Hopeless", has already hit the heady heights of the US Top Ten.

"We've worked our asses off and sometimes we're just too busy to look back. But sometimes we do and we're just, like, wow."

Wow, indeed. There's nothing remarkable about a band doing well in America and then trying to break Europe, but Joel's co-founding band member, twin brother and lead guitarist Benji, hadn't struck a chord until he was 16.

After graduating from high school in 1997, the twins left home to chase their dreams. They were joined by bassist, Paul, and guitar player, Billy. The name Good Charlotte was lifted from a children's book, and the band was complete.

The time between then and signing their record deal in 2000 was hectic. They worked a number of poorly paid jobs before getting involved on high-profile tours with the likes of Blink 182.

Weren't they ever worried that it might not work out?

"All the time," says Joel. "I kept thinking-'if this doesn't work out you're screwed'. That just pushed us to work harder."

This work ethic is reflected in Joel's attitude as the band set about promoting album number two and breaking Europe.

"We just roll with everything in the States. We don't let the success get to us and think about how 'big' we are. We've never really felt like we've made it. We're always looking over our shoulders. We're still at the beginning."

Joel might have to accept how 'big' Good Charlotte really are when the band hits Toronto this month.

As pop/punk goes, the album is pretty damn slick. It is wall-to-wall East Coast punk sing alongs, with poppy American Pie soundtrack-alikes, oh-so catchy guitar anthems and even the odd slushy effort ("Say Anything" could become an alternative dumpee's anthem for those of us who believe Celine Dion to be the anti-Christ).

"The Young and the Hopeless" goes some way to clearing the name of the poppy side of rock so tarnished by bands like Wheatus. There are no Erasure covers here, no silly girly voices, just energetic guitars, drums and vocals, helped along by producer Eric Valentino.

"It's a solid record, and most of that credit goes to Eric for being such a supportive person," says Joel, of the producer who has previously worked with Queens of the Stone Age and Third Eye Blind.

At first, Good Charlotte seems to be just another name in a flooded market place. There are currently a whole host of American 'skate-punk' bands around (think American Hi-Fi, Blink 182, New Found Glory…). But scratch under the surface, and there is more to the Maryland four-piece.

"With all due respect, we don't sing about the same things. Our songs aren't just about girls and stuff, we sing about our lives. I'm writing about things I've done and seen. If you put a beat over our lyrics, it could almost be hip-hop," says Joel, who co-wrote the entire album (bar the instrumental opener), with brother Benji.

It's an argument that holds water. Single "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" is a critique on American celebrity culture-"Did you know when you were famous/ You could kill your wife and there was no such thing as/ 25 to life as long as you got the cash to pay for Cochran."

Surely not an issue Blink are planning to tackle on their next album.

This doesn't make Good Charlotte pretentious; they know they are not Rage Against the Machine. But the heartfelt efforts put into the words of songs such as Joel's favourite, "The Story of my Old Man" provides a certain degree of empathy.

And they do, at points, have a propensity for singing about girls and stuff.

"Riot Girl" fights the corner for dodgy lyrics and general trashiness, while "Girls and Boys," a sickly pop tune, is the record's biggest to threat to the 'skip' button.

But the Good Charlotte album is charming because it is different. It is not padded out like a number of its contemporaries, the tempo and style changes regularly, but maintains continuity in the standard of tuneful rock.

So are we likely to see Joel and co. on one of those stadium tours American bands do so regularly over here any time soon?

"It's possible for us. You can't predict these things, but we are really good live. We play those venues in the States sometimes. We'll just see how the dice roll."

Joel continues, "We've worked really hard. We wanted all this…like waking up today in London, is just a dream come true. We're just thankful to God, and want to take this as far as we can."

Judging by the story so far, that may just be where they're headed.

Writer: Tim Newbound

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