With the multi-platinum success of their band Good Charlotte, it’s easy to forget that its founders, twin brothers Joel and Benji Madden, were once small-town boys from Southern Maryland, who could only dream of hitting the big time in the music industry. “We created the band in our bedroom,” Joel says. “We were sleeping in the same bed wearing winter coats in a house that didn’t have heat talking about what it was going to be like when our band makes it,” says Benji.
Of course, they did make it. With their 5 full length albums, Good Charlotte have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, attracted an international fanbase, played headlining shows and festivals around the world, and earned a place in history with their radio-ready pop-punk sound captured on such albums as their 3x-platinum breakthrough The Young and the Hopeless. In the process, Joel and Benji have become international stars. In 2011, Joel was invited to appear as a coach on the highly rated Australian version of The Voice, which has just begun airing its new season. This year, Benji joins Joel as a coach on the upcoming season of The Voice Kids. The brothers also own and operate a fully functional recording studio in Hollywood where they write, record, and produce music for other artists.
All the Maddens have ever wanted to do is make meaningful music. “We’ve always had the desire to do something timeless that could outlive us, “Benji says. They have already done that. The Young and the Hopeless was a genre-changing album, and they were only 22 when they made it. Turns out, though, it was only just the beginning. Joel and Benji have started a new band called The Madden Brothers — a moniker whose simplicity reflects their earnest desire to express who they truly are. “Harvey Leeds, the guy who discovered us, used to say, ‘You’re like The Everly Brothers. Why would you be in a band? You should just be The Brothers,’ Benji recalls. “So the idea was to not hide behind a band name or a genre, write some songs, and find someone to record them and help us deliver the truest picture of who we are musically.”
When you strip away the live theatrics and fancy production, Benji and Joel are classic pop songwriters at heart, in possession of a killer knack for melody, harmony, and heartfelt story-telling. They showcase these gifts on The Madden Brothers’ debut album, Greetings From California…, which Capitol Records will release this fall. The album is split into two “sides,” the first filled with upbeat, sunny pop-rock produced by their long-time collaborator Eric Valentine, who also produced Good Charlotte’s The Young and the Hopeless and 2004’s The Chronicles of Life and Death. With a cheery vibe and harmonies reminiscent of The Beach Boys and the Phil Spector sound, Side 1 features several hook-happy stand-outs, including the soulful, ’60s-inspired and lyrically unapologetic “We Are Done,” the unabashedly poppy “Dear Jane,” (with lead vocals by Benji, who sings lead of half of the album’s tracks), and the urgent love song “Out of My Mind.” “We knew we needed to work with Eric,” Joel says. “There’s a magic that happens when the three of us get in a room together. He really knows how to pull the best stuff out of us, not to mention he’s an incredible musician and writer himself.”
On Side Two, The Maddens’ radiant sibling harmonies are again front and center on songs like “California Rain” and “Brother,” but the music is more earthy, with a warm blend of folk, Southern rock, and ’70s-era FM pop. To get the sound, the guys turned to Grammy Award-winning producer Joe Chiccarelli, known for his work with The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Shins, Boy and Bear, and many others. “We’ve never had a really organic and natural recording, where it was just us kind of naked and not hiding behind walls of guitars and production,” Benji says. “Joe can capture that unvarnished quality and make it sound great. He’s one of the last great classic record-makers.”
Both sides of Greetings From California… reflect The Madden Brothers’ easygoing, West Coast-influenced creative spirit, hence the title, which was also inspired by what they consider a full-circle journey making the record. It began to take shape during a visit to see their friend Pharrell Williams in Miami in early 2012. They had just come off an 18-month tour supporting Good Charlotte’s 2010 album Cardiology and had been talking about doing an album together, just the two of them. “We went to see Pharrell because he’s someone we really love and respect,” Joel says. “Benji brought an acoustic guitar and it felt like a repeat of us leaving home at 18 for California with just an acoustic guitar. Pharrell recognized that we wanted to make classic, California rock and roll and drew comparisons to the Eagles which inspired us even more. We wrote “California Rain” together that night.”
The beginning of Side Two, “California Rain” marked a turning point for Benji and Joel. Lyrically, the song tells the story of the brothers’ East Coast to West Coast journey: “Let me take you back before the lights, before the crowd, before we made a sound / All I wanted was to make my mother proud / She told me ‘Son, we’re from the side of town, no one ever makes it out.’” “It’s about the dream,” Benji says. “It’s about the music industry. California is a magical place, and we liken it to the dream.” “We definitely wanted the song to be epic, because California is epic to us,” Joel says. “The song sums up our experience — past, present, and future. We still believe in the dream. We still believe that some kid somewhere can leave home with an acoustic guitar like we did, a backpack, and 40 bucks, and hitchhike down the road and make it to California.”