Originally published in Guitar World, June 2004
With a prime spot on the Warped 10th anniversary tour and a hot new
album, New Found Glory appear ready to rule the pop-punk landscape.
"It's time for a change in music,” says New Found Glory guitarist Steve Klein. “That’s the reason why our new album is called Catalyst. All the bands sound the same these days, so it’s time somebody started doing something different.”
But don’t expect too radical a departure. Catalyst sticks close to the pop-punk infectiousness—compounded by a dose of hardcore fury—that made New Found Glory’s self-titled 2000 debut album and 2002’s Sticks and Stones (both MCA) big hits with the Warped crowd. This time out, however, NFG have allowed themselves more stylistic latitude, embracing everything from retro Eighties New Wave (“Failure’s Not Flattering”) to plush, violin-upholstered balladry (“I Don’t Wanna Know”).
Solid tunesmithing is what holds it all together. Klein and his coguitarist, Chad Gilbert, make up the songwriting nucleus of New Found Glory. Gilbert mainly writes the music, while Klein is the principal lyricist. Both are keen students of pop songcraft, as Catalyst’s first single, “All Down Hill from Here,” handily demonstrates. It kicks off with a meaty chordal riff set to a skewed hardcore beat, then segues to an adrenalin-rush verse that finds Gilbert floating flangy chord shapes over Klein’s solid, muted downpicking. From there, the band power-shifts into a classic, half-tempo pop punk chorus guaranteed to have the kids in the nosebleeds doing the wave. The third time around, the chorus even breaks down to a lone guitar and singer Jordan Pundik’s plaintive whine—a move aimed straight at the hearts of teenage girls and their moms—before roaring out on a full chorus refrain.
“The parts build off each other,” says Klein. “They build into this epic thing. What’s cool about ‘All Down Hill from Here’ is that it definitely bridges the gap between our last album and the new album. It brings together what we’ve done before and what we’re trying to do now. That way, kids won’t think we’ve changed too much. But at the same time, I think the album shows we’re a real-deal band. We’re not just some pop-punk band.”
Now that pop punk has long since exceeded the media’s saturation point, many of the genre’s foremost practitioners are beginning to broaden their scope. It’s tempting to compare Catalyst with Blink-182’s recent self-titled album bid for artistic maturity. While New Found Glory started out in Florida, they’ve since relocated to Blink’s Southern California backyard. The two bands even share the same management. But Gilbert sees a marked difference between the recent Blink opus and what NFG have done on Catalyst.
“There’s a difference between progressing and changing completely,” he says. “Blink progressed but at the same time they changed their sound a lot. We weren’t ready to make that kind of change. Blink were tired of the stuff they were playing. We weren’t. So we kept the same style but progressed in it.”
GUITAR WORLD Do you think the whole pop-punk thing has peaked in the mainstream?
STEVE KLEIN I would say that pop punk has had its heyday. But I wouldn’t say it’s dying or going away. I just think that the mainstream chewed up and spit out so many bands that all sound the same, so people can’t tell one apart from the other anymore.
CHAD GILBERT But I think [pop punk] will always be around. There have always been popular punk bands. Right now there are so many of them on the radio, and I don’t think there will ever be that many again. Everything goes in cycles and everything gets old to people.
GW Thanks to things like the Warped Tour, I think there will always be an audience for that kind of music—an entire subculture.
KLEIN Definitely. Since we’ve built up our fan base through touring, it’s not like the kids are gonna be here today and gone tomorrow. It’s not like the radio crowd. Those kids hear a song they like on the radio, but once the radio stops playing that song they’re no longer a fan of the band. Whereas we got our fans from touring for such a long time. They come to sing along. When we play, it’s not just us up onstage; it’s people getting involved in the music—us being integrated with the crowd. That’s what makes a show for us.
GW Do you have any pre-show rituals?
GILBERT I go to the bathroom, like, eight times. I really don’t have to go that much. It just feels like I do. My mind is playing tricks on me.
KLEIN I definitely try to stretch a lot. I hurt my shins because I jump around so much onstage. So I try to stretch my leg muscles, like I’m gonna play football or something. Also, we really try to get the band all alone together five or 10 minutes before we go on—just to shut out whatever’s been going on all day, focus on the show and give each other knuckles.
GW When you went into the studio to make Catalyst, were you specifically looking to change your direction?
KLEIN We wanted to become more riff-oriented on this album. And it’s definitely more of a rock and roll record than the last one—less by-the-book.
GILBERT But to be honest, while we were making the album, I always felt like there was no exact direction. We just wanted to do what was right for each song. When we were first starting out, our album budgets weren’t as big, so we didn’t have time to experiment with different sounds as much as we did this time.
KLEIN Every song on the new album has different guitar sounds and all different guitars. On the past records every song was just EMG 81s in our stage guitars with Mesas and Marshalls. But on this record we used Rickenbackers and a bunch of different baritone guitars. I used my regular Strat, but also a Fender Tornado, a Telecaster and a PRS. We used Vox AC30s, Fender amps, Orange amps… every single thing that you can think of to get a good guitar sound. What’s also cool about this album is we used a bunch of different tunings that we’ve never used on any previous record. On the last record we had a couple of songs in dropped-D [D A D G B E]. But there are a few songs on this new record that are tuned all to D. [i.e., a whole step down: D G C F A D]. So there’s standard E [E A D G B E] dropped-D and regular D.
GW Which songs have guitars tuned a whole step down?
KLEIN There’s one called “This Disaster,” which starts off with this cool metal kind of riff. Tuning down a whole step is good for Jordan’s voice, which is high. It enables him to have more range. He was also able to hit higher notes on this album than he did on any of our previous records. He used to be able to go up to A, but he was able to hit a B on all these songs.
GILBERT One of the most distinctive things about our band is Jordan’s voice. It stands out—in a good way for some people and in a bad way for others. But there’s no mistaking it. That gives us a lot of room to do what we want musically. With Jordan singing, it’ll always sound like New Found Glory.
GW Between the two of you, who does what on guitar?
GILBERT Since I write most of the music, I’m generally more comfortable with the leads. So live, Steve plays all the rhythm parts and I pretty much play all the leads. Only they’re not really leads. I call them doodles.
GW Who are your all-time guitar heroes?
KLEIN My all-time guitar hero is Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day. I know a lot of bands in our style would say that, but he’s the reason why I play Fender Strats. My first guitar was a Squire Strat and I learned how to play Green Day songs on it. I learned how to play power chords before anything else. I never took a guitar lesson. And I definitely have a weird style of playing. Normally, people strum with their wrist, but I strum the guitar up and down with my entire arm. When we first started playing shows I was the one always putting his guitar out of tune and breaking strings. But as I’ve gotten better that’s obviously not the case anymore.
GILBERT When I was growing up I always thought Slash was awesome. But I was never really into “that guy can really solo.” I’m more into songwriters. I always looked up to Billie Joe because every song on Green Day’s albums was catchy and good.
GW Is Chad more the hardcore guy and Steve the pop punk guy?
GILBERT Not at all! We all listen to everything. I used to sing in a hardcore band [Shai Halud], so that’s why I’m always considered the hardcore guy. But Steve and Jordan were always up front singing along with me. Actually my favorite singer of all time is Björk. And my favorite band of all time is They Might Be Giants.
GW With “I Don’t Wanna Know,” did you deliberately set out to write a big radio ballad?
GILBERT No, it just turned out to be one of the catchier songs on the record. Some of my favorite songs are slow songs, like Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain.”
GW Do you envision high school girls losing their virginity to “I Don’t Wanna Know”?
GILBERT Maybe that could happen. I don’t envision that because I think it’s illegal. I don’t want to go to jail!
KLEIN It’s definitely one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written. Every time me and my girlfriend hear it, it’s kinda embarrassing for us.
GW The original working title for the song “Failure’s Not Flattering” was “Belinda”?
KLEIN Yeah. While we’re writing, we name all of our songs after artists that we think the song sounds like—even if it doesn’t really. And that song was named after Belinda Carlisle [singer with Eighties New Wave band the Go-Go’s]. We recorded that song all Eighties style. We put the drums in a small room, all taped up with no bottom heads. We used all pretty much clean guitars. And all the vocals have a Cars feel.
GILBERT To be honest, we just listened to a Cars record and tried to match their guitar sounds.
GW That retro Eighties vibe kind of puts you in the company of a band like Fountains of Wayne. I don’t know how you feel about that.
KLEIN Fountains of Wayne are an awesome band. I don’t mind you comparing us to them. Come on, they wrote “That Thing You Do!” I love them—except for “Stacy’s Mom.”
GILBERT I think those guys [Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger] just said, “Alright, we’ve written all these great songs that have gone unnoticed, so now we’re gonna write a really cheesy one. That way I can sell a lot of records and be on the radio.” Cause all their other songs are really legit. That album with “Radiation Vibe” on it [Fountains of Wayne, 1996] is a killer.
GW Steve, do you and drummer Cyrus Booluki still share a house in Temecula, California?
KLEIN Yeah, me and Cyrus still live together. We actually built a studio in our house, and Cyrus has been recording a bunch of bands for this new label that Chad and [bassist] Ian [Grushka] have started.
GW Two guys sharing a house—how does that impinge on your love lives?
KLEIN Well, when we decided to move in together, we didn’t have girlfriends. Then, after a year of living together, we both got girlfriends and both of our girlfriends live with us now. So we had a bachelor pad at first, but now it’s more like we live together with our girlfriends. After this record, we’ll hopefully have a little time off and we’ll probably each move into our own houses.
GW In its day, I’m sure your place was the swingingest bachelor pad in all of Temecula.
KLEIN Definitely. When we first moved in, it was hip.
GW Although I don’t know how many girls one can meet in Temecula.
KLEIN Not that many, actually. After they turn 18, they get smart and get out. So it’s people in high school and older girls.
GW It’s one of those towns people can’t wait to leave—suburban nowhere.
KLEIN Exactly. But the guys in Finch also live there, down the street from me. We barbecue and hang out. It’s not the hippest town, but it was really cheap to buy a house there.
GW Speaking of intraband relations, does Ian ever get on your nerves? Judging from your DVD, The Story So Far, he always seems to be “on.”
GILBERT He’s not always like that. Actually, he’s one of the most quiet guys in the band. But when he’s onstage or on camera he feels like he’s on the spot, so he becomes very talkative and active. Ian’s the kind of kid who’s been picked on and called “fat” all his life. But now everyone who went to his school is kissing his ass.
KLEIN When everyone in the band is feeling down, Ian is the one who cheers us all up. He actually carries a job application for Taco Bell in his suitcase. So if he ever gets fed up with anything the band is doing, he pulls out the application and says, “I could be working here or I could be in New Found Glory playing shows all around the world.”