Boys Like Girls didn’t have to look far for inspiration when it came time to record Love Drunk, the long-awaited follow-up to their self-titled Columbia Records debut. After spending three years on the road in support of Boys Like Girls – which has sold more than 700,000 copies to date, is certified gold by the RIAA, and spawned the top ten Top 40 radio hit “The Great Escape” – the four friends from Boston knew how much they’d progressed as a band, and they credit a lot of that growth to their fans.
“Being able to play your songs almost every night for three years straight, you notice that they’re morphing into different interpretations, and bits and pieces are changing as you progress as a band,” says front-man Martin Johnson of his band’s evolution since the release of their debut in August 2006. “When we came into the studio and started banging this new record out, it was like second nature to us. We didn’t want to write an album that was the same as our first record, but we still wanted to do something that would be fun and different and cool, and stay totally locked in with our fans because they’ve been here for us since the beginning and allowed us to evolve with them. They are the most important thing to us.”
So Boys Like Girls did what they do best, embracing the same dynamic in the studio that has become a trademark of their live shows. It started with the songs but ended with the performances. In a day-and-age where technology rules and albums can be recorded with the press of a button and the loop of a sample, Johnson, guitarist Paul DiGiovanni, bassist Brian Donahue and drummer John Keefe wanted to capture their essence as a band, making spontaneity more important than pristine over-processing.
It’s the mindset that rules their live show, and it’s the mindset that would shape Love Drunk.
“I feel like modern recording has pressed bands into this tiny little box. It’s a futuristic war against recording where you master the super-compressed record, then it compresses down to an MP3, then it compresses down to whatever else… A lot of music just isn’t sounding organic anymore,” says Johnson. “We’ve had so much fun playing together, I feel like the music has built itself into something bigger with the live show. There is a whole large spectrum of sounds that comes with this record that we’ve been really happy to explore.”
Look no further than “Love Drunk,” the album’s anthemic lead single and title track and a punchy celebration of love’s intoxicating effects: “I used to be love drunk, but now I’m hung over/ I’ll love you forever, forever is over/ We used to kiss all night, now it’s just a bar fight,” Johnson sings, the track finding an all-too-happy medium between the band’s pop-rock debut and the more electronic fashion of bands like the Killers and Franz Ferdinand.
“Heart Heart Heartbreak” ramps the arena-ready sound up another notch, the verse-chorus-guitar solo combo custom made for audience participation; and “Contagious” follows suit with a penetrating bottom-end and rich vocal harmonies, further elevating Boys Like Girls to infectious new heights. On the less raucous end of the musical spectrum, a string section helps set the tone for the tender ballad “Two Is Better Than One,” while the more mid-tempo “The First One” offers an endearing take on bouncing back from a broken heart.
Recorded between Vancouver and New York City, production duties were split between the team of S*A*M and Sluggo [Metro Station, Cobra Starship, Gym Class Heroes] on the east coast and Brian Howes [Puddle of Mudd, Chris Cornell, Hinder] on the west coast. The band recording half the album with each producer but with end results as seamless as the band’s infectious sound. “What was fun about this record was experimenting with new stuff, going for a vocal melody, a chord progression, or something I might not have tried on the last record because I was scared of reaching outside the boundaries. It was about doing something fun and unique and trying to find a sound that nobody had really done before, and I think we definitely opened up our boundaries quite a bit.”
Voted Spin.com’s Artist of the Year after receiving an astonishing 68% of the total vote in 2007, Boys Like Girls spent three years on the road, touring with the likes of Good Charlotte, Avril Lavigne and the Vans Warped Tour and developing one of the most loyal fan bases in modern rock. After selling more than 3.0 million digital singles – including 1.5 million copies of “The Great Escape,” 900,000 copies of “Hero/Heroine” and 600,000 copies of “Thunder” – Boys Like Girls chronicled their rise from Ramen Noodles and sleeping on fans’ floors to headlining their hometown arena with the release of their first DVD in November 2008, readbetweenthelines.
“This has all been such an amazing, gradual chain of events,” recalls Johnson, the band’s principal songwriter. “I think the most amazing part of it, aside from the really humungous shows and being able to play in front of amazing crowds, was watching as the word of mouth spread in the beginning. We had yet to have exposure on the radio or anything like that, and, through touring with different bands like Cartel, Hello Goodbye and the All American Rejects, all of a sudden people were singing along to every word. Before we knew it, we had sold 100,000 records and were going to radio with ‘The Great Escape.’ It was such a crazy whirlwind to watch it all happen. Then, to be able to headline your own tour and see the reaction when you headline your hometown arena — it’s totally incredible, and I wouldn’t have done anything any other way!”
“I don’t think anybody really knows what to expect from us on this record, but I think once people hear it they are going to understand it and understand the progression we’ve made. It was hard, and there was definitely pressure, but this is a huge step for us.”