Chad Gilbert is dying. OK, not really, but he certainly sounds like it when we catch New Found Glory's guitarist in Oregon, where his band is in the middle of a headlining tour supporting its latest album, Not Without A Fight.
"I did a song with Shai Hulud [New Found Glory's current tourmates and Gilbert's previous band] in San Francisco five days ago, and you're hearing the outcome of it, so I won't be doing another song with them for a long time," he explains between hacking coughs. "It was freezing cold and raining the next day — and when your vocal cords are ripped, they're more prone to infection. So right now I'm basically screwed."
Gilbert may be in rough shape, but his band couldn't be in a better position. Formed in the late '90s in Florida, New Found Glory haven't just outlasted most of their peers; they've also established themselves as one of the few pop-punk acts not afraid of evolving.
"I think this album came out heavier than a lot of the others because of what's been going on with all of our lives," says Gilbert. "There have been a couple of breakups in personal relationships as well as with our old label and management, both of which we were involved with for years. I think that's why the lyrics came out the way they did, and why there's screaming and heavier breakdowns. When you're mad about something, it's not fun to be nice about it. It's more cathartic to yell about it."
In order to properly channel that anger, New Found Glory headed to the West Coast last summer to record Not Without A Fight with Blink-182's and +44's Mark Hoppus, despite the fact that they didn't have a record label at the time.
"Blink-182 took us on tour years ago and [Hoppus] always loved our band," says Gilbert, adding that Hoppus played bass on "Something I Call Personality" from NFG's 2002 album Sticks and Stones. "He owns a studio with [Hoppus' bandmate] Travis [Barker], so he suggested that we do it there — and the stars were aligned and it all worked out. The process was really fun because he's a guy in a band, so he really gets the whole writing process and knows how to work with other people really well. He's not just a producer on the outside."
The result is an album that features the occasional hardcore hallmark but retains New Found Glory's penchant for writing instantly infectious hooks. The songs range from upbeat anthems like "Listen to Your Friends" to introspective rockers such as "Tangled Up," which features a cameo from Paramore's Hayley Williams).
"I wanted to try to have some of the guitar parts be equally as catchy or even more catchy than the vocal melodies," says Gilbert, explaining what he was trying to achieve sonically this time around. "That's why there are some bigger, more intricate riffs that test the limits of what a New Found Glory song can sound like."
The guitarist also says that the circumstances surrounding the album allowed the band to tap into the kinetic energy they captured on their celebrated late-'90s output.
"When we made our debut, Nothing Gold Can Stay, we were on our own and we paid for it ourselves, and we eventually found a label to put it out," he explains. "And on a different scale, that's what we did on this record."
Gilbert is also quick to point out that while the band's sound has grown over the years, the guys have never altered their musical ideology, which is something he thinks has been integral to their success.
"New Found Glory has never had a gimmick," he says. "We've never had that one song that's a huge hit. We have albums that exist as a whole. I feel like we've never been a fad — whenever a kid is going through a phase, by the time he's done going through that phase, he comes back to New Found Glory — because we're always writing sincere music. I think that's why we've been able to stick around."
When asked if he has any advice for younger punk acts that would like to maintain the same type of longevity as New Found Glory, Gilbert is equally candid.
"Writing songs should be your first priority, not what you're going to wear onstage," he says. "You've just got to write awesome songs, write sincere lyrics, tour your asses off and not be a dick. Being a nice person goes a long way; don't think you're too cool for anybody because you're not. There's always someone better than you and cooler than you. You'll never be as cool as me — don't forget that."