How ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower’ inspired Goldfinger’s surprise single
Surprise! Ska-punk legends Goldfinger just dropped their first new piece of music since 2017 in the form of an unexpected single called “Wallflower.” The track packs a third-wave punch for all ages and will be a welcome Easter egg for ardent GF superfans who have been rewatching the band’s amazing recent quarantine videos over and over.
The single is the first release from the band’s upcoming debut album (currently called Don’t Look Back) for Goldfinger’s vocalist/guitarist/producer/svengali John Feldmann’s label Big Noise, which should be out later this year. We caught up with Feldy in an exclusive interview to discuss “Wallflower,” his wife’s specific influence on this track and his music and the classic band playing by their own rules now and forever. You can listen to the track and read the interview below.
Congrats on the new single “Wallflower” and surprise to everyone else. What is the story behind this song? How exactly did “Wallflower” come to be?
It is a pretty classic song in the sense that I think a lot of times, [but specifically] on Goldfinger’s third record Stomping Ground, even on Hang-Ups, which is our second album, we come to the end of the record, and I go, “I’m not sure if I have a single.” And [then] I wrote “Counting The Days,” and then we did “99 Red Balloons.” My first band opened for 7 Seconds, way back in the day, and they did an awesome cover of “99 Red Balloons” way back in the [mid]-’80s. And they were one of my favorite hardcore bands—still are—of all time. And so we did those two songs on Stomping Ground as like, “Here are the singles” because I just didn’t feel like I had it [before]. We had the song “San Simeon.” It may still be one of my favorite Goldfinger songs of all time, but everyone didn’t know if it was a single because what the fuck is San Simeon unless you’ve been there, you know?
“Wallflower” came to be... I was at the end of writing this record, which I think we’re gonna call Don’t Look Back. We’re still in the process of deciding an album title. But I came to the end of it. And my manager, my wife and my label, these people were like, “You know, maybe we have something.” There are a couple of songs that people were considering. But I’m like, “Fuck it. If we’re not 100%, let me write a song specifically for the idea of a single.” Give the fucking people what they want—give me what I want. Because I am in a ska-punk band. No matter how you break it down: We play ska, we play punk and that’s what we do. I’m gonna write a quintessential half-time jumpy chorus. And then I just thought about my relationship with my wife, who I’ve been with for 24 years. I met her at The Stone Pony on tour opening for No Doubt back in 1996.
Yeah, my wife’s from Jersey. She’s from south Jersey. She’s from Medford. So I met her, [and] she was going to school. She was in college. She was, I think, 24. I was like 28. And I just decided, let’s write a song! Let’s write a heartfelt song about how I felt about my wife who was… for sure, at least for me, the hottest woman I’ve ever dated.
We’re not going to argue with you.
She’s beautiful. And it’s like, I’m so lucky to have been with her for so long, and I wrote this song just really about like how I felt. When she first moved to LA, she didn’t know anybody. She was always with me, which was so great, and she was so mellow. And until she found her place here, she was like this wallflower. And The Perks Of Being A Wallflower [is] one of my favorite fucking movies of all time.
What year was it that she moved here?
She moved to LA in 1999. We dated for probably two or three years before she moved out here with me. I was touring. Goldfinger still hold the world record [for most shows in one year] for [the] 385 shows we played in 1996. Back then, it was like two shows a day. We were touring fucking constantly, which today wouldn’t be possible ’cause we’re stuck at home trying to figure out how to do livestreaming events and pay-per-view events and all that shit, which is just very different than being at the 9:30 Club getting my mic jammed [or] breaking my teeth by some fan grabbing the microphone. It’s a very different experience doing a livestream event.
But nonetheless, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower... As a kid, like a lot of guys, I turned to music. And I didn’t have the greatest childhood. I was definitely abused as a kid. I had stuff happen to me that wasn’t—I pray to God [that] my kids have a very different experience growing up than I did. And I always relate when [Charlie] has those flashbacks to his aunt abusing him. I always have this very emotional reaction to that. For this single, we took the art from the movie The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and we used it with a classic spacegirl on the cover. I just feel like it ties into so much of my history with the single.
First all, we appreciate you talking about your rough childhood. Is there anything else that you’d like to mention before we move forward?
I think my life, tackling adversity and using music as an avenue to escape the life that I had, I’m only a testament to what that can be. You know? As successful as I become, the drive I’ve had, there was no other way. And to be fair, my parents did the best they could. As a parent now, I know how hard it is to be a parent. It’s like I just… Man, I love my kids. And I can’t imagine a world where you would treat your kids the way that I was treated. I can’t imagine a world like that. And so, I have an opportunity to completely reverse that trajectory that so many people have...
You break the cycle.
Yeah. Exactly! It happens over and over again. I don’t know. I’m so lucky that I have music. And a lot of us, I’m sure you as well found music, and it stayed in your life to a certain extent, and for me, it definitely did.
It’s very rare to hear a new chorus in the time of COVID-19 that starts with “It’s only getting better...”
I know that you delved into your wife and the inspiration for this song. We’d love a timeline if you wanted to give some more detail on the writing process and just more about your wonderful wife.
I was thinking, I worked at a used clothing store. I worked at Aardvark’s when I first moved to LA, which was like this quintessential used clothing store. And then I worked at American Rag. Then I worked at NaNa, which was this punk-rock shoe store. And I had this sweater that I just had forever. And I came up with that line in the song. My wife literally wore the sweater that I got at American Rag. The arm actually fell off the sweater [because] she wore [it] so much. And it was like the idea that she was from Jersey, and she wore this sweater in California weather.
That line just came up. It’s like, “How do I rhyme the whole thing?” So I came up with the second line first. And then I came up with “It’s only getting better” afterward. I feel that a lot of times [in] songwriting, you want the end of the phrase to be the one that sticks in people’s heads, where I think a lot of time people write from the beginning of the song to end in a linear fashion. For me, I like to come up with a concept—the hook—and so I came up with the idea [of], “I’m gonna write about my wife being this shy girl from Jersey.” How do I make it? But she’s also the love of my life, and obviously I’m married to her. She runs the show, and she controls everything in my life.
You’re not alone.
So as much as she may be like when I first met her, she was super shy and an introvert. But in my life, she’s everything. She has to drive the car, [and] she controls all the money, all the bills. She just runs the show. I think it’s ironic that the song is called “Wallflower” where in the end it should be called “Boss Lady.”
Maybe you’re the wallflower.
Yeah, exactly. And I am. I think a lot of people in bands when you really get to know them [are]. When I was working with Eric [Nally] from Foxy Shazam… Obviously, one of the greatest shows! It’s like Eric from Foxy, Brendon Urie and Jason [Butler] from FEVER . Those three frontmen, I think, are the best three frontmen of all time. I mean, obviously [there’s] Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, but [regarding] this era, of modern rock, [they’re the best]. And Eric is probably the shyest guy in person I ever really hung out with. And he was eating a bunch of cigarettes and running around like a monkey...
Singles, EPs and LPs sometimes have months and months of public marketing. Why is “Wallflower” abandoning such for a surprise drop?
I wrote the song, and I want it to come out, I mean, it’s really fucking basic. I feel like we’re a legacy act. I’m not trying to compete with Machine Gun Kelly’s [Tickets To My Downfall] release, who made a fantastic album. Goldfinger aren’t in that stratosphere any longer, so this is for the fans. We just did this for the fans, and I hope people like it.
You did the quarantine videos for the fans, and we certainly enjoyed them.
It’s the devil’s playground for me. That is probably like the mantra of my life: I have to be busy. And as soon as they told me I couldn’t leave my house, I’m like, “What can I do?” Because I couldn’t have people over to write songs. I couldn’t go play a show. When it first happened, they wouldn’t even let me go surfing! It’s like, I couldn’t do anything! I was running around my house for exercise. And I’m like, “Dude, I gotta do something.” And I just figured, I’ve got a studio. Everyone in my band has at least a laptop that they could record a vocal to, so we just put those videos together, and it was life-saving for me. I’ve got it! I can’t just be stuck in my house with my crazy family 24/7.
It’s been three years since your last LP. Other than badass quarantine videos and this single, what else can ardent die-hards expect from the band in the future?
The Knife was such an important record for me ’cause it was really a record I did on my own. I work so tightly with Travis Barker on so many projects, and he just did me the biggest favor by playing drums on it. It was really just him and I. At least the genesis of the project was just him and I. And it turned into one of my, if not my favorite, Goldfinger album. I just move forward at all times. I’m just always moving. When people tell me [that] the Used’s self-titled record changed their life or whatever, I’m like, “Dude, I haven’t heard that album since I made it.” I don’t go back and listen to records I’ve made unless I hear them on the radio or someone’s in the studio referencing a sound, like “I love the snare sound you did on [blink-182’s] ‘Bored To Death’” or something.
And it’s like, I didn’t go back to that record, but because it’s my band, I get to play those songs live. Playing “Put The Knife Away” and “Get What I Need” and “Tijuana Sunrise” and playing these songs every single night when we toured on the record, I’m like, “Holy shit, this record means so much more to me than I knew at the time.” I knew I had to make another album because I do so much production for other bands that it’s hard for me sometimes to make time. Because I loved The Knife, I had to. I had to follow it up. So I made an album that will be coming this year, and, like I shared earlier, “Wallflower” was the last song I wrote for the album. I feel like I made a record I’m very proud of, and I hope people like it.
Is it going to be released through your own label Big Noise or via Rise Records?
Rise Records did so much for me, and Sean Heydorn… he’s such a legend. The label… they were really, really great, and they so graciously let me put this album on my own label: Big Noise. So I feel like it’s all come full circle. Where in the beginning of my career, when I was selling shoes for a living and I started Goldfinger, it was like I had no choice. I had to sign to one—I could’ve figured out something. I gave my cassette tape to Fat Mike, and he even passed on the band. So finding Jay Rifkin, I was so lucky to have had that opportunity to put out a record on Mojo. But to be able to have my own label and put my own band on my own label, I’m so fucking stoked.
Lastly, you were saying for The Knife that it was mostly you and Travis Barker, but over the course of your career, Goldfinger have had a cast of punk-rock all-stars as part of your lineup. Who performs on this track and the rest of the record?
Mike Herrera from MxPx and Phil “Moon [Valjean]” Sneed from Story Of The Year and Greek Fire played a little bit on The Knife. But this record, it’s like full on. Charlie Paulson, the original guitar player for Goldfinger, is back in the band, so he was an integral part of [the] writing, and he’s singing on a song. He sang on the song “Question” on Hang-Ups... I think it’s the only time he ever sang on a Goldfinger song... He’s singing on this record. Mike Herrera is singing a ton on it. Phil is singing on it.
And we had to make this record quarantine style, so I was in my studio, and those guys were in their studios doing their own [thing]. I was guiding them from a distance, saying, “Dude, can you play guitar on this song? Can you sing harmonies on this song?” And, you know, Phil is like the modern Sting. That guy can sing higher than anybody I’ve ever met. He’s just got a crazy voice. And so he’s singing these harmonies that are insane, and I think I had these guys more involved than I’ve had anyone involved in a Goldfinger record probably since Hang-Ups.