[vc_row][vc_column offset=”vc_col-lg-offset-1 vc_col-lg-10 vc_col-md-offset-1 vc_col-md-10″][vc_column_text]”This isn’t a concert; this is just one big birthday party!” Chad Gilbert grins, before he and his three best friends charge headfirst into a breakneck-pace rendition of ‘Better Off Dead’. This call for celebration comes as New Found Glory mark the start of a weekend in London that’ll never be forgotten, either by the four musicians on stage at the O2 Forum in Kentish Town, or the clamour of 2,300 fans before them.
By starting their three-night residency in the capital city with a performance of what are regarded as their two most seminal records – the self-titled sophomore album and its follow-up, ‘Sticks and Stones’ – in their entirety, the Floridian four-piece set the bar incredibly high for themselves. However, having spent nearly all of 2017 celebrating being one of pop-punk’s most consistent and influential bands for 20 years, New Found Glory have never been the kind of band who would not at least try to leap over the bar.
“It’s been really fun and challenging, but also something that has made this year different than any other year of our career,” says Cyrus Bolooki, New Found Glory’s drummer since December 1997. “It’s made us actually more excited to play regular sets again.”
The three-night finale of the UK leg of the band’s 20 Years Of Pop-Punk tour sees them play six of their nine albums across a trio of iconic London venues. When you sit down and do the math, that’s a lot of songs for Cyrus, guitarist Chad, bassist Ian Grushka and vocalist Jordan Pundik to play.
“It’s like going back to school, trying to learn 90 songs in one shot,” admits Ian, arguably the chattiest member of New Found Glory. ‘It’s like your fucking brain is gonna explode. There’s just so much shit in my brain at one time!
“It’s not like anyone said to us, ‘Hey, you need to do a 20-year tour and play these records’. We just decided that it’s almost refreshing to just do it differently and do what we want to do.”
In their 90 minutes onstage at the Forum, New Found Glory play some of their fastest songs at almost twice the recorded tempo, sending everyone in the audience – whether they were 14 or 40 – into a frenzy. Jordan and Chad dart from wing to wing with all the energy of the teenagers that founded the band, while Ian goofs around and pulls faces faster than he tugs at the strings of his bass guitar. Cyrus’ movement behind the drums may be more restrained, but he holds it down as an absolute powerhouse, leading the rhythm section with skill and stamina.
“I think [the reason] we have such a career is the live show,” says Chad. “Someone might have a friend who doesn’t like our band, and they’ll ask them to come to a show, and they’ll see them, and they’ll go, ‘Oh, they’re better live than they are on record.”
“We don’t even think of us as even close to being an old band,” the guitarist continues while sat on board NFG’s tour bus, now parked out the back of Camden’s famous Underworld venue. “I was buying bootleg shirts, and this guy selling them saw my laminate, and he said ‘20 years? We sell shirts for bands that have been around for 40 years!’, and I was like, ‘I know, that’s why I’m buying their shirts’, so even that guy is not impressed. We’ve got a long way to go.”
“At some point, there may come a time where you’re gonna have to slow down, but I’m just hoping that time never comes,” Ian laughs. “I’m having more fun 20 years into this band than I was having 10 or 15 years ago.”
Of course Friday is just the first night of resounding – ahem – glory for the band, as they take a short trip down the road from Kentish Town to Camden Town for night two, an evening which will see the band perform the commercial smash ‘Catalyst’ and the criminally underrated ‘Not Without A Fight’ in full at the Electric Ballroom, a club half as small as the O2 Forum.
If this weekend is a test of the fan’s loyalty, growing in difficulty as the cuts from the band’s back catalogue become deeper, then the audiences ace it with flying colours. Saturday is an even sweatier and more sensational affair than Friday, with the likes of ‘Truck Stop Blues’ and ‘Failure’s Not Flattering’ provoking a deafening sing-along from the 1,100-strong audience.
The renditions of the 13-year-old songs from ‘Catalyst’ offer a bittersweet snapshot of New Found Glory at their commercial peak. Often credited as spearheaders of pop-punk’s pivotal second wave, the early 2000s saw the band packing out arenas and going for gold with their album sales. These days they enjoy a more modest existence while their peers are still lapping up such luxuries, but as opposed to looking at it as a decline in mainstream popularity, it’s allowed them to stay true to themselves as people and as a family.
“Even when we were headlining arenas and doing that kind of stuff, we were still pretty young, and so it was just like having the time of our lives,” says Jordan in a softly-spoken manner. “Because we were young, I think it was just all about having a good fucking time and not thinking about all the outside stuff affecting and influencing [us], with people blowing smoke up your ass all the time and all that stuff. We’ve always done whatever we wanted to do, and we’ve always done it ourselves.”
“New Found Glory could potentially be playing arenas if we decided to have fake drums, or we decided to write songs with hip-hop beats, or write songs to be on the radio,” believes Chad. “Commercial success is great if that’s all that you’re looking for, but if you’re looking for a career, it’s the kiss of death. Once a song gets bigger than your band, you’re done. You never want a song to get more popular than your band, you want your band to be more popular than your songs, and that’s why we go on tour and play six albums, not one album.”
“A lot of the way we got here that kind of wrote the path of where we are now,” Cyrus harks back to the band’s beginnings in South Florida. “We got signed, and we got noticed because we had a fanbase, because we had people who noticed us who then passed on our music. That’s the way you want to get big as opposed to having some media or medium push you.”
By the time Sunday, 8th October rolls around, and the band take a trip across the road from the Electric Ballroom to The Underworld, spirits are high amongst the band to revisit songs that haven’t even been played on this side of the millenium, or indeed ever before. Nevertheless, the 500-strong crowd never cease to amaze in their adoration of the seldom-heard songs from debut album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ – a record which isn’t even available on Spotify – and the polarising ‘Coming Home’. Despite it being a night that’s less about the anthems and more about the rarities, it’s somehow the most memorable of the three nights.
“When you’re playing these old songs, you can’t help thinking about where you were or who you were when you wrote it and how far you’ve gone and all the things you went through,” Chad reflects. “It’s definitely a constant emotional experience – not like we’re holding back tears, it’s just more of an internal thing that goes on in your head.”
“When people come up to us and talk to us and reminisce about what got them into our band or what album did what for their life, it’s been pretty cool,” says Jordan. “It feels like it’s flown by. It doesn’t feel like 20 years.”
From All Time Low and The Story So Far taking their names from song titles and lyrics, to a bizarre but frankly brilliant appearance from McFly bassist Dougie Poynter to play bass on ‘Hit & Miss’ at the Forum – Dougie was in fact inspired to start a band after seeing the band in the very same venue back in 2004 – the influence of New Found Glory is indelible 20 years down the line.
As they leave London once again, we can only hope that the words emblazoned on the banner beneath Cyrus’ drums – ‘1997 – FOREVER’ – are words that New Found Glory stick by. Then again, when have they ever let us down?