Guitarist Steve Klein looks back 10 years ago at the band’s seminal Self-Titled release and how the band first began, tries to make sense of how influential the record became, and reflects upon what has changed in the time since.
How’s the tour going so far?
It’s going amazing, dude. It’s really, really fun. We have Saves the Day, Hellogoodbye and Fireworks on the tour. We’re super good friends with all those dudes, so it’s been awesome. We’re having a great time.
Where did the idea for this Self-Titled 10th anniversary tour come from?
We’ve been talking about it for a long time, something special like this, ever since Jimmy Eat World did it and a bunch of other bands did it. It seems like it’s a cool, special thing for bands to do, and it gets the kids excited again.
A lot of times kids know you’re going to play all different songs, and they’re like, “Oh, I’ll just see them next time.” This is a special tour. You know we’re going to play these songs and the Self-Titled record, so I think kids are a little more stoked because they know what to expect and what we’re going to play.
Are there any songs you had to refresh and relearn a little bit?
We practiced a couple days before, but a lot of songs off this record we’ve been playing. We didn’t have to relearn them, or anything like that. Nothing too crazy. If we had to do it for any of our other records, it’d probably be a lot harder. But this record, since we wrote it 10 years ago when we were in high school, is a little bit easier for us. We weren’t as good musicians then as we are now.
Is it crazy to think that this record has been out for 10 years now?
Yeah, it’s insane. It’s definitely a crazy thing. We started this band when we were in high school. I was 16 years old, and now I’m almost 30. It’s crazy for us to be a band this long and still be a relevant band, making music and selling out shows. I don’t know. It’s awesome. It’s a really good feeling. Not that many bands get to stay together however long we have. Only the elite, I guess you can say.
How did you guys hook up in high school?
I actually met Jordan the first day he moved to my high school. He was sitting by himself at lunch. He was sitting in the middle of the courtyard, wearing this band’s Tilt shirt. I was friends with pretty much all the punk rock kids at my school, and I was like, “Who is kid wearing a punk rock shirt? I don’t know that kid.” I went up to him and introduced myself, and then we started writing songs together. So me and Jordan have been playing together since we were in high school.
We were going to local shows, and from people in the area we met Ian. Me and Jordan used to go see Shai Hulud, Chad’s old band, play, so that’s how we met Chad, going to local hardcore shows and stuff. We decided to start a band. Chad at the time we first started was touring with Shai Hulud, and with New Found Glory we would always have a fill-in guitar player. Then after a while he decided that he wanted to play guitar more than scream metal.
What was the atmosphere going in to record Self-Titled?
Oh, man [sighs]. I don’t know. It was definitely a new thing for us. It was our first major label record, our first time working with a producer, our first time really working in a real studio. If I can remember, I was pretty green, pretty excited, trying to take it all in. We weren’t really worried about the songs too much because I felt like we had the songs already kind of written.
Then when we heard them recorded, we were like, “Oh my God. This is insane.” We were recording on analog because this is before Pro Tools and all that stuff. It was an experience of being a young kid, and then writing a full-length record and being in a big-time studio with a producer. I’m sure back then we were all going nuts.
Do you remember how long you were in the studio for?
You know, I don’t really remember. Probably a month or two.
That was your first time working with Neal Avron, who would then do your next two records as well. How did that partnership come about and progress?
When we were looking for producers, we didn’t at the time know what a producer really was. It was kind of like, “Hey, this guy Neal Avron’s interested. He heard the demos and really liked the songs.” We were like, “What has he done?” They were like, “He’s done the Wallflowers, and Everclear and all these weird bands.” We’re like, “Oh, we’re a punk rock band. We want to sound like this.”
Then when we met with him we explained about the sound we were going for, and how we wanted to be a heavy band but still have poppy, melodic vocals. We just really got along so well in the studio. He’s an amazing person, with an extra ear. We trust his opinion. We worked really well together, which is why I think we did the next two records with him.
During that time period is there a moment that particularly stands out in your mind?
I don’t know. I really can’t think of one specific, crazy thing. It’s hard to think back 10 years ago. Like I said, it was crazy being a young kid, getting signed to a label and recording this record while still transitioning from high school to college. It was a crazy thing.
I remember recording the record, and then having all of our friends come in and sing “Ballad of the Lost Romantics.” The dudes from Rx Bandits and Edna’s Goldfish – a bunch of bands came in while they were on tour to record back-ups. Before the song “Boy Crazy,” we had all of our moms and our friends come in. When you hear the sample before, it’s my mom and a couple of my friends in the studio talking, like “Hey ladies, what’s up?” All that stuff. I remember recording all those funny little tidbits.
As you mentioned, you were kind of green musicians at that time. How else would say your writing has changed since then?
Oh man, it’s just experience. Back then we probably hadn’t toured the U.S., or did it once. I think from that record on, that started it all for us. From there on it was like a blur up until now. Ever since that record, it’s been nonstop. Record a record, then tour, tour, tour. Then get home, have a couple weeks off and record another record. For the first three records that we did, it was really one after another nonstop, no breaks sort of thing.
After a while, we had to catch our breaths a little bit because we were so busy. That was the change, from having a normal high school/freshman in college life to then being in this band, and touring in a band and playing shows. That’s what we were worried about. We weren’t worried about whatever our friends at the time were doing at home. We were doing something completely different. We weren’t going to school, or doing things a normal person would do. We were on tour, selling T-shirts and playing shows in front of first five people, then 10, then 20.
Another thing with us would be every time we came back to the city, it kept getting bigger and bigger. That just made us want to come back more and gave us the motivation to be a band. Hey, you know, people actually like what we’re doing. They have fun at our shows. We should keep doing this.
When was the time you realized you were going to make it and New Found Glory was going to be a band you could make a career out of?
We had a gold record off our first record. We sold 500,000 records. That’s a pretty big achievement, even now. It’s pretty insane. None of the bands I grew up listening to, besides like Green Day and Blink, obviously, never sold that many records.
It was always kind of a weird thing. You’re like, “Oh my God. I’m having so much fun being in this band, but it also could be a career and could be successful.” At that point I was like, “Damn, this is for real.” It was a good feeling.
One of the interesting things about the band is that you write most of the lyrics, yet you’re obviously not the singer or anything like that. How did you get started doing that?
It’s funny because when we first started it wasn’t like anybody knew what to do, so I kind of just ended up doing the lyrics. It was like, “Oh, I’ll just do it. Whatever. I’ll try it out.” I didn’t know what I was doing at first, but it kind of formulated to where Chad would write most of the guitar parts, then I’d write the lyrics and melodies, and then Jordan would add his own flavor to it. That’s been the same writing process since we started.
Most people don’t really know that I write the lyrics. It’s not something I really care about. Most people look at the singer and they expect just because he’s singing it that means he wrote it. In New Found Glory, we all write the music. We all are one-fifth. We put our hearts into it as much as we can. It’s kind of a cool thing for me to get to write the lyrics, being the rhythm guitar player that no one really knows about. I get to chill in the back. I’m happy with that role.
Was writing something you were interested in as a kid growing up?
Yeah, I wanted to be an English teacher. I was into creative writing and stuff like that. I think for being a nerd in school and a punk rock kid, and having all these crushes on girls that never liked me, that’s where the motivation for the lyrics came from. That’s when the songs all started being about girls. It’s been pretty much like that ever since we started up until now.
I only go off of what I know about. I write about my life, and my friends’ lives and whatever’s going on around me. I don’t really like to write political, or anything besides that, because for us our music – at this point people call it emotional or whatever – but we feel what we write and we believe what we write.
I think that’s why a lot of bands don’t make it, or a lot of bands suck, is because they don’t have soul in their music. They aren’t talking about anything real. People probably don’t think we’re talking about something real, but it’s all opinion.
For me, when I write it is real, and I think that’s what makes us special. The band. The lyrics. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We don’t have a look or a certain way we dress. We want the music to speak for our band. I think that’s what people appreciate about us and why they keep coming back.
Would you say that Self-Titled is a more innocent or naïve record than your later material, regarding the lyrics?
I don’t really know how to answer that. Like naïve as to where I was writing it and I didn’t know it was actually going to be good? Or, not knowing what we had?
Yeah, something like that.
Yeah, it was one of those things where we got lucky to have people like what we like. That was the thing. When we were going into production to re-record songs and listen to them back, if we’re not happy with them…
Every record that we do, we try to make every song just as good as the other one. We want people to put on the CD, and not to have any filler tracks or skip any tracks. We’d like for the CD to be a complete thought. We really work hard to make every song as good as the next. That way we feel like we’re giving our fans a great pride to listen to when you don’t have to skip songs.
We try to give a hundred percent in everything we do, so we wouldn’t put anything out that was half-assed, or anything like that. That’s when you start losing your fans. People are like, “They keep on writing the same shit over and over again.” We don’t want to be that band. We want to forever evolve.
At what point did you end up dropping the “A” in A New Found Glory?
That actually happened before that CD, before the Self-Titled CD.
You still had the “A” on the covers EP, though, right?
Yeah, that was before this record. We dropped it because everyone would call us NFG or New Found Glory. Then the CDs would be in the “A” section and the “N” section. People would get confused. I don’t know. It just sounds better to say New Found Glory.
Moving on to a little more recent times, it seems like ever since you’ve left Geffen you’ve been bursting with creativity. You did the covers album, the hardcore EP, the full-length and a side band. What’s that been like?
We’ve always wanted to do cool shit, but then we were on a fucking shitty-ass label who didn’t want to put money into anything fun. As soon as we got off that label, we obviously had to figure out what label we wanted to be on, but we needed to hold kids over. So many kids were asking us about doing From the Screen to Your Stereo Part II. We’ve always covered music, and like doing those as fun and fast punk rock songs. We had all this material, and we were like, “While we’re in limbo right now and don’t have a label, let’s put out these fun things that we never could have done before.”
So yeah, we did the B9 split with International Superheroes of Hardcore, which is our side hardcore band that we do for fun, and then we did the covers EP. It’s not even an EP. It’s a full-length, I guess. 12 songs [laughs], and that helped a lot for kids not to forget about our band while we were figuring out what the future of our band was. I was very happy with the way those things came out. We put things out on different labels, put things out on vinyl, and did a lot of cool things that major labels just don’t care about doing.
Do you have plans to do more of that random stuff in the future?
I don’t really know. Not really, just because now we have our shit together. We have a label and we’re focused. I think once we get a break from the touring we’ve done off this Not Without a Fight record, we’re probably just going to go in and write another full-length.
Talking about that next record, have you been throwing around any ideas for that yet?
No, we haven’t even begun the writing process at all just because we kind of want to wait. We’re probably not going to start recording until November or December. I mean, Chad always has riffs, and I’m always writing stuff down, so it’s just a matter of us getting together and working it out.
Would you like to continue with the heavier stuff on Not Without a Fight, or explore a little different territory?
I think with every record we try to explore something different. Every record that we do captures a time period with the band – where we’re at, what we’re listening to, our morale – all that stuff contributes to whatever record we’re going to write. I think that’s why we don’t keep putting out the same record twice.
I would hope that we keep evolving. I would like to stay heavy. I would like to keep it heavy and keep it fast. That’s what the kids like to see when we play. Kids like our slow jams, but we like to see the kids jump around and go crazy at our shows, and not just stand there and nod their heads.
I think Coming Home is your most underrated effort, and I love that album to death. Do you think you’ll ever make another record that’s a complete departure like that again?
Your guess is as good as mine. Like I said, it’s just what comes out. At the time of Coming Home, Jordan was getting married, Chad was getting married and I was having a baby. That record came out happy because we were all in that place. Then Jordan got divorced, then Chad got divorced and then Not Without a Fight came out. It’s all about what’s going on in our lives. If we’re angry, the record will be angry. If we’re happy, it’ll be happy. It’ll be a mix on this new record of Coming Home and Not Without a Fight, I think. I think it’ll be a good mix of it.
But so far you’ve been able to stay happily married through all this?
Yeah man, yeah. Jordan got remarried too, then Chad’s dating Hayley from Paramore and Ian’s married. Cyrus is the only single one, so ladies put it out there. Find the drummer.
For a lot of kids growing up, Self-Titled was one of the main albums they listened to. How does it make you feel to know you made something timeless like that?
I don’t know. I can’t really put it into words. It’s flattering, but it also makes you feel a little bit old. We toured with Green Day and Blink, and I would go up to them and say, “All these records mean so much to me.” So I kind of understand what they say, but I also kind of ignore it and don’t really believe it. It’s one of those things where I’m a modest person. I’m not like, “Yeah, that record meant so much to you. I know that. That’s what I wanted to do.” It’s like, “Yeah, dude. That rules, and I’m happy that you said that.”
I don’t really know what to say when people are like, “This record changed my life.” It’s like, “Oh, it changed my life, too.” It’s hard to say the same thing back to someone that says the most amazing thing to you, like, “Oh, this record is my favorite record of all time.” You’re like, “Oh my God. I don’t even know how to respond to that.” This is kind of a weird thing. I know the feelings because I feel that way about other bands, so it’s not like whatever. I understand.
Obviously, the whole scene now has changed a lot in these 10 years from when you were coming up with bands like Blink, Saves the Day and Jimmy Eat World. Do you think it still has the same ability to produce really memorable records now as it did back then?
No, not at all. There’s definitely bands like Gaslight Anthem. There’s bands that are out there that are amazing that are new bands, but all the other shit pop-punk bands… Dude, a lot of the songs now have songwriters in this genre. People don’t even fucking write their own songs, three chord pop-songs songs, that are on the radio. Boys Like Girls – all these bands suck dick because they’re not real.
That’s why in New Found Glory we feel so emotional about our music because we write it. I just don’t get bands that don’t write their own songs, or how they can really take themselves seriously and wake up and be like, “Yeah, I’m a pop-punk band, but I don’t write my own songs.”
I think now that this kind of music has gotten so popular it becomes over-mainstreamed and kind of shitty. I think it’s going to take a while for people to weed through the shitty music for it to be real again. I think that’s why bands like us, Saves the Day, Alkaline Trio, and all these bands that are still real and make some good music, people still go to see because they look past the shit. All those other bands just get the young kids that are oblivious to what real music is. I think as you get older, you start to realize what good music is.
You know how it is when you’re a young kid. You’re very impressionable. Kids come up to me all the time and are like, “I used to listen to Backstreet Boys, and then I heard you guys and I started listening to punk rock. Then I found this band and this band.” That’s awesome. If you can turn someone that’s listening to the shitty-ass pop music that doesn’t even write their songs, to getting some kid to listen to real music that actually means something, that’s what I’m in this for. That’s what makes me happy.
Do you know at what point things started changing and going downhill, like you were saying?
Yeah, it kind of started when Fall Out Boy got huge and all these bands got huge. Then labels had to put together bands that sound like these bands. Management companies sign bands that just have one single, and then they get people to write their songs for them.
To me, in this genre, none of that should be going on. If you want to be a pop band, be a pop band. For us, we’re a punk rock band, or I guess you can say a pop-punk punk rock band. I don’t know. I can sit here and talk about this all day. It’s a very sore subject for us.
I’ll put it to you in a simple way. We’re a real band. We support real bands. We don’t support bands that aren’t in this for the right reasons. We’ve been around so long that we’ve gone through a generation and seen bands come and go. I think we can kind of see through the bullshit. That’s why we don’t tour with those bands that we don’t like. You won’t see us on the same stage unless we’re playing some festival, or Bamboozle or some shit like that.
Originally appeared on Mammoth Press