Guitarist Chad Gilbert talks about switching things up on New Found Glory’s ninth album Makes Me Sick, writing 100 percent on instinct, what coming out of Florida was like in the ‘90s, and why the band has no plans of going away anytime soon.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How’s the anniversary tour going?
It is going awesome. Very easy. It’s really cool.
How is it playing full albums but mixing them up, so you’re not playing them in sequence?
It keeps kids on their toes. You show up to a show and you know what songs you’re going to hear, but you don’t know when. So you can’t take a pee break. You can’t go too far or you might miss your favorite song.
I think it’s the better way to go. It makes it so if you like one album better than the other, you don’t have to wait through one to hear the one you like more. They’re mixed together, and it makes the set ramp up and ramp down at different times.
Is there a favorite deep cut you’ve enjoyed playing on this run that maybe you’ve barely played in the past or have never played at all?
I love playing a song called “Your Biggest Mistake” off Catalyst. That song we’ve never played in the set normally and on this tour it’s going awesome. When we play that song, kids go crazy. I was really surprised about that.
So the new record sounds very different than your last one, Resurrection, did. It’s a lot more pop-influenced and less hardcore. The production and instrumentation is a lot fuller. How did you figure out what you wanted to do this time and make that progression?
Without trying to sound too cliché, our music is true to who we are and what we’re going through. In making Resurrection, we were a little bit more pissed off. We wanted to be really raw and aggressive. Touring on that album for two years, seeing our fans love it the way they did and sing along to it, the growth New Found Glory has made has been so cool coming into this new era of our band.
When we went to make this record, we were more self-reflective with this “nothing is going to stop us” headspace. It led for lyrics that are a little bit deeper and music that was not afraid to step out of the box. We went into Makes Me Sick with a lot of confidence. That’s what made us able to grow musically and not be afraid like we used to in trying new things.
I interviewed Aaron Sprinkle last month and he had some very kind words to say about you guys. How did working with him show up on this record?
Having Sprinkle there gave us more room to imagine. When I would write a melody in my head, if I were normally to record it, it would take me an hour to find the right sound to match the keyboard. Where with Sprinkle, I could be like, “Hey Aaron, I wrote this part in my head.” I could sing it to him and be like, “I like the Bananarama vibe on ‘Cruel Summer,’ or this vibe on that song,” and he would know exactly what instrument it was, find the sound, play it, and we could track it within 10 minutes. Maybe even five.
He was able to take our ideas or stuff we wrote and help us find the sounds that were in our heads. You can be a songwriter but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can find the sound. That’s a whole different style of production, and he’s really, really good at that. He’s a great song guy, too, but for us he was about producing this record’s sounds and bringing all of our ideas to life. He was awesome and so fun to work with.
He said when he works with a band that’s been around as long as you have, it’s not that he disregards an artist’s past history, but he tries not to take it too much into consideration. He tries to be in the present and not overthink things. For someone like you, who has a couple hundred songs out at this point, is it a challenge to not overthink too much or be worried that a song sounds like something you’ve done in the past? How do you balance all that?
I don’t think we do at this point. What we remind ourselves is when New Found Glory started, our genre didn’t really exist. There was Blink and West Coast punk that was big, but that was a different style. Us and Saves the Day at around the same time were blending more emotional lyrics with punk/hardcore-influenced stuff. When we started writing songs, it just came out. We didn’t overthink it. Is this punk? Is this not? Is this whatever?
Looking back to Stick and Stones, we had songs on there like “Sonny,” which totally doesn’t fit the genre. Even “Head on Collision” and “The Story So Far,” we had a lot of songs that weren’t so much punk rock songs, they were New Found Glory songs. Looking back throughout our career, we always did that, so we never think about it. We write what feels real.
We never try to fit anything, and we also don’t try to recreate. We don’t go in and go, “Oh man, how do we write a New Found Glory song?” As long as we’re being honest in writing songs that are true and real about what we’re actually feeling, then it always comes out exactly how it’s supposed to.
It’s more on instinct for you, then?
100 percent instinct. It’s never like we got to write a fast song or what if our fans think this. It’s not like that. I don’t mean it in a cocky way, but we feel that our fans trust us. Especially if you look at our catalogue, Coming Home sounds nothing like Sticks and Stones, and Sticks and Stones sounds nothing like Resurrection. But they sing all the songs the same. They love them each differently for their own reasons, and that’s what our fans count on us for. They don’t want to have the same album over and over again.
One of the cool left turns you do on this album is “The Sound of Two Voices.” I don’t know how you describe it. Hawaiian or something like that?
The little sounds and percussion stuff that Aaron added gives it an island vibe. But overall, it was our take on a Paul Simon throwback. When we started writing, it just came out. We were like, “Oh, this reminds me of ‘You Can Call Me Al,’ but somehow still sounding like New Found Glory.”
It almost sounds like it could be in Moana, too.
I love Moana, so I’ll take it.
Were there other highlight songs that you enjoyed working on and writing?
Yeah, I really love the song “Barbed Wire.” I really love the song “Blurred Vision.” The last song on the record, “The Cheapest Thrill,” is a fun one. We made 10 songs because I feel like every song has its own life, its own sort of ride. They all have their own pacing and something in the melody that makes it really different from the song before it.
You also have the most synths on a record since Coming Home, in addition to a lot of layered guitars and some solos. Was that fun to incorporate more of as well?
Yeah, definitely. Looking at older records we’ve put out, and hearing the production and then playing them live, we noticed there’s a difference. Our fans love our songs live, even though it might be missing some of the bells and whistles because we’re still a four-piece. They don’t care. So we were like on this new record, let’s make it an album.
We know there’s two different forms of listening to New Found Glory. There’s when you’re at home, you’re in your car, you’re on your headphones, so we were like let’s make this record sound the best it could be right then and there while you’re listening and not sacrifice anything. If we have an idea, let’s put it in there. Let’s make it really fun to listen to.
And then when people come see us live, they’re busy going off and singing along. No one really comes and listens for the third guitar layer, you know what I mean? You’re there at the show to go crazy and sing along.
You’ve mentioned before there’s a level of vulnerability this album has where you’re not afraid to talk about yourselves like maybe you have been in the past. What about this album do you feel like brought that out more?
I think maturity. Being a little bit older and seeing worries we might have had in the past or mistakes people have made throughout our career. Seeing us come out of them and being able to reflect. After living and touring in a van for 20 years, you learn a lot and you make a lot of mistakes.
Do you think getting married last year had any impact on the record for you?
I wouldn’t say it had an impact on the record because there’s three other band members, you know what I mean? If it did, it’s in the same way that Cyrus having a kid impacted the record, and Ian being sober impacted the record, and Jordan starting a business. All of us individually and where we are in our lives impact our records. I wouldn’t say one impacts more.
So I wouldn’t say so much getting married. It’s who we are now, each of us individually, and realizing the things in our lives that have kept our band going. With this band and writing music, we’re very lucky. Personal lives can be very difficult and very hard. We’re able to use this band as a way to express ourselves and impact other people’s lives, as well as it being therapeutic for our own. That’s what you get with the new record.
I was able to attend Yellowcard’s final show last month and it got me thinking about what pop-punk’s legacy is at this stage. You were two of the biggest bands in pop-punk’s heyday in the early 2000s, but now it’s more of a niche market and we’re at the point where we seem to be losing a prominent band every year. Where do you think the genre is in 2017?
I really don’t think about it, honestly. We were before the genre existed, we’re a part of the genre now, and we’ll still be a part of the genre when it’s not cool, if it ever was cool. I don’t think it ever was cool [laughs].
When we first started, it was always us, Get Up Kids and Saves the Day. No one ever said pop-punk. It wasn’t a thing. It grew and became a thing. Instead of trying to control what our fans think, we wanted to have fun with it, so we played along. This is a 20 years of pop-punk tour. We have no problem with calling ourselves a pop-punk band, because that’s what our fans call us. We’re not overthinking it.
A New Found Glory fan knows we’re not just a pop-punk band. You can see that by going to our shows. There’s people that listen to hardcore. There’s people that listen to metal. There’s people that listen to indie rock, to emo, to pop-punk, to regular punk rock. We have this huge melting pot.
As far as the scene goes right now, I really don’t know. I’ve always felt like we waved the flag of the genre, but whoever breaks up or gets back together or starts, New Found Glory is going to keep going. We’re going to keep doing the same thing. We’ve never been driven by a scene. We built our own world inside of it. So I can’t really say what the scene’s like because there’s so many different styles now.
And the internet has opened things up so much more than when you were starting out. Now there’s so many options everywhere, it’s more diluted in a way, too.
Yeah. We’ll just always do our thing. We’ll always tour. I remember when we had three gold consecutive albums, and then we didn’t. We were playing smaller shows, but it still meant the world to us. Things always go in circles and come around. Now our shows are bigger than they’ve been in a long time.
Big or small, if you’re a New Found Glory fan, you’re going to get the same amount of passion one way or the other. I think that’s why we’ve lasted this long and why we don’t break up. We’ve given up our self-serving pride a long time ago with this band. We’re here to play regardless. We don’t get affected by what anyone says or what’s cool and hip at the time.
You see a lot in 20 years. You see a lot. There’s so many bands that have come that were big and we might have been told to open for, and now five years later they’ll open for us. It’s just the way it goes. We’ll always be the same and we’ll always be here because we have that loyal fanbase, which is all we ever set out to have.
New Found Glory and Yellowcard also got me thinking about that five-year or so period where there were so many cool bands coming out of Florida. There were you two, Anberlin, Copeland, Underoath, Against Me!, A Day to Remember, Further Seems Forever, Dashboard Confessional. What do you remember about that time? What made Florida a hotbed where all these bands were coming up at the same time?
A lot of bands you were mentioning were later than we were. When we were coming up, there was New Found, Dashboard, Further Seems Forever, Less Than Jake, Hot Water Music, Yellowcard, Poison the Well. The other stuff was a little later. What I always loved about Florida is when you think about the bands from Florida, everyone sounds different from each other.
At the time if you weren’t from New York or L.A., and maybe a little bit in Chicago, you didn’t really have a chance. The Northeast and California is where every band came from. It’s where all the record labels were. Because those scenes were so big, there was a lot of the same things going on. Where when it came to Florida, none of us thought we would ever get anywhere.
There was nothing to do, so you would write songs not based on what was going on but based on who you were. There wasn’t a big scene in Florida, so if you were a punk band, you were playing with a hardcore band. If you were an acoustic guy, you were playing with a ska band. It didn’t matter. There was this weird mesh of things stylistically. Even the hardcore back then was really melodic and weird.
I think the fact that Florida is so secluded from everywhere, especially South Florida. It took 12 hours just to drive out. It let people be creative because you thought you never had a chance. You were just writing music for your friends. You were writing songs because you wanted to play that weekend at a club in your hometown.
You weren’t distracted by the business side of things, because there was none. Whereas maybe if you were a band in the Northeast or California, you were focused on writing and getting signed. But in Florida, it didn’t really matter.
With this being your ninth album and reaching year 20, is there a different feeling now, or does it more or less feel the same and how it always has been?
No, it’s a different feeling. When you’re younger and you’re growing, you feel like you have all this stuff to prove to people. You think there’s this thing you need to reach or this finish line. You’re constantly worried about what’s next.
Now, 20 years later, there is no stress. We’re not worried. We’ve done nine albums. We’re not worried if fans are going to like our band or not.
Or if the album sells.
Yeah, or if the album sells. It would be great if the album sells. It would be great if it’s the biggest record and sells a million records. That would be awesome, but we’re not living for that. We’re able to get onstage and play our songs and focus on what matters, and not about the illusion side of the music business.
We’re able to live in the present and enjoy every show and be thankful. Does that make sense? That’s the difference between then and now.