For Joel and Benji, twin brothers
who, along with longtime friends Billy and Paul,
formed Good Charlotte when they were seventeen,
high school was hell -- "more like a jail cell, or a penitentiary," as they put it in one song. "There was this one girl I
really liked," says Joel. "One day these guys were pelting me with snowballs. It was terrible because she was really encouraging
them." Most of the band's lyrics are inspired by tales of adolescent anguish like these -- like the time when some kids called
their house pretending to be record executives offering a lucrative deal, or when they were made fun of for wearing ratty
hand-me-downs, or when their father suddenly walked out, leaving the family in the lurch and prompting the twins to stop using
his last name.
For a band whose lyrics are sometimes so downhearted, Good Charlotte
make music that is surprisingly pop-friendly, chock-full of punky grooves and singalong choruses. The high school horror story
"Little Things" scored them a modern-rock hit two years ago, and the video for the equally catchy "Lifestyles of the Rich
and Famous," the first single from the forthcoming album The Young and the Hopeless, features 'NSync's Chris Kirkpatrick
and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D. And while the band traveled with the Warped Tour this summer, Joel and Benji hosted their MTV
series, All Things Rock, from the road. "It's like a summer of hanging out with the bands you grew up listening to
-- like NOFX, Rancid, MxPx," says Joel. "Now I'm friends with [NOFX singer] Fat Mike!"
Despite their youth, Good Charlotte weren't exactly an overnight success.
"There were so many shitty shows," says Benji. "There was this one show we played, and the bar owner actually tried to make
us pay him." But Benji and Joel are grateful for their struggles -- both as a band and as a family -- and they haven't forgotten
the impact they can have on kids going through the same kind of stuff. "One kid come up to me and told me that her mom died,"
says Benji. "She played the hidden track on our last record, 'Thank You Mom,' at her funeral. I was like, whoa."
(September 27, 2002)