"He was there during a lot of the writing process, and he played on some stuff, but when it came down to politics and legal issues, there were problems," said co-vocalist Freddy Cricien, who also plays in the hardcore group Madball. "Unfortunately, he couldn't be a part of the album as much as he would have liked to be."
That's an understatement. Citing a noncompete clause in the group's contract, New Found Glory's label, Geffen, has forced Gilbert to pull out of the project and relinquish writing and playing credits on Hazen Street's self-titled debut, due in July. Gilbert's contributions will remain on the album: He just won't receive credit for them. It's a contractual-killjoy situation that was common in the 1960s — even 35 years later, Eric Clapton still isn't credited for playing the guitar solo on the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" — but rarely occurs today.
"It was fun being with those guys and I played some stuff, but that's about it," said Gilbert, who is determined to make as little fuss about the development as possible. "Hazen Street knew I wasn't going to be able to be in the band once it got started. It was fun to be a part of, but New Found Glory is my full-time thing. It's really not a big deal."
His former bandmates might beg to differ. Cricien and H20 singer Toby Morse, Hazen Street's other vocalist, had expected to continue collaborating with Gilbert in the future, and were both bummed when he had to drop out. "Chad started off as a hardcore kid in a band which is not a hardcore band, so it was really cool to play with him because he knew where we were coming from, but he added this different element," Cricien said. "It sucks that we won't have the chance to keep working together."
"He's a good friend of mine and he's a real fan of everybody who's in this band, so I'll miss him not being there," Morse added. "It would have been great to be able to keep doing Hazen Street, but he's a very successful and talented musician in his own band as well, and he's gonna keep doing great with them."
The real shame is that Gilbert won't be able to watch his baby grow: Hazen Street were conceived by him and Morse a couple of years ago. The two musicians, who share a duplex in Los Angeles, had a blast jamming and writing during downtime from their main gigs. At first the project was just for fun, but Gilbert's penchant for pop combined well with Morse's melodic punk, and before long they realized they had something with real potential.
"I've always been a huge fan of H20," Gilbert said. "So it just made sense that me and Toby would do some stuff, and the stuff we wound up doing was really cool and really fun, and really meant a lot to us."
The two brought in Box Car Racer guitarist David Kennedy and Cricien, who then helped recruit Madball bassist Hoya and ex-Cro-Mags and Bad Brains drummer Mackie Jayson. Soon after, Hazen Street signed to D.C. Flag, the indie label run by Good Charlotte's Benji and Joel Madden, and recorded their self-titled debut. Hazen Street are currently finishing up a tour with P.O.D. and will hit the road with the Vans Warped Tour starting June 25 in Houston.
Although he's no longer a member, Gilbert continues to root loudly from the sidelines. "Freddy and Toby come up with some really original stuff. It's got rock, pop, a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit hardcore. It has its own sound. I wish them all the luck in the world."