Against the backdrop of a crisp, unassuming Thursday morning, I somehow found myself quite comfortably seated next to “the by-default godfathers" of pop punk, New Found Glory. Not across them mind, but perhaps a tad too casually (cosily) several inches past conventional personal space boundaries at the foot of a sturdy coalition of tables, drawn up no doubt, by the more-than-accommodating staff of Café Melba. Seemingly unfazed, guitarist Chad Gilbert was the mediating presence that genially fronted a good part of the 50-minute long round-table interview before their concert covering topics ranging from mosh-ready old aunties aboard a specific airline to sagely observations regarding the popularity of tattoos.
On the latter subject, vocalist Jordan Pundik would boast of an MxPx design, a band credited for giving NFG their “first few shows” whereas it was Ollie the Olive and Ricky Ravioli (the colourful characters from Olive Garden’s kids menu) that adorned the calf of one protein bar-chugging Ian Grushka. A companion of Gilbert’s since freshman year, the faded lyrics to Hatebreed’s Before Dishonor (“What I have in my heart I’ll take to the grave”) were inked steadfastly across his arm. “It’s about staying sincere and holding true to your beliefs,” the ardent straightedge musician elaborated.
With matrimony on the horizon, Gilbert assures that “there is very good chance” of a collaboration between New Found Glory and Paramore, poignantly revealing his fiancée’s first impression of his band (“I crap my pants in front of Hayley [Williams] once”). He also instantly recalls how the juxtaposition of They Might Be Giants’ Birdhouse in Your Soul characterised the couple’s fateful drive up to Kentucky – a memory that would soon spawn the mega-hit, Still Into You.
Given the band’s unique and frankly, veteran vantage point, there really wasn’t anyone more suitable to have a sit-down with and discuss the going-ons of the alternative scene, why punk rock will be unerringly relevant and unearthing what the hell was going on in that bloody video of theirs.
Spin or Bin: In light of the recent blink-182 feud (and also the departure of Asking Alexandria's frontman) what are your opinions on founding members leaving: Might it seem as if a band is continuing for the sake of its brand and impede its future?
Chad Gilbert: I think it’s always up to the band. I feel like blink-182 is in a tough spot because a lot of people love Tom and [he’s] not in the band anymore. But to be honest if Mark and Travis get another member and they make an album that’s fucking awesome, then people will love it. I think at the end of the day music speaks for itself and I think people don’t like change but sometimes change can be for the better. I don’t know whether you’ve seen Blink live but Tom sometimes sounds like shit live! He writes great songs but who knows, maybe the new singer will sing better live and people will be like, “Damn! He actually sounds better than Tom!” It all depends on how you react – I don’t know about Asking Alexandria but same thing: If you can step to the plate and write good songs then it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same as it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it still can’t be good.
Ian Grushka: I feel like a band as a whole are gonna have more fun performing when everyone wants to be on the stage. When people are onstage for the wrong reasons whether it be for the money or whether they feel because they have to be, it’s not sincere and I think that people are paying their hard-earned money to come to see your band play, they wanna make sure that everyone onstage is having the time of their lives and putting on the best show possible.
C: And I think fans too should trust a little bit in bands as well. I’m friends with Mark and I’ve read comments that Blink have gotten. People are like “Oh where’s Tom??” but at the end of the day if you have a couple of people who wanna play all the time and you have one person who never wants to play, that’s unfair to the people that wanna play. Fans should just try to trust their bands that they’re gonna make the best decisions for themselves which ultimately will be best for the listeners.
On their hopes and dreams when they first started the band:
I: We just wanted to get out of Florida and tour. I was a little bit older than the rest of the guys starting out and I had talked to bands because I’d always follow bands on tour and I’d be like “How do you do it?” and they said “You just gotta tour, if you don’t tour, you’re not gonna make it.” I remember it being hard because all these guys were still in school so I was just working a shitty job and I knew that I had to get them to tour. I kept saying “We gotta tour, we gotta tour!” but they were busy in school and we’d play shows on the weekends. When we finally signed to a record label, I was like “We gotta have this fake meeting where you tell everyone in the band that we have to start touring nonstop because they’re not gonna listen to me but they’ll listen to you.” Chad dropped out of school (C: Whoops! And I still don’t have my high school diploma…) and it’s my fault.
C: Everyone else graduated but I was the youngest so I didn’t graduate. We were signed and we were on MTV when I was still a junior in high school, y’know. I was in grade 11 and we were on MTV! Ian used to work at the bagel shop and it was on my path to school, so every morning I would go in his bagel shop, get breakfast before school and he would give me free bagels.
I: I’d sneak him extra food in the bag (with extra cream cheese)
On the personal traits that define New Found Glory as punk rockers:
C: We’ve never tried to fit what was popular in the mainstream. When we came out, we just created the music that we played. We never wanted to sound like any other bands. Some of us liked west coast punk rock, I liked New York hardcore and some of us liked emo. So we all had our different influences but when we started writing music, it came out like New Found Glory. We sounded nothing like blink-182, we sounded nothing like Green Day. We were our own style and we got popular. But then when music started changing and things kinda got poppier or things got a little bit more gothic, a lot of bands changed with the genre but we created our genre, so we never changed because we started our style of music. So I think that’s a definitely trait that makes us punk rock – that trends have come and gone but New Found Glory is always New Found Glory, because we aren’t an impersonation of anything else. We are our own brand, we our own sub-genre. I think that’s a very important thing that keeps us still a band.
Do you think the marketing of bands (namely 5 Seconds of Summer) as being “pop punk” could result in more boons or banes? Or does the pop punk community itself at times lack inclusivity?
C: The thing about 5 Seconds of Summer is that basically, they’re a pop band and people wanna give them longevity and in order for them to have longevity, they need credibility. That happens all the time with all types of music. A rapper will come out of nowhere and they want to give him credibility so they’ll say that he’s friends with this [other guy]. [Even in] country, they struggle with artistes having credibility. I think that that always happens and I think that people can be fed what others want them to believe but people know bullshit. The people that like 5SOS are gonna like them and the people that don’t, won’t – it won’t have an effect on anything. It happened before when Good Charlotte got popular; they were essentially a pop band that looked more like a punk band and they’ll tell you that. You look at them now and they just play pop music and that’s always kind of been there. I think people try to make it a bigger deal than it is. Just like let them play whatever they want to play and if people tell you, “Yo they’re a punk band!” you can believe it or not believe it.
As the “doting fathers” of the genre, what is one piece advice you have received that you'd pass on?
C: For anything, you have to love what you do. This kind of music – it’s not huge on the radio. You can’t do it expecting that you’re trying to live [someone else’s life] like “Yo I wanna be in a pop punk band,” sound this way and have a ton of fans. It’s never easy, you’re always gone, you’re always touring and if you don’t love you do, you shouldn’t start a band. With pop punk too I think it’s important to be creative like, don’t just rip off every other band – try to establish your own sound, your own twist on things. I feel like with a lot of bands lately, they’re all sounding very similar and every year there’s like a new one that comes out? And I just think it’s important to not copy but try to evolve this sound. I think The Story So Far has evolved the sound – you can hear their influences but they have their own style. I think that’s an important thing to do – to grow the sound and not just recreate what someone else already did.
On regrettable tattoos:
Jordan Pundik: I wouldn’t say it’s regret, I just think it’s [more of a] “Why did I do that?” and it makes a good story.
C: It’s all [about] where you are in life. Tattoos now are like a fashion sort of a thing but when we grew up it was more of a social statement? There were the jocks, the preps and the punks and in the suburbs you didn’t want to fit in – you were an outcast that if you didn’t fit in school, so you got tattoos. But now jocks have sleeves! Everyone has tattoos. Before, that meant that you were a little weird and that’s why we had tattoos. When I lived in LA and everyone has tattoos, I hate my tattoos; I’m like “Man, I hate my tattoos. I look like everyone else! I look like all these people screaming for attention.” But when I‘m in Tennessee where no one has tattoos and I walk around and everyone judges me, that makes me happy because then it’s a statement: You can be different and still be smart. In certain parts of the country if you have tattoos you looked at as a criminal but in LA you look like everyone else.
It’s the same thing as straightedge – I can be punk rock and not do drugs. I can have tattoos and not be a criminal. It’s more about the social statement behind people not being close-mind and open-minded to everyone.
You previewed several stills from the recent One More Round video you filmed. What can we expect from it and what’s the underlying message you were trying to convey?
C: You can expect to be very disturbed. It’s not a happy video, it’s very aggressive. The lyrics of One More Round are basically just saying how our band can take all the shots it’s gotten and still be a band. We’ve been through so much in our career that there is nothing anyone could say that would hurt our feelings. So the video is an extreme portrayal of that. It’s us trying to play and people are running through with chainsaws and sledgehammers, literally beating the shit out of us but we’re still playing. But it’s shot in a way that was actually inspired by Indonesian horror movies. There’s that movie um, I Saw The Devil? Oldboy, [martial arts action crime thriller] The Raid 2 where there’s like Hammer Girl and it’s really bloody but shot really nice? That’s what inspired the video – really gross horror movies. [Based on the lyrics, the message is that] no matter what you do, keep going; but we did that with chainsaws.
On whether people will stop listening to punk rock:
J: No way. I think it’s been bigger than this band for a long time. Maybe not on the radio or MTV so much anymore.
C: People need punk rock. What happens is that you get into music, right? Say you’re ten years old and you hear Katy Perry, One Direction or whatever it is. You turn fourteen and you’re in school but now you’re starting to deal with real relationships and people. Then you listen to your [KP/1D album] and you’re like, “Okay… I’m starting not to relate to it as much anymore. Then you hear a punk band and [realise] “This is just as catchy as a One Direction song but it’s actually making me feel not alone.” When you hear punk rock music, it helps you cope with your life because you’re able to have a favourite band that is willing to expose your true feelings. Pop music doesn’t necessarily do that it’s, “Let’s write a catchy song about having fun at a club and everyone will relate to it.” [I: Or let someone else write a song for us, with their feelings.] With punk rock music, people get to a point where they’re like, “Alright I can now smell bullshit and I need to hear a song that will help me deal with going to high school, going to college or entering a serious relationship. You wanna be able to hear a song and have someone express what they did in their relationship and I think that’s why there’ll always be punk rock because you rarely get that from pop songs.
Photo credit: Alvin Ho