"I have to be true to myself and write what it's in my heart," explains Goldfinger frontman John Feldmann. "That's why this record is so different for us. I was always inspired by bands that didn't just have one style, like The Who, Queen, or the Beatles. Those bands experimented. And that's what we're doing."
Relax, the lead singer of Goldfinger is not comparing himself to the Beatles. But Disconnection Notice, the California band's fifth full-length album, is a major departure from the group's past and a big step toward something great and new. It's mature, it's power-pop, it's subtle, and it's a lot of things you wouldn't expect from one of the most influential punk bands of the past decade.
That's right, influential. Despite playing for thousands of fans almost every night of the year, Goldfinger still feels like rock's biggest secret. Did you know that their versatile frontman is also an in-demand songwriter and producer? If not, go ask Good Charlotte, The Used and Story of the Year where they would be without John Feldmann's guiding hand. Or go ask PETA how Goldfinger became the most popular recruiter for the animal rights movement. And finally, go talk to the band's rabid fanbase, and see why more people keep showing up every year for the band's live shows.
At one point, Goldfinger appeared to be on the same path to punk rock superstardom as their peers in Green Day, Blink-182 and No Doubt. The band formed in 1994 after John Feldmann and the band's original guitarist, Simon Williams, met while working at the same shoe store. Within two years the group had landed a major-label deal and released a massively successful ska-punk single, "Here In Your Bedroom" (taken from their 1996 Gold record Goldfinger).
But the group decided to do things their own way, which meant connecting with their new fanbase via touring. Constant touring. Their concerts, a combination of tight musicianship, goofy covers, crowd singalongs and abundant energy, became the group's calling card.
Over the next few years the band released three more albums and a covers EP. Although the records didn't quite sell as much as their debut, their fanbase massively increased. "Maybe our fans' older brothers and sisters passed down the music, maybe the kids downloaded it, I don't know," says Feldmann, laughing. "But we kept playing to bigger crowds."
Along the way two original Goldfinger band members left the fold, replaced by guitarist Brian Arthur and bassist Kelly Lemieux. After 2002's Open Your Eyes, the group left their old label and began writing songs for a new record. But things were different now - they were getting more into their animal rights activism, and new groups were begging Feldmann to take them under his wing.
He was happy to oblige. "It's amazing how pop punk is still so big," says Feldmann. "Today you have Blink-182, Simple Plan, Yellowcard. It's still an important sound." The singer took up production and songwriting, helping up and comers like the Used and Story of the Year find their own niche. He even wrote a few songs with Benji and Joel of Good Charlotte, including their 2003 hit single "Anthem."
Along the way, he started toying with the way he made records with Goldfinger. For their new album, he and his band decided to record their tracks as quickly and loosely as possible in Feldmann's home studio. "I loved it," says the singer. "It's annoying to do three weeks of drums, two weeks of bass and two weeks of guitars. That's not fucking rock, man! That's stupid, that's controlled anarchy, it's an oxymoron, it doesn't make sense." Several tracks on what would become Disconnection Notice were actually recorded in a single day, giving the album a rougher, more spontaneous feel.
It also sounds very, very different than anything the group has ever done. As Feldmann points out, Disconnection Notice is not Simple Plan or Yellowcard. If anything, the group's influences have become more varied, with hints of the Foo Fighters, Joe Jackson, the Cure and Cheap Trick creeping into the band's mix. "I can't be writing the same types of songs anymore," says Feldmann. "In fact, there's only one goofy pop-punk track on the record, called "Stalker". But that's it."
Disconnection's biggest detour comes on their 70s classic rock homage, "Too Many Nights." "It sounds like the Allman Brothers. It's just fucking lame!" says Feldmann, laughing. "Actually, it's so lame it's great." The song is an ode to the band's extended time on the road. "That's what it's about too many nights, too many faces," he says. "When you're a kid you think touring is going to be cool, but then suddenly you're in Omaha for the twentieth time. Nothing wrong with that, except being a vegan, then Omaha kinda of sucks!"
Speaking of vegan, the frontman once again pushes his beliefs front and center on the new record. For the track "Behind the Mask," Feldmann convinced PETA president and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk to let him sample one of her speeches on animal cruelty. Unlike other modern day punk bands, Goldfinger has been very active about their beliefs and successful, too. The group included a video on their 2002 CD Open Your Eyes that featured a new song ("Free Me") running over graphic footage from a slaughterhouse. "I've been told that video inspired more people to go vegetarian than anything else in the history of the animal rights movement," says Feldmann. "That's what I'm most proud of. So on this new album, we have 'Behind the Mask,' and we also have all this protest footage we put on there from animal rights activists, hoping to inspire kids to go vegan or protest more. I'm hoping it's inspirational."
But in the end, it's really about the music, and for that, you really gotta see the live show. In his downtime, Feldmann will continue his songwriting and production work, and has made plans to continue writing with Joel and Benji of Good Charlotte.
After ten years and five albums, Goldfinger remains as influential, and underrated, as ever. But the group wouldn't have it any other way. "We've never been as big as Blink or Green Day, and that's ok," says Feldmann. "But there are a whole lot of people who really respect and like us. We can play to 1000-5000 people anywhere in the world on any night. We've got the coolest fanbase, and that's fine by us."