LOS ANGELES — The City of Angels is known for a lot of things, but the Los Angeles River isn't one of them.
Still, the flood-control channel, immortalized in all its garbage-lined cement beauty in movies like "Grease" and "The Italian Job," was the inspiration for Good Charlotte's "The River" and the location for the new single's video.
"The symbolism of the L.A. River in the song is that it's concrete, polluted, graffitied, and when you think of 'baptism in the river' [the chorus of the song], you think peaceful and serene, and that's the whole vibe of the song," guitarist Benji Madden explained on the set Tuesday. "This was the visual in our heads while we were writing the song."
"The River" isn't so much about the L.A. River or even L.A., but both serve as larger metaphors. "L.A. is the metaphor of how in life you can choose two roads, and L.A. kinda symbolizes [one of them]," singer Joel Madden said.
"When you start writing songs, you start thinking about your life and you start thinking about where it's taking you," Benji added. "It's kind of a redemption song. At times we felt lost, and on this record we really feel like we found ourselves, all four of us as a band. After everything we've experienced in the last eight years since we've put out the last three records, we really feel like we've found solid ground again."
Since Good Charlotte wrote the song in Vancouver, British Columbia, earlier in the year, it's been a band favorite. So when their label wanted it as the first single, the guys happily obliged. "For us, to put out the first single as a song with real substance is really special," Benji said. "It was cool because it wasn't just a catchy thing."
That's not to say "The River" isn't commercially friendly — especially since it features guest vocals from Avenged Sevenfold singer M. Shadows and a guitar solo from Synyster Gates.
"At first you hear M. Shadows and you're like, 'What?' " Joel said. "But it works because of the verse and what he's talking about. It's the part of the song where we're talking about all the trappings and going into that dark place. It's like the devil on your shoulder, and he plays that so well because, in my life, he's like the devil on my shoulder anyway, saying, 'Just do it.' "
Shadows and Gates will also appear in the video. "It's a little bit of an odd pairing, but we're so similar as bands," Joel added. "We're really close to them, we've spent a lot of time with those guys, and it was very natural. I think kids like to see band collaborations, and this is a cool one. We're both young bands that love what we do."
The video, which features performance footage along the L.A. River as well as green-screen shots placed over various other Los Angeles scenes, was directed by Marc Webb.
"He did cool stuff with [My Chemical Romance] and AFI, and he just has a cool style and great eye," guitarist Billy Martin said. "So we thought, 'Let's just go with Marc 'cause we know we're gonna get something good.' "
Early in his career, Webb also directed two videos for Good Charlotte's first album, so the two parties had history. "This whole record, Good Morning Revival, feels like back to square one for us," Benji said (see "Good Charlotte Celebrate Happier Sound, Sober Outlook on Good Morning Revival"). "We went back with [producer] Don Gilmore, back with Marc Webb. It feels like this could be our first album. And it feels really good."
Good Charlotte plan to keep that philosophy in mind as they head into both the album's March release and their next tour, whatever that may entail. "We wouldn't mind getting back into a supporting slot with a band that's been around a lot longer than us," Benji said. "Taking lessons from veterans again. We see a lot of younger bands come up and look at us, and we feel like we still have a lot to learn."
In the meantime, the guys are debuting Good Morning Revival in a different sort of setting — nightclubs. Benji and Joel are mixing tracks into their own DJ sets, and acts like Junior Sanchez and the Faint have done their own remixes of songs from the album.
"We have a lot of support from that community, which makes us feel good," Joel said.