The title track of the new Good Charlotte album, "Chronicles of Life and Death," tells fans: "These are the stories of our lives, as fictional as they may seem."
And sometimes the band members' lives really do seem like something somebody dreamed up.
"Definitely sometimes it seems too good to be true," Benji Madden said by phone from San Jose, Calif. "Sometimes you look back on your life and you just kind of go, 'Whoa — that really happened?' "
Benji and his twin brother Joel, 25, grew up in a "dysfunctional family" in Maryland. Abandoned by their father and living a "lower-middle class" existence, the two turned to music at the age of 16. Benji taught himself guitar; Joel sang; they co-wrote songs. They formed Good Charlotte shortly thereafter, joined by bassist Paul Thomas, 24; guitarist Billy Martin, 23; and drummer Chris Wilson, 23.
Theirs was the dream of making it big in music, and they did.
"When I was 16, that's all I dreamed about," Benji Madden said. "I didn't really have any other options, so I just kind of knew. In my heart, I just felt — it's going to happen."
It wasn't so much that they believed they were the "Young and the Hopeless," the title track of another CD, it's that other people told them they were:
I'm young and I'm hopeless, I'm lost and I know this.
I'm going nowhere fast that's what they say.
I'm troublesome, I've fallen. I'm angry at my father,
It's me against this world and I don't care.
The members of Good Charlotte do not, however, want anybody to feel sorry for their rough beginnings. And they have no patience for "The Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" — celebrities who are always:
Talkin' about how hard life can be,
I'd like to see them spend a week living life out on the streets,
I don't think they would survive.
"We had more problems than, I guess, some people, but I don't look at my life as being really hard," Madden said. "Looking back, I'm glad that everything happened, that happened to us, because it really taught us lessons that were really valuable.
"I never complain about my life. . . . I really feel like my life's like a permanent vacation."
The band has been touring nonstop for the past two years. But, again, they're not complaining. "It's definitely even more fun than I thought it would be," Madden said. "It's everything I ever dreamed of."
Although, it's certainly not perfect. "Being on the road, a lot of things fall apart at home. . . . But you learn as you go. It's all part of growing up, I guess."
And there's the thrill of going onstage to the thunderous ovation of their fans. "We have a very, very diverse crowd," Madden said. "We have a lot of people (in their 20s) and even older. And a lot of kids 10, 11, 12, 13. I think it's kind of cool. It's a good mix. And I think even the older crowd likes watching the younger crowd.
"I know my friends that come out, they love watching how, when we walk out onstage you can't hear the music until the girls stop screaming."
Good Charlotte fans feel a connection to the band through their music — through Joel and Benji's lyrics, which are largely autobiographical.
"That's a huge compliment," Madden said. "Especially when they know lyrics to songs that aren't singles. Like, 5,000 kids know the lyrics to a B-side. That's a big deal."
The band's last CD sold more than 5 million copies. "Chronicles" has sold more than 200,000 copies since it was released three weeks ago. It's a bit of a departure, beginning with an intro full of lush orchestrations and a choral arrangement — in Japanese — that Benji wrote.
"That was definitely a little ambitious. But we wanted to do something different," Madden said. "I don't know if we were really looking for a departure, but we definitely were looking for a step forward. . . . As long as we continue to step forward as musicians and songwriters, and just as a band in general, then we're happy."
If he could have one thing, it would be more time. More time to tour, to write, to record, to shoot videos. More time at home. "The one problem with our band is time. We never have enough. It's always a challenge because we're doing so much, but I guess it keeps it exciting, too."
If you go. . .
What: Good Charlotte, Sum 41
When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: McKay Events Center, UVSC, Orem
Phone: 467-8499 or 1-800-888-8499