Guitarist Steve Klein chats about writing the band’s new record Radiosurgery and the inspirations behind it, as well as why every record NFG has ever done is its own thing.
Are you hanging out at home right now?
Yeah, the tour’s about to start. The record’s about to come out, so we have a bunch of prep coming up in the next couple of days, like practice and getting ready for tour.
Since you guys live more spread out these days does that change how you end up making an album?
It definitely has developed over the years. Obviously, we all grew up together and wrote together living in Florida. Then we moved out to California, and now we all live in separate places. Jordan lives in San Diego, Chad lives in L.A., I live up here [San Luis Obispo], and Cyrus and Ian still live down in South Florida.
We wrote a bunch of demos on the Paramore tour. We had like five or six demos. Then when we had the time off before we went into the studio, Chad would be at home writing riffs and stuff and recording on his computer. He would send those to me and we would exchange ideas. I would iChat with Jordan, conference call and iChat with Chad, and go over the ideas. More than any other record we used our computers to go back and forth with ideas and melodies, just to start off before we even got together for preproduction.
New Found Glory has been going on for almost 15 years now and seven to eight albums. Do you think the band’s a well-oiled machine at this point?
Yeah, if things aren’t broken then don’t fix them. We definitely have a way that we do things. I think that’s one of the reasons why we brought Neal Avron back. We missed the times that we had with him on those records. We love the fact that we explored and worked with different people in between now and then, even though he mixed Not Without a Fight.
Going back with him definitely helped us write the best record that we could write, just because he has an expectation. He doesn’t just say every song is good, and he doesn’t say every part or every lyric is good. He doesn’t settle at all. Everything has to be perfect to him and also perfect to us. It has to go through a lot of levels for it to end up being the final song.
When you first started out with him, you had some interesting back and forth with the early demos. Can you talk about what that process was like?
Chad’s at home, and he’ll come up with the main riff or the melody to a chorus or an idea. He’ll call me and be like, “Hey, here’s the idea.” I’ll be like, “Cool, that sounds awesome,” and we’ll record it. It’s been the same since the start of the band. It pretty much starts from a riff or starts from a little idea, and then it goes through a cycle. It’ll go through me. I’ll add lyric ideas and melodies and stuff. Then I’ll call Jordan and be like, “Hey, what do you think of this?” He’ll be like, “I like this. I don’t like that.” It starts off with Chad, then it goes though me, and then it goes through everybody. Then we all get into a room together and work on it as a whole.
The demo part of it is we all do our separate thing. Chad will sit at home and think of the idea, try to complete it as much as he can. Also, everybody’s really open-minded. We’ve written so many songs already that if someone doesn’t like something, we all want to work on it. None of us have egos to where if we write something it has to be that or this is the way it has to go. We’re all in it for the best of the band and the best of the record.
Coming off of Not Without a Fight, that album has more of a hardcore influence. What was the vision for this album?
I feel like when we were writing this record, we were all going back and listening to older pop-punk, like the Ramones and old Green Day. Stuff like that. New music melodies are kind of losing the roots of it all. We wanted to go back and think about what made us want to get into music in the first place, what made those records classic and those records special.
The mentality for us, going on our seventh record, is to keep relevant and keep writing songs that people like. We always think of ways, influences and inspirations before we go into writing records. With this record, I feel like we had more of a vision than any other record we’ve ever had. Especially lyrically and musically, it all came together into a complete thought. When you listen to the record, it’s definitely in spaces. It tells a story, which is cool.
Which of your past albums would you say that this would be closest to?
I don’t know. I feel like this one stands on its own, to be honest with you. Everybody keeps saying it sounds like Sticks and Stones, or it sounds like this and that. I don’t know. It stands on its own. I want every record that we have to have its own life. To me, every record captures a time period in our band of what we’re going through as people and what we’re listening to musically.
I can look at every record from Nothing Gold Can Stay on and say this song is about this and this is what I was going through then. It’s kind of like a diary for our band if you think about it. After hearing people reviewing it and everybody talking about the record, it seems like that’s what people are saying. It sounds like older New Found Glory, but it also has a fresh newer sound.
Speaking of the lyrics, you mentioned you had a vision for the whole record. What went into writing those?
We always try to write as real as possible. When we get into the writing process, we’re all sponges. We really try to pick up on what people are going through at the time. On this record, there were certain people in the band who were going through rough times and breakups and stuff like that. Things happen to your best friend or things happen to your family affect you a lot.
With this record, we try to hit home a lot because people were going through a lot of things. We all go with them together, and the record definitely reflects on that. As far as what people are going through, it’s about being in a band and being away, dealing with relationships and friendships, and the ups and downs of it.
Obviously, New Found Glory’s songs aren’t the most complicated in the world, but do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with that?
Honestly, none of us have really experienced writer’s block before. I think a real songwriter never really gets writer’s block, to be honest with you. I don’t know. I’ve never really experienced that, so I can’t really answer that question. For me, I feel like I can write a melody at any time, just give me some music.
Whenever we get into the songwriting mode, we all get in that creative mode where we all want to share what we have. We can’t wait to record records every time we sit down, but it’s an exciting thing for us because it takes two years. Every record takes so long to come out, so we don’t want to get tired of those songs. We want to play them live and we want people to be able to hear them. We can’t wait to start working on new songs, tour off them and play them live.
Who usually comes up with the song titles? Is that something the band votes on or do you just choose them? How does that work?
I never really come up with good song titles, so I usually let people in the band come up with stuff. There’s always the obvious ones, where the chorus is the name of the song or stuff like that. We never try to name the songs a million words or try to name it something that has completely no meaning to the song. We try to just keep them interesting.
There are a few audio clips interspersed throughout the album. How did you come up with that idea?
Chad was sitting around one day, again listening to the old classic albums. A lot of those records had cool little interludes where they had samples and stuff. We wanted to find something to fit the beginnings of those songs to have every song go into each other. Not to have it all be one song, but to have it all flow together. I think by adding the samples in there it’s kind of like turning the chapter, like the next part of it. That’s the idea we were looking at.
One of my favorite parts about the album are the harmonies, which I think are some of the best the band has come up with so far. Can you talk a little about that and is that something you wanted to focus more on with this record?
Just the fact that the music is more, I guess you could say simplistic. It left a lot of room for the melodies and harmonies to go everywhere. Even the bass lines, I feel like on this record bass is able to move more than on any other record we’ve ever had. Our past records were really guitar driven and this record is more melody, space and rhythm driven, I guess you could say. That left a lot of room for Jordan to do really cool harmonies and stuff like that.
That’s another cool thing that Neal Avron is really good at, coming up with really good harmonies. Jordan’s really amazing at that. Chad will put up something on guitar, and we’ll all jive around it and sing harmonies over stuff. Obviously, we want something that fits, and we all come up with ideas in the studio. Neal’s good for that, where he’s kind of like the devil’s advocate. He can take all the ideas and pick the best one.
The first single you released off the album was the title track, “Radiosurgery.” It seems a lot of people who have heard the album are curious as to why that got picked as the lead single and the first track on the record. Can you talk about what the process behind doing that was?
The label picks the single. We can say all we want about what we want to do, but at the end of the day Brett Gurewitz at Epitaph, they have to be the number one supporter behind our band. They’re putting out our record. So when they say this is the first single, we’re like, “OK, let’s go for it. If this is the best thing you think to do, then we’re behind you 100 percent.”
I feel like any of those songs that we’ve released in the past couple of days could be singles. Right off the bat, people react to that song, “Radiosurgery.” A lot of our fans are like, “Oh, that’s cool,” and then the next song are like, “Oh, that’s much better than ‘Radiosurgery.’” We feel like “Radiosurgery” is one of those songs that could be the first or the last song on the record, because it encompasses the whole idea of the record. That saying of that chorus could relate to any song on the record.
Chad keeps on saying this in other interviews, and I think it hits it on the point, where he compares it to that movie Grease. The first song is called “Grease,” and it explains the whole movie. It’s not your favorite song, and it’s not the best song on the whole thing, but it could either be the first song or the last song on the record because it explains the whole thing. The whole idea of the record is the stages of breaking up and what to do, and the only way to get that person out of your head is to get that memory surgically removed from your brain. That was the whole idea behind that.
I want to bring up Coming Home real quick. Upon its initial release, it wasn’t as well received by your fanbase as your past records were, and it seems the records following haven’t been as adventurous as that, or even as Catalyst. Do you think that had an effect on the directions you ended up going afterwards?
I don’t really know. For us, again, every record captures a time period of what we’re going through at the time. Coming Home was just what was coming out. I don’t understand why kids say progression. Is progression getting slower? Is progression writing crazy math time signatures? When I read those comments, I go, “Yeah, that’s cool that you love Coming Home, but every record should be its own.” If you love Coming Home, listen to Coming Home. No record is going to sound the same. On the next record, it could be a fast punk record or it could even be slower then Coming Home. Who knows? It’s just what we’re going through at the time.
Right now, the record that just came out, Radiosurgery, is hitting at the perfect time where people need this sort of record. It’s a fun record to put on. You don’t have to think too much about it. The songs are really fun to sing along to. It’s really fun to drive around and sing along with your friends, see the show and sing along with us live. That’s the whole point behind it. People love Coming Home, and I love that record, but we’re not going to write that record again. That record is what it was in 2004. We went through that time period and wrote that sort of record, and people loved it and people hated it. In the end, we write records for us. If we love it and we’re proud of it, then that’s what we’re going to do.
It seems that record didn’t do as well, but that record also came out right when people started downloading records and stopped going to the stores to buy CDs. That was that time period. People didn’t really realize that was affecting Soundscan. People were like, “Oh, New Found Glory’s not selling any records,” but nobody was buying records. Now people know about it. Records leak and people download records, and there’s thousands of people who get the record a month early before the release date, but record labels at the time when Coming Home was coming out didn’t know that was going on. Whatever, I’m just saying.
The new Man Overboard record comes out today, which is the first record you had a hand in producing. Can you talk a little about what that experience was like?
It was awesome. I met those guys, they opened up a show for us on one of the off days on the Paramore tour. Me and Zac became friends. He started talking to me about the new record, sending me demos back and forth. I started getting to really know those dudes. I told them I really wanted to start producing, and they had faith enough in me to bring me to New Jersey and record the record together. I worked really hard. I made them work really hard too, as far as sending demos back and forth and rewriting lyrics, really focusing on making them sound like a real band. I feel like Real Talk was great, but after listening to this record, it kills Real Talk for me. We worked really hard on the record.
That was one of the things I really stressed for them. The production is great and all, and any record can sound good, but it’s all about the songs. If the songs are great, people are going to react. People are going to listen to the record. That’s the most important thing. The production and all the trinkets and sounds, that’s all great, and it’ll sound good in the end, but the songs are the most important thing. I feel like when I’m producing, my main focus is to make sure the songs are great, because the production will come. It will sound great in the end because nowadays you can make any record sound good if you have the right equipment and know what you’re doing.
Next summer is going to be the 10th anniversary of Sticks and Stones. You did a lot of special stuff for Self-Titled’s 10th anniversary, so have you talked about doing anything for that record?
No, we haven’t really talked about it. That’s a good idea. I love that record and it’d be fun to do a couple shows. I don’t know if we’d do a whole tour again, but I guess we’ll see. Nothing’s really been talked about yet. I guess it’s to be determined.
The name of this upcoming tour is “Pop Punk’s Not Dead,” and that’s something you’ve embraced on T-shirts and stuff for a couple years now. Do you feel like pop-punk isn’t as popular as it once was and has kind of changed these days?
Now everybody, because Blink-182 is back together and Yellowcard, is like, “Oh, it’s a resurgence of pop-punk. Pop-punk went away and now it’s back.” For us, New Found Glory, we feel like it didn’t go anywhere. Our fans didn’t go anywhere. There’s new bands and there’s people still going to shows. It didn’t go anywhere just because these bands went on hiatus.
I think that’s one of the things we feel proud of as a band. When we came up with the term, all these bands come and go, but New Found Glory is here to stay. There’s other bands, like Set Your Goals, Wonder Years, Man Overboard and This Time Next Year, that play pop-punk music and are hardworking bands. We all want to play together and show that this music is still alive and is relevant. It’s bigger than ever.
Originally appeared on Absolute Punk