In the nearly four years since Good Charlotte released their last album, Good Morning Revival, most of the members have settled down and had children, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve gone soft. The band began recording their new album, but scrapped the project when they realized it wasn’t exciting them like previous albums had. After 10 years with Epic records, they announced in July that they switched to Capitol Records where they revisited the project and began recording their fifth album, Cardiology, set for November 2nd release. If you’d like to give some of the new tracks a listen live, the band will be performing at “Plugged In,” a new, free concert series through Universal CityWalk on November 4 to celebrate the album’s release before kicking off the new year as headliners on Kerrang in 2011.

LA Music Blog recently had the chance to talk to Billy Martin of Good Charlotte about the band’s long-awaited album, the recording process, and what the new year holds for GC.

Cardiology is Good Charlotte’s fifth album. How has the process of writing an album changed since the band started?

Five albums in we definitely feel more comfortable with everything. I think every record we’ve done is a little different. Usually Benji and Joel will demo a song or come up with an idea on acoustic guitar, sometimes as a home demo, and then we all sit down to go through the songs that everybody’s the most excited about to come up with ideas and layering parts. A lot of it really comes together in the studio. We don’t really sit around and track the songs live like a full band. Usually we’ll record the drums down first, the rhythm guitars and the bass, and then I’ll come in and add some lead guitars or texture sounds. After that we might decide that it doesn’t sound right and re-track a part or change the drums.

Things were a little different in the past because I’ve written a handful of songs on some of the previous records. A few months before we started recording this record my son was born, so I was selfish and I wanted to be dad and spend some time with my family, which means I didn’t bring any songs to the table this time. Lucky for us, Benji’s the only one who is not married with kids so he stayed very headstrong and focused on songwriting, demoing, and took over steering the ship to keep us on track. In that aspect, we’re all a little older with families, so we have a few more things to juggle in life.

On previous records, there was always a bit of a struggle because we all wanted to give input and feel like the record was going how we wanted it to go. Sometimes those things end up pushing you backwards because you’re too busy being worried about all these little insignificant parts. This time we all went in just looking at the big picture, like, “Okay, how do we make the best record possible? Who cares about all the little things because we’re more mature, we’re older, and we have a different outlook on life.” It was kind of easy just to go in this time and say, “When you need me to play guitar on this song, then I’ll come in and I’ll play guitar the best I can.” We did a good job of coming in when something needed done and actually getting it done, which made it probably the most enjoyable and easiest recording process we’ve had yet.

Technically Cardiology was recorded then canned and re-recorded with Don Gilmore as the producer. What made the band want to go back to Don for this record?

At first we just wanted to try something new. Howard seemed like a natural fit because everyone was a fan of the records he did, so we brought a lot of demos to him and we started tracking. I think we got through all the drums, all the bass, and a handful of the guitars. To prevent Joel from blowing his voice out by doing all the vocals at once, he wanted him to just go in a couple days a week and start doing some vocals while we were still doing guitars on the other songs. It got to a point that we got about three songs finished. He did a rough mix and played it for us, but everybody was just really disappointed. It just seemed like the heart and the soul that was in the demos had been sucked out, and it sounded very mechanical.

I remember hearing it and feeling this lump in my chest, like, “Man that sucks. That’s not what I thought it was going to sound like.” I think everybody was thinking it, but nobody wanted to say it because we had invested so much time into it. We kept thinking that maybe we’re so invested in it that we can’t look at it from an outsider’s perspective. Benji called me out of the blue one day and said, “Do you think I’m crazy? I want to scrap the record and start over.” I said, “Oh God, I’m so happy you said that because I feel the same way.” He said, “Really? Wow, alright I’m going to call Joel and tell him.” When we finally all talked about it, we realized we all felt the same way, so it was an easy decision.

We love Don because working with him doesn’t really feel like we’re working with a producer. He jokes around a lot, and he has a really good sense of humor. He’s really smart and really great at his job. We love him, and I know he loves us too. We went to Don and said, “Listen, we’re screwed here. It’s the last minute and we need to redo the record, but we know you’re a busy guy.” Don was like, “No, I’ll do anything for you guys. I’ll drop what I’m doing, and I’ll start tomorrow if you need that.” It just was a no-brainer. The first half of the recording process was a nightmare, but once we started with Don, it was easy and the most fun we’ve had doing a record.

Good Charlotte - Cardiology

What do you feel that Don brings to the Good Charlotte records that other producers might not?

I think he knows us really well. I think a lot of producers have a process in which they record, and they expect the band to adapt to their process, but every band works differently. The way Howard does records is really different than the way we do records because he’s one of those producers with a team, and he’ll check in once a week and give notes. However, Don is there every day in the studio, pressing the buttons, tuning the guitars, and plugging the amps in. I think, for us, we’ve always had producers who invest the same amount of time and heart as the band does. For me, that’s important. If you think you have a good idea, you’re always going to second guess yourself because it’s your album; everyone’s going to hear it, and it’s going to be around for the rest of eternity.

It’s nice to have someone like Don, who’s produced a million big records, around to be able to bounce ideas off of him. He’s willing to tell us when something doesn’t work or fit and tell us when we’re going in the right direction. It’s about being able to trust your producer. Don knows when to be serious and when to kid around, and he gets us. When you’re in a band, each person brings something different to the table, and the producer has to know what to expect and what not to expect from each person. Don knows that with us, so after this record I have a pretty good feeling we’ll just keep working with him as long as he’s around and wants to do it.

The new album seems to step away from the Good Morning Revival album and more towards your earlier albums. What made the band want to change that direction?

I think that comes back to us reaching a higher maturity level with this being our fifth record. When you’re young, everything feels so important, you have the need to make a statement and want to be artistic for the sake of being artistic because you’re young and finding yourself. You can see us growing up through our music. When we recorded our first record, I was still a senior in high school. We were super young and that record was just simple. We had fun with it, and it was about the hooks, the melodies, and simple, catchy songs, and that worked. As we got older, we added more textures, more sounds, and diversity in the music. We brought in new influences and just kept trying to outdo the previous record to make sure that each record was better, and we kept growing.

We love all of our old records, but each group of fans likes a specific era of Good Charlotte better than another era for some reason, whether it’s nostalgia for that part of their life or the sound on that record. We tried to find a way to take the best parts of each record and put it all together for this record. There’s still a decent amount of keyboards on this new record because we love music with keyboards and electronic sounds. We’re not going to ditch it just because some fans don’t like it because we do. The first album had a simple, feel-good attitude that we tried to recapture because we felt that maybe we’ve gotten a little too far from that feeling.

Good Charlotte

The new album comes out November 2nd in the US. How does this band spend album release dates? After five albums, do you have rituals?

Not really. Every record’s been different. We keep talking about a record release show, but I don’t think we have anything planned. The week of the release, I think we’re doing a show in LA and then something in Vegas and some TV shows, but we certainly don’t have a ritual. I think we tend to just do whatever is fitting at the time.

Good Charlotte recently switched over to Capitol, with Cardiology being the first release on the label. What prompted the move from Epic after four albums?

It kind of just happened naturally. Our manager used to work at Capitol and knew a lot of people there. They seemed really excited about the record, and it was a nice change. It’s been ten years since our first record was released. I think that things in the music industry seem to work in cycles of ten years. Most bands that came out ten years ago have already been through a slump and are working their way back up—if they survived. It just felt like a good time to start fresh. It’s our first record with a new management company and a new record label, so it felt almost like the first record all over again. Every time you start fresh with someone, everyone’s got something to prove. They want to show that they can do it better than the people who did it before. With EMI and Capitol, everyone seems really excited, and we needed that new energy.

Do you guys have any US tour plans following your headlining the Kerrang Tour at the beginning of next year?

Yeah, we’re definitely going to do a US tour. I think the problem is that the record comes out in November, and that’s when a lot of the radio stations in America do Christmas shows. We’re going to try to do a handful of those across America. Then we got offered the headlining slot on the Kerrang tour in January and February of next year and that was too awesome to pass up. There really just wasn’t a proper time to do a US tour before then. Summer or late spring seems to be a good time for us to do America, but we don’t have anything planned yet. I’m not hiding any details; there just aren’t any at this point, but of course we’re going to tour America. Sometimes these opportunities come up, and you’ve got to take them. Starting in January, we’re going to get really busy, and we’ll tour pretty heavily through the whole year.

What else does the band have planned for 2010?

Really we just want to get to as many countries and as many fans as possible. With each new record, we seem to go to new territories. Once you go to those new territories and play once, it’s like they always want you to come back. We love going to new territories, so for us it’s just a matter of trying to get to as many countries, gain as many fans as we can, and play shows. That’s what we like doing the best, playing concerts. Making records is fun, but playing live is the thing that I think we all love the most. We just like letting our fans know how thankful we are that we actually got to make a fifth record. Not that many bands get to album number five, and we only have because we’ve got such great fans. Now it’s just a matter of making sure we get to all of them to play some shows and say thanks.

For more info on Good Charlotte: