Phone interview with Steve Klein of New Found Glory, 10/22/11.
The following interview was done as a supplement to our Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour interview, to gain some quotes for this article. I decided to post the whole thing because Steve had some cool stuff to say. Thanks a lot to Steve for taking the time to talk about how New Found Glory goes about picking who to take on tour, their thoughts on giving advice to younger bands, and the seemingly natural circle of life in the pop-punk scene.
Steve, thank you for taking the time to talk today. I wanted to start things off just by asking you to talk a little bit about the Pop Punk’s Not Dead Tour and the sense of community in general.
Well first and foremost, we’re friends with all the bands on the tour. They’ve been around for a long time and we’ve played shows with each of them. They haven’t been full tours, well, we did a full tour with Set Your Goals a while back, but we’ve played with all of these bands in the past. We wanted to bring bands on tour with us that we thought were hard working, that don’t give a crap about a style or fad, that care about the music first. Basically bands that preach the same things that New Found Glory preaches. To take these bands around the whole country on tour, it’s been awesome. A lot of kids nowadays, since bands like Yellowcard, for example, broke up and got back together, a lot of kids are like, “Wow, it’s pop-punk resurgence.” But for us, pop-punk never went anywhere. There have always been good pop-punk bands in our minds, and it’s the same for these younger bands. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it that Yellowcard is back together, but for us the genre is still as big as it ever was even back in the early 2000s. That’s really the meaning of the tour name. The new bands, talking about bands like Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals and The Wonder Years, they carry the torch of this style of music and they’re not making it a fad. They’re carrying it strong. It’s a very cool thing, because it’s sort of like a traveling family. We get to play with our friends every day and hang out and have a lot of fun.
I think you brought up a good point there, about the fact that New Found Glory has been going strong for, really, it’s running on two decades now. What’s that like, having been around for so long in a genre that, when you consider bands that got big around the time you did, might have had a little shorter shelf life than you have had?
For us, it was never about making money or getting big. We were just kids growing up in a suburb, in Coral Springs, Fla., and we wanted to make a band and go on tour. It was never like, if we weren’t selling enough records or the label wasn’t giving us enough money or if something else wasn’t happening, we were going to break up. When MTV stopped playing our videos and when the radio stopped playing our songs, it was never the end of our business because we had made real fans along the way. Our goal was always to get the music out to as many people as possible – in the early 2000s, people were always talking about the whole “sellout” thing. But, come on, the point was always to have as many people hear our music as possible. As long as we made real fans along the way, we could keep being a band for a longer time. Still, kids are like, “Oh man, it’s my 10th time seeing you guys!” And I always wonder what keeps them coming back, and it’s like, “You have so many songs in your catalog, the new record is rad, the live show is so much fun and a lot of my friends come to your shows.” It’s really like a community. The MTV and the radio and all of that was all just icing on the cake and it’s always been very surreal. We just try to keep it going and stay inspired. I feel like a lot of bands, when they get older, they get jaded and don’t listen to new music as much, but we’re always looking for the new bands, we always want to bring out younger bands who will bring out younger kids who have maybe never even seen New Found Glory before. You know, at these shows, there’s going to be groups of kids who have seen The Wonder Years a few times but never been to a New Found Glory show. It works out really well for all of us, I think.
I was able to talk to some of the guys from This Time Next Year, Man Overboard and The Wonder Years after the off-day show in Jacksonville, and one thing that kept coming up with New Found Glory’s willingness to help the younger crop of bands and your guys’ desire to see those bands succeed. What can you say about, maybe, New Found Glory’s interest in preserving this genre?
Well, for us, we tour with bands that have the same mentality as us. There’s no bullshit. A band who plays their music, they don’t do their makeup before their set, they don’t give a shit what they look like, there’s no light show. They just play and how much they’re into their music and the crowd is what makes them stand out. To me, that’s the best part about punk rock, about pop-punk, and the live performances are what we feel makes the genre go. We take bands on tour that have that mentality and don’t care about, I guess you could call it the aesthetics – the bands are real and we never take a band on tour that doesn’t follow those ethics. Hard working, honest people. There’s no bullshit there.
Specifically spinning off of what you finished up saying there, you were in the studio with Man Overboard, producing their self-titled record. What was that like as your first producing gig, and what’s it been like continuing to help them out now that you’re on tour together?
It was awesome being in the studio with them. It’s cool because we were talking about bringing them on tour way before I produced them. It’s not like every band who someone from New Found Glory produces gets a New Found tour. [laughs] But we got to be in the studio and now I get to see those songs being played live, those songs that we worked so hard on for a month. In a way, I feel like a proud father because that was the first record I produced. I’m fortunate that I’m at a time in my life now where I can start producing records, and that’s something I want to do more of in the future, and I want to help the younger bands who have that New Found Glory mentality.
What about the aspect of you guys giving younger bands advice on what to do or what moves to make? That’s another thing that came up when I was talking to those guys.
I feel with us, we’ve gone through all the crap you could go through as far as managers, labels, press people, whatever. We talk to the younger bands and try to give them advice on what is a good or bad way to go about things. When we started out, Less Than Jake, Blink-182 and Green Day and bands like that took us on tour and they all helped us out. We’re just trying to pass it down. Some bands have managers that make decisions for them, but if you have friends that give you a heads up, who are like, “You shouldn’t do this,” or, “This manager sucks, I can tell you this will end bad,” that hopefully can help them. The fact that they can take the advice or not take it is good. I feel like when I went into the studio with Man Overboard, I just told them what was up. They’re still a very young band and to have the opportunity to help shape their record and contribute to their career was a great thing.
Is pop-punk very much a genre with that pass-it-on mentality? Like, one day, when New Found Glory has done its thing, The Wonder Years or some of these other bands will be the mentors?
That’s just the punk rock mentality, really. And it’s only in this genre, really. This genre and hardcore. For us, fortunately, there was a slew of bands that got really big around the time that we were getting started and they made the genre enormous. For a while it was major labels picking up everybody, because they get in on whatever is big at the time. But we want to keep the soul of the whole bit and the culture of it alive. All the songs that New Found Glory writes are real to us and that’s what it’s all about. We’re not writing a song to be a radio song. When I look back on our records, I’m proud at the fact that each song sort of presents a piece of my life, like a diary almost.
I know a lot of bands don’t like to really talk about this, but what can you say about the legacy that New Found Glory is leaving behind, even as you keep pushing forward?
I don’t know, I hope we leave behind…well, New Found Glory is definitely not going to be done for a long time…but I just want people to look at us as hardworking guys who never took anything for granted. If you’re just in it for money and you just quit at some point, you were never in it for the right reasons. Obviously we are lucky that people seem to like our music when we put out new albums, but we always try to run our business to a point where we won’t compromise anything to make our fans upset, or do anything that our fans would view as out of the ordinary. I guess that’s about it, really.