The Boston-based band Boys Like Girls doesn't have time for haters. Call its music predictable, naive or cookie-cutter, and the group - singer Martin Johnson, guitarist Paul DiGiovanni, drummer John Keefe and bassist Bryan Donahue - won't mind. It's too busy selling albums and selling out shows. After two years of promoting its self-titled debut, Boys Like Girls finally has time to enjoy its success, even if the members are still a bit dumbfounded by it.
"It's really crazy. These past couple years are a blur," says DiGiovanni via phone. "When I think about it, it feels like it's been two months long, it's run by so fast. But at the same time, we all have so many different memories of everything that's happened. We always think back to when we were playing to 30 kids, wondering what would happen in the future - if we were going to make it or not."
The days of wondering if they would make it are over, but it took some time to get there. After playing in different bands throughout high school, Johnson, Keefe, Donahue and two others formed a group but later broke up. Then Keefe and Donahue began jamming with DiGiovanni, but not for long. Johnson came back and took Keefe and Donahue with him to start a new band. When they needed a lead guitarist, they called DiGiovanni, solidifying Boys Like Girls.
Then came MySpace and Purevolume.
"We couldn't have done it without those websites," says DiGiovanni. "That's the way that the music industry works now."
It definitely worked for Boys Like Girls. After putting a couple of songs on Purevolume, the band was the number one unsigned group on those sites and topped Billboard's New Artists' chart. Two people who were listening were booking agent Matt Galle, who's affiliated with My Chemical Romance, and producer Matt Squire, of Panic at the Disco fame. They worked their magic and by the end of 2006, Boys Like Girls had signed to Columbia and released its debut album.
"What we did with the first album was, we wanted to get a real following, a real hard-core following - not a radio crowd or anything. We wanted to get kids that were really dedicated to us," says DiGiovanni.
Instead of going for a glitzy debut and a hit single, DiGiovanni says the band wanted to make a permanent place for itself in the music scene. "We could have put the CD out and, that week, put a song on the radio," he says. "It would have been No. 50 on the charts, a few people would have heard it and then no one would have known us. There's no foundation to put that on. We would have just faded right away."
It turns out perseverance pays off. Boys Like Girls has shared the stage with Hellogoodbye and the All-American Rejects, and is currently co-headlining the "Soundtrack of Your Summer" tour with Good Charlotte. Its album is now certified gold, and it's had three singles on the charts. Radio listeners first discovered the group through the get-out-of-your-hometown anthem "The Great Escape." Next was the sweet high-school love song "Hero/Heroine." The band's latest single, "Thunder," is an acoustic number that's sure to be the ringtone of countless teenagers by the end of the summer.
Boys Like Girls may not be doing anything new, but its music is solid, infectious pop-rock songs - whether it's the moving-and-shaking "Dance Hall Drug" or the slightly darker yet uplifting "Broken Man." Unlike a lot of bands that only write singles, Boys Like Girls' albums tell a story that thousands of young people can relate to. That's why the band is still getting play out of a record it released two years ago.
The group is now finally ready to record a new disc, but the details are less than concrete. After the summer tour is finished, Boys Like Girls has a few shows overseas and will then be back in the studio. DiGiovanni says they have about 30 ideas for the album, which will be released at the end of this year or the beginning of next.
"I'm sure it's going to be obviously a little bit different and probably deeper than the last record," he says. "The last album was all about Martin's life when he was a teenager and growing up, and this will have more to do with this period of his life."
DiGiovanni says they don't worry about the so-called "sophomore slump" or what critics say about them. They're just going to keep writing songs they feel passionate about and hope the fans love them too. So far, it's working.
"We have so many awesome fans that comment on our pages every day and we get to see [them] at all our shows and we know their names and faces," says DiGiovanni. "So many kids have been coming up to all the shows recently that I think that speaks for itself."
Every band says it: They do it for the fans. But as DiGiovanni talks about the home-cooked meals and scrapbooks people bring the band, it's easy to believe him when he says their fans are like no others.
"We're unbelievably grateful," says DiGiovanni. "We talk about it at least once a week, like, 'Oh my God - I can't believe this is really happening. This is really going on.'"
Boys Like Girls, Good Charlotte, Metro Station, 7 p.m. Friday, August 8Tower City Amphitheater, 1887 W. 3rd St., 216.522.4822, Tickets: $25
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