At one point during his interview with HollywoodLife, Goldfinger founder, vocalist, and guitarist John Feldmann says, “I needed to get back to my roots and make a ska punk record.” That homecoming, of sorts, was 2020’s Never Look Back, a landmark album in the band’s storied history. It marked the return of original guitarist Charlie Paulson, joining a lineup that includes Philip Sneed of Story of the Year, Mike Herrera of MxPx, and Nick Gross of girlfriends. The critically-acclaimed album receives the deluxe treatment today (Aug. 5), with four new songs and three re-recordings of past hits, two of which feature guest vocals: “Superman,” with Simon Neil of Biffy Clyro; and “Here In Your Bedroom,” with Avril Lavigne.
If that wasn’t enough to get the ’90s/early 2000s hearts all a’flutter, Travis Barker co-wrote the four new tracks and plays drums on them and the new re-records. “He definitely has a huge songwriting impact when I work with him,” John tells HollywoodLife, referring to how he produced blink-182’s last two albums – 2016’s California and 2019’s NINE. However, John’s relationship with Travis goes beyond the recording studio.
“Yeah, he’s my neighbor, and he’s an old, old friend back from The Aquabats days, and he’s the greatest drummer ever to have lived,” he says. “So I want him to play on everything I do, but he’s a busy guy. He was able to make this work because we made the record during the pandemic, and I wouldn’t have – I mean, this record wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the pandemic. I would’ve just continued to work with other artists, but I wasn’t able to have artists come into my studio.”
“I had to lock down and just write these songs, and then I’d call Travis over to play drums,” he continues. “And then I’d send the session up to Mike Herrera up in Bremerton, Washington. I sent them over to Phil in St. Louis and Charlie at his place downtown. And we just all did our parts and our own little [studios]. It was a one-of-a-kind record I will hopefully never have to repeat. I mean, it was fine, but I like being with people when I record music.”
That warmth is also felt on one of the standout deluxe tracks – “Here In Your Bedroom,” which transforms into another song, thanks to the addition of Avril’s voice. “Making these new recordings was just incredible,” says John. “And I feel like we’ve given these songs a new life. Obviously, having Avril sing on it was a huge blessing. Having Biffy Simon from Biffy Clyro sing on ‘Superman’ was incredible.”
“It came to be, really, in a natural way,” he shares. “These weren’t like some forced features, where we had a manager reach out to another manager. Avril was at my house, making Love Sux. And I’m like, ‘I had the re-records,’ and you know, she told me, she goes, ‘When I was 15…’ I think she was dating Deryck [Whibley] from Sum 41. I think we were playing a show with them. And she said her first stage dive was at a Goldfinger show when she was 15. And so it’s come full circle that now she’s singing on our first hit on a Goldfinger record, which, making it a duet, is also such a cool twist on the whole thing, you know?”
Another motivation behind the re-records? It was a chance for John to regain control of his band’s legacy. “A part of it, I wanted to own the masters,” explains John, “being that I’ve got my own record label, and I want to have ownership. I don’t own any of the stuff we recorded for the major labels back in the day. It’s just obviously the way we came up, and I’m really grateful we had those opportunities, but now that I’m a grown man, I want to have ownership in it.”
Though they are grown, the glimmer hasn’t faded on Goldfinger. The band shines on the deluxe edition of Never Looks Back, and the four new songs – “Perfect,” “3AM,” “Searchlight,” and “Broken In Paradise” – provide a complete picture of the band’s musical perfective. Soaring vocals, emotionally charged lyrics, and surging punk rock production create a listening experience that will resonate with new fans and those who have been following the band since the late 90s.
Though the recording process wasn’t ideal, the resulting Never Look Back received rave reviews from places like Kerrang, Alternative Press, and Wall of Sound. Many referred to the album as a return to form for the band, which was quite intentional.
“I work with so many artists,” says John, whose production discography features everyone from 311 to Korn to 5 Seconds of Summer to Mod Sun. “I was doing so much emo-trap, and I was doing… I made part of a country record,” he says. “I was making these metal records with like Atreyu, and Ice Nine Kills. And I just needed to make a ska punk record. I needed to get back to my roots and make a ska punk record.”
“When I had the finished songs, I sent them all the Matt Appleton who plays in Real Big Fish out in Vermont. And he did all of his parts out there,” continues John. “But in the end, we did make a classic. I think this record and The Knife are two of our fans’ favorite records, which is crazy because they’re both made over the last ten years. And it’s crazy how we can still connect to our audience even though it’s been a minute since we started the band.”
When asked why the sound of the 90s punk scene is taking hold of modern audiences, John points to two years of everything getting “really heavy during the pandemic” and that people are looking to “lighten up a little bit and just remember what it’s like to have fun.”
“Everyone was stuck at home and thinking, ‘What’s going to happen? Is everyone going to die? And what’s going to happen with this virus,'” he says, “I think that [90s punk] sound likens you to partying, to going out, to being with friends, to just singing along and having fun. I think that coming out of the pandemic and when that sound really came back, it just makes sense. We’re stuck at home listening to Billie Eilish, and now we’re going around bopping to Willow. It’s just a different thing, different energy. And I feel like time… It’s been twenty years since the kind of explosion of Green Day and Blink and all that stuff since the mid-nineties. It’s just time. It was time for a comeback.”
Perhaps the world is primed for a Goldfinger comeback – but has the band ever really gone away? Simply mention Tony Hawk Pro Skater to someone over the age of 18, and chances are they’ll start singing the opening lyrics to “Superman.” In fact, days before John spoke with HollywoodLife, a video went viral of Tony Hawk jumping on stage with The 900 – a Tony Hawk Pro Skater cover band – to sing “Superman” to a packed house.
— Isabel Davies (@IsabelDavies_) July 30, 2022
The lyrics – especially the lines of “So here I am, growing older all the time / Looking older all the time / Feeling younger in my mind” – resonate with any millennial or GenXer whenever they pass by the mirror, and John acknowledges this. “I think after you hit like 18, you start feeling old, older, but at 55 it definitely hits me in a different way than it did when I wrote the song at 25,” he says. “In some ways, I feel younger than I was then. Because there are so many things in my life that I know that I just love doing and I want to do for the rest of my life, where back then I was like, ‘am I actually going to make it?'”
“My dad would always tell me, ‘You’re never going to make it in the music business,'” he continues. “It’s a cutthroat, gnarly business. And so I didn’t know. But we got signed in 1994, and now we’re in 2022. So I think I’m all right. There’s also a sense of calm that comes with age too, that you’re not constantly trying to prove yourself and constantly hustling with like, ‘hey, hey, hey, look at me, look at me, look at me. I don’t feel like that anymore.’ You know? So that part of the song resonates way different for me.”
“Superman” will continue to endure, along with “This Lonely Place,” “Mabel,” “See You Around,” and the rest of the Goldfinger discography. “The last shows we were playing before the pandemic, it was like there are tons of parents with their kids and their teenage kids are discovering our band as teenagers, and their parents grew up on it,” John says. “That’s the great thing about being a legacy act and continuing to make music. It’s like we gained so many fans on The Knife that, I feel like our audience is so well-rounded age-wise. It’s crazy.”
The question is now, who would Goldfinger have sing on the re-recorded version of “This Lonely Place” if the band decided to revisit it? “I mean, Gwen Stefani would be amazing on that song,” says John, recalling Gwen’s time in No Doubt. “I mean, she’s the best, and yeah, that would be rad. But, like I said, I don’t like to do anything unless it’s natural, unless it feels like this is meant to be.”
Time will tell. Until then, fans can look forward to hearing Never Look Back played for the first time when Goldfinger hits the road in the fall/early winter.