Words and Interview by Nic Angeles | Photo by Acacia Evans, courtesy of Hopeless Records Asia
What fans love about New Found Glory is that listening to their music is simply such a fun experience. The songs sound fun, and whether it’s their famously catchy covers or stuff of their own, you get a sense that you’re listening to a bunch of guys just really having a lot of fun playing music together. This couldn’t be any more true right now, as the band keeps the ball rolling with their new album, Forever + Ever x Infinity.
Heck, if this wasn’t that fun for them at all, they wouldn’t be coming out with their tenth full-length album in their 20-plus years as a band. But here are Jordan Pundik (lead vocals), Chad Gilbert (guitar), Ian Grushka (bass), and Cyrus Bolooki (drums) with an album that’s nostalgic and fresh—an album that explodes with the same dynamic energy that New Found Glory have always been known for.
It’s nostalgic, with the way the band goes back-to-basics with their trademark blend of sing-alongs, “scream-alongs,” and breakdowns. But somehow, this nostalgia is also what makes it fresh, coming from their last studio album Makes Me Sick, or even the third installment of their cover series From Your Screens To Your Stereo that came after that. “This is the record our fans have been waiting for us to make,” says Chad Gilbert of Forever + Ever x Infinity. “The old now feels new and fresh. It was a blast finding ourselves again.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Cyrus Bolooki, who goes in-depth in the following #PULPExclusive interview where he speaks of writing the album “NFG style.” It’s evident from the single releases, with the fresh familiarity of “Greatest of all Time” or “Nothing To Say” that this is as NFG as NFG could get. Forever + Ever x Infinity is THE quintessential NFG album, and the band couldn’t have a more fitting release at this point in their long-winding career.
Below, Cyrus Bolooki talks about how the band is dealing with the current pandemic, given how they suddenly found themselves putting out a record in the middle of such an unprecedented time in the career of any artist or band. He tells PULP why pop punk is such a fun kind of music to play live and, most importantly, he talks about writing in that pure NFG style and where this new album finds its place in the two decades they’ve been playing music.
PULP: Unexpectedly, it’s become quite a difficult time everywhere in the world. From your perspective as a band, how did you find yourselves suddenly dealing with a pandemic? How is the band coping with the sudden changes and everything that’s happening?
CYRUS BOLOOKI: Like everyone out there, this was definitely not something that we prepared for, accounted for, or even considered happening, so we honestly had to take it day-by-day just like the rest of the world. Pretty much right from the start, we knew that the live music world was going to shut down and so our touring plans had to be put on hold like the rest of the industry. We’re constantly trying to reschedule dates, but it’s very hard to do so with no definitive answer on when the world will be able to go back to allowing people to pack in a venue to watch a concert.
We also announced that we were pushing back our album release a few weeks, and that was mainly to allow a little more time for retailers to (hopefully) open back up to some extent. Although a vast majority of people get music through streaming sites nowadays, we’re still very big on physical products like CDs and vinyl, and this pandemic has made it infinitely harder for people to shop for things like this with most stores being shut down or only worried about selling essential items.
And, like the rest of the world, in the meantime we’re all at home, spending time with our families, trying to enjoy nature while we await being able to travel again, and, most importantly, trying to stay healthy and avoiding public outings when possible.
PULP: Going back to the very early days of making this album, did you head into the studio with the idea that this is gonna be the 10th NFG album hanging over your heads? Was there more pressure than usual on your part?
CYRUS: We quickly got rid of any pressure by telling ourselves from the beginning to write the record that we wanted to, and don’t put any restrictions or guidelines on that. With our past few albums there seemed to always be some sort of “master” idea behind it, usually production-wise. For instance, with Resurrection, we purposefully didn’t have too many guitar parts because we wanted to showcase the four of us as musicians and not hide behind a whole bunch of layers. And then, with Makes Me Sick, it was the opposite, really focusing on how to incorporate multiple layers of guitars and synth lines to make our sound so much thicker and deeper than the album before.
“This is pure New Found Glory, and I think, for our tenth full-length album and over 20 years as a band, this is exactly where we should be at this moment, with nothing to regret and everything to look forward to for the next 20 years!”
— Cyrus Bolooki
With this record, we just wrote “New Found Glory” style, which is catchy, heavy guitar riffs with pop-laden vocal melodies on top. We allowed for guitar layers-galore if we wanted, and a lot of times mimicked the production process from our first few full-length albums, so that’s why I think we felt so comfortable creating this record, and the result is 15 songs that are fast and furious, and very much reminiscent of the early days of NFG.
PULP: In between the last album and Forever + Ever x Infinity was a From Your Screens To Your Stereo release. What circumstances led you guys to feel like, “Okay, time to write and record a new album” to follow Makes Me Sick?
CYRUS: The idea of From The Screen To Your Stereo Part 3 goes back to almost the beginning, when we released the first cover album. I think we always knew that we would have multiple cover albums, much like movies have sequels and then become trilogies, etc. I think we just felt the timing was right for us to record that cover album at that point because we were coming off of the 20th anniversary of our band, and we were able to do some really great touring behind that release. It also allowed for us to clear our heads from the Makes Me Sick days, and come back fresh when approaching this album, which I think is one of the main reasons why we were able to write a record that brings us back to our early sound versus just a continuation or evolving version of Makes Me Sick.
PULP: For the most part the album, it seems like a pretty feel-good and giddy album, but still you’ve got tracks like “Nothing To Say”, “Himalaya”, or “Like I Never Existed” that’s more in-your-face in a way. Can you talk about the different inspirations that you had in songwriting?
CYRUS: We always say that we write whatever we’re feeling at the time, and going into this album, I don’t think it was any different. We spent a bunch of time on the road following Makes Me Sick and then From The Screen To Your Stereo Part 3, and I think that time playing shows almost every night made us realize that the thing we do best, the thing that so many people love about us, is our ability to combine heavy riffs with ultra-catchy vocals, and so I think that was the goal with this album.
Chad came into the writing process with tons of guitar riffs, and songs like “Himalaya” were just a bunch of riffs that we strung together very quickly and organically to create a song. There was no question about how that song would be played, and with this album, throughout the whole record I think you get a little bit of everything that makes New Found Glory who we are – heavy guitars, fast drums, catchy vocals, gang vocals, half-time mosh parts, etc.
PULP: Can you tell us the story of how you ended up working with Steve Evetts for this album? What dynamic did he and the band have in the studio while working together?
CYRUS: Steve’s a great guy and a great producer/engineer. We’ve known him for a long time, as he worked with many bands that we toured with throughout our career like Saves the Day and Snapcase, to name a few. So, I think we were both very familiar with each other’s work, and when it came time to find someone to mix From The Screen To Your Stereo Part 3, we were super excited at the chance to work with Steve. I think he did an amazing job with that record, and while mixing it, he actually approached us and said that he’d love to do our next full-length with us. We had actually recorded a brand-new song for the cover album (it was released on the iTunes version of the record), and after Steve mixed that song (called “Puzzles”), he said “if your new stuff is going to be anything like this, then I’m in!”
So, we brought Steve into this process a few weeks before we entered the studio. We had a great time working with Steve, and while doing pre-production for the record (we always spend a week or two together jamming songs in full before we record them to hammer out arrangements and parts), Steve had tons of great ideas and we could tell immediately that making the album was going to feel very natural and organic, and that’s exactly what happened.
Steve allowed us to be us, yet still was able to push us in the right way to capture the best versions of who we are, taking chances if needed, but always staying true to who we are. And I think that’s best evidenced in the fact that there are 15 songs on the album. If it was that hard to record songs, we would have never been able to record that many songs, if we had even finished the record at all!
PULP: Is there something new that you did this time around that you maybe haven’t done before in the process? And what’s something new that you learned from working on this album?
CYRUS: The only thing I can think of that was new about this record (besides being in a different studio with a new producer, which we’ve done multiple times before in our career), was that while we were recording, we took a slightly different approach to the schedule than we had in the past. Since we spend so much time ahead of the process working out parts and arrangements for songs, and we’re so comfortable when we’re in the studio, we told ourselves before we started recording that we were going to allow for our personal lives to help determine our schedule. Meaning that, while we’re on tour, we’re separated from our homes and our families, and since we all live in different parts of the country, we didn’t want the studio to feel like we were back on tour and away from our families for another few months. So, we basically all came in to record our parts, and then were free to go home or do whatever else we wanted while we weren’t recording, since, with technology nowadays, you really don’t need to have everyone there at the same time.
For instance, I recorded my drums first (with Chad there playing along to me), but Jordan and Ian were at home, and because we had spent so much time demoing this material, I actually had scratch vocal tracks that Jordan had recorded while we were rehearsing for the album that I was able to layer into the headphones while tracking, so it made it seem like Jordan was there. After I finished my parts, I went home for a few weeks while the rest of the guys did their main parts, and then I returned towards the end of the recording process to help with some of the extra layers like gang vocals, percussion, and overall arrangements of the recordings and audio tracks that made up the songs.
For the most part it worked, although I don’t know if it was the most ideal. But, for a band like us, where three of the four of us are married with kids, this was how we were able to “work” yet still be dads and husbands, and we’ve always been a band that is very aware of how our personal lives affect our music and our group, and so I think we’re also very respectful of allowing each of us to do whatever it is we need to do in order to stay happy and healthy, which leads to a better experience for us all.
PULP: “Pop Punk’s Still Not Dead”—more than a tour title, it feels like a pretty clear statement. How do you see pop punk, through your band and countless others that you have influenced through the years, continuing to make up a huge part of music for the rest of the decade?
CYRUS: Pop punk is such a fun style of music to play live. Most bands don’t need to hide behind tricks or things like pre-recorded tracks, you literally need no production, just a stage and a PA, and songs are straightforward so it’s easy for the audience to get into it and sing along or dance along to. I think those are reasons why this genre has gotten so popular and has stayed relevant throughout the years. Rock music in general is music that’s meant to be heard and in a live setting and needs to be felt and have audiences participate – we want to see people singing along and losing their minds to our music – and I think for the most part pop-punk bands have always been accessible to crowds, never being these larger-to-life heroes, just ordinary people like you and me, enjoying and appreciating the fact that we can be up on stage performing in front of fans night after night.
PULP: How would you say this album reflects where the band is, currently, at this point in your career, over 20 years since NFG came to be?
CYRUS: I think this album is a perfect fit in our career timeline because there are so many elements of it that bring back a sense of nostalgia, especially in the sound and arrangements of songs. We’ve got fast songs, we’ve got slow songs, we’ve got sing-a-longs and we’ve got “scream-a-longs,” but all in all, this is pure New Found Glory, and I think, for our tenth full-length album and over 20 years as a band, this is exactly where we should be at this moment, with nothing to regret and everything to look forward to for the next 20 years! PULP
Get Forever + Ever x Infinity here.
Special thanks to Hopeless Records Asia