Since the late '90s, New Found Glory have been obliterating ear drums, rallying crowds with their gritty-gone-euphoric anthems and preaching the gospel of South Floridian pop-punk. They've got seven albums to show for the nearly two decades they've spent both breaking hearts and inspiring serious limb-flailing mosh pits, and their eighth record, Resurrection, is proving to be the most fruitful challenge they've confronted yet.
This has come at a significant, personal price. In 2014, New Found Glory faced their biggest hurdle to date when they parted ways with Steve Klein, a move that followed a number of personal conflicts and sex crime allegations the guitarist and lyricist was facing in December 2013. Since then, Cyrus Bolooki, Chad Gilbert, Ian Grushka and Jordan Pundik have not only continued to tour but embraced the new arrangement and worked out the turmoil and tension one riff at a time. Resurrection is their first foray into music as a four-piece, a confident, optimistic product of the tumultuous few months they spent figuring things out and meeting these massive changes head-on. Before heading out on the road in support of Resurrection, Chad Gilbert brought us up to speed on what exactly went on behind the closed doors of their studio as they said goodbye to one identity while moving towards another.
Congratulations on Resurrection, man! It sounds like New Found Glory is in a really good place right now, especially considering the crazy year you've had.
Yeah! The reaction to "Selfless" has been really overwhelming. People are really excited. And "Ready and Willing," to me, is definitely one of the best songs New Found Glory has ever written. It's one of my favorite songs that we've ever had. I feel like people are going to be really psyched.
What makes "Ready and Willing" stand out as a best among the rest for you?
I think the message of the song is really cool, what it's saying about being ready and willing to give up something in order to do that you want to do. It's a cool story about having a dream to do something, getting what you want, and sort of losing your way in your passion, and then rediscovering and figuring out why you do what you do. Musically, it's very, very melodic. It has a cool guitar lead … it's got one of those air guitar riffs, you know what I mean?
For sure. How did Resurrection force you to look at your band mates and their creative contributions in a different way? Resurrection really is New Found Glory's first record as a four-piece, and this shift in style has a lot to do with your new arrangement. You guys are a different band, but not really.
We always want to do everything from the heart. When it came to making this record, we weren't afraid. We've been through so much in our career that when we're challenged, we're not afraid to rise to the challenge. We were put in a four-piece scenario, and it wasn't like, "We need to get another guitar player!" When it came to recording the record, we wanted to be real. When you hear the album, there's never two guitar parts … we were like, "Let's not try to fill in a blank when we don't need to." Us four, alone, are a strong enough force. I feel like New Found Glory's career, everyone's had their place in their band, but we always came together and wrote together. If you look at every album, the credits say "All songs by New Found Glory." It says that because no song would exist without the other band members. Sure, there are songs where I might've added a lot more of the lyrics, but the lyrics might be about Ian, so that song wouldn't exist without Ian.
The difference this time around is writing was way more fun. [We] had sort of got in this safe zone, and that's what "Selfless" talks about: "breaking a mirror and ignore all my features … see what I can do without safety." When you get put in a safe place, you never really see what you're worth: You're used to it, everything's cool, you know what's going to happen, what you're going to get out of it. I can say that's sort of what happened to us on our last couple of records. It doesn't mean I don't think the last couple of records are awesome. We sort of got in a safe zone of being used to this routine. I did a lot of the music, some of the lyrics and guitars; we had someone who did the lyrics and none of the guitars. Ian did his part. Jordan offered melody and lyrics. This time around, we were able to break out of that safe zone, get out of those old habits and start fresh as a new band, and all of us have been a part of writing lyrics. There were songs in the past where I wrote a lot of the lyrics, but a lot of it, I didn't need to, someone else did. Those songs are some of our biggest songs … Now we sort of feel free. It's funny to say you're "free" when you're not safe, but now we're sort of free to do anything, and that feels good. That's what we did with Resurrection: we got rid of that safety zone, and when you do that, you have to dig deeper. A lot of the songs on this record aren't about girls or relationships. I feel like some of our older stuff has a deeper soul, and I think this album does, too. It's not just "Let's write a catchy melody!" The lyrics cut in a deeper place.
And it's not like this record could've happened earlier on in New Found Glory's history, from the sounds of it: You needed to get stuck in this safe zone and go through what you went did in order to get to Resurrection. How does Resurrection represent where New Found Glory is right now? Does the title feel like a perfect fit?
I definitely think so. There's that sort of death of an era and the birth of a new one. When fans first heard about the change, they were potentially worried or concerned about the band's wellbeing. None of us in the band were. There never once was a second thought or worry about the music side, and that was never in jeopardy. There's no way to get around our fans knowing there's a change, but with this resurrection, our band is now better. I hate saying it…but there's sort of this freeing liberty now. It's a shame, like, it was a situation we were put in, you know what I mean? At the same time, I feel our fans are now going to get a better New Found Glory. You never know what you're worth until you've been challenged. When you're in a band, unfortunately, the way the music industry works, you're put on a cycle: You go in the studio, you record, you go on tour. I think we got knocked off of our cycle. I wouldn't say it was the best thing [that happened], but it was a situation that threw us in that challenge, and we were able to turn it around.
The thing about all the shows we've been playing is they're festivals, so we don't really get lots of time. For right now, we just play "Selfless," because there are a lot of fans that haven't seen us play for a really long time. We've been playing a lot of our classic, older songs. When the tour comes, we're going to play a lot of Resurrection. Going into this album, we've had the most fun with the dynamic and energy in our songs. That's what a lot of our fans love, too. They're going to want to hear these new songs on the record. The tour will definitely be showcasing a lot of the new material.
What's your favorite song to play live at the moment?
We played "Selfless" at this festival in South Korea a few weeks ago, and the reaction was just amazing. The energy of the guitar riffs and the bridge and all that stuff, the reaction was pretty crazy for it. "Selfless," that's the only one we've played live so far. That one was really fun. As far as practice goes, "Ready and Willing" is really fun to play.
What took you by surprise in regards to this whole process? Did you hit the ground running with Resurrection in a way that you didn't with previous New Found Glory releases?
I think we were really itching to record. After Radiosurgery, we did a lot of touring, and I think we were already itching to record and write new songs. We were in that zone, and then once everything happened with our band and an unexpected turn happened, music was our only expression. Because the band was already in a writing mindset and then everything happened, it was just…we had to get things off our chest. There's some stuff not just about the situation, but relationship stuff. Ian had his own personal resurrection. If you follow Ian on Instagram, he's really funny and fun and outgoing, and there were a couple of years before that where at the beginning of his divorce, he was impossible to be around—and he would tell you that. He was depressed and in this dark place and saying scary kinds of things, and he had this personal resurrection where he made amends with his ex-wife. He's an amazing father and he's a completely new person, so fun and positive to be around. I thought that came out in the record, too. We were writing at a time when we all had a lot to talk about beyond what happened. Personally, Hayley [Williams, of Paramore] and I, we'd been dating for six years, and we hit a rough patch in our relationship, and it was great, being able to get that out in these songs. It made things better for us, you know what I'm saying? There was so much going on at this time that you can dig deep into the record. That's another thing, what the songs of Resurrection are about: Looking at the challenges not as negative things but to really take them in a way that tests your value as a person.
You do articulate the mission statement of the record on the title track. Before the power chords come in, a foreign voice pipes up: "It's not important what happens around us, or even to us: the important thing is what happens in us." I feel like that ties up everything we've been talking about rather well. You confront adversity as a band, and yet the chemistry and relationships between the four of you held the group and the music together during this difficult time.
Yeah! That little sample before "Resurrection" sums up the record. People don't really get it, don't really know [yet], because they haven't really heard the whole record, but even "Selfless," a lot of that song is saying a lot of it, what the album is about.