Straight from the pages of the new issue of RAGGED, we’re thrilled to give you an exclusive excerpt from our back cover story with Boys Like Girls! Be sure to grab the full issue download (for free!) for the rest of the article and more photos with the band. (Full issue download here!)
Block by block, in town after town across the world, Boys Like Girls have rocketed themselves into global stratosphere stardom using nothing but their potent blend of pop-punk jet fuel, crashing like a neon-rhinestone, leather-studded wave into cities near you since 2006. But what happens when you finally attain orbit and find yourself, well…just floating? “We grew up on the road, all over the world,” says frontman and songwriter Martin Johnson, “and we wanted to move on to newer paths.” If you ask him, Boys Like Girls are no longer mere teens interested only in cheap beer, fast riffs and hot girls.
The past year has been a formative one for the band —- Johnson, guitarsmith Paul DiGiovanni, drummer John Keefe and bassist Morgan Dorr -— during which they found themselves forced to scrap a whole record and totally redesign themselves. To Johnson, the music world had become over-saturated with the robotic, cold- hearted sounds of electronic dance music. Disillusioned with the gadget-obsessed modern world, the band delved into Americana, country music and an old-school focus on songcraft in Nashville. The result is Crazy World, a sweet and sour blend of sun-warmed pop, down-home rock and singalong anthems ripe for both the rainy-day blues and a blue-sky cookout.
RAGGED recently chatted with the affable and worldly Johnson from the front porch of his new home about what it’s like writing songs in the country music capital of the world, being a rock band in the modern scene, the wonders and pitfalls of technology, and the raw and undeniable power of music. If you’re looking to unplug, slow down and turn it up this summer, be sure to put Crazy World at the top of your playlist.
You’ve said that with this record, you wanted to make an “honest statement.” What inspired that new focus?
Martin Johnson: I wanted to fabricate something that worked with the modern state of music but still had our genuine sound. In early 2011, we made an entire record but we threw it out. Radio stations were hearing it and basically saying, “Hey, these are great, but give us mixes without the guitars.” Well, there are two guitar players in our band! We kind of felt like the scene that embraced us had died and we needed to find a new place for ourselves while still sounding like Boys Like Girls. So, we took a little hiatus and during that time I went to Nashville, which was a huge influence.
Tell me about Nashville. What inspired you to go down there?
Everything is different in Nashville. Producing music in LA, it’s just, like, two or three people hovering around one computer screen. The focus is all on the demo, just having something presentable by the end of the day. In Nashville, there’s no computer. It’s really old-school in the way that it’s about the song, which is nice because you’re not worried about production or presenting what you’re writing during the day. That made it so much easier to isolate melodic and lyric content, and focus on, “Man, let’s really create something great before we think about how we’re gonna present it to anyone.”
What inspirations did you have for the sound, for the production side of things?
Really, it’s all what benefits the songwriting most. When I wrote a lot of these songs I was thinking of great Americana, like John Mellencamp. I also listened to great records that are cohesive experiences, like Graceland by Paul Simon. Then, going to Nashville and hearing the country sound—the players are so incredible, the production is so nice and clean. I tried to ask myself, “What do people sing along with? What do they relate to?” Then, it’s about matching the music to that, finding the right blend. Warm, organic stuff—mandolin, acoustic guitar, elegant lead parts, and making that work with the programmed elements.
Does the concept of this album—living in a “crazy world”— come from just being tired of the rat race of being in a touring band with a busy schedule or reacting to what you hear on the radio?
I think it’s a combination. If you look out at the crowd at one of our shows, you see that 70 percent of the crowd is not looking up, they’re looking at their phones! And I’m a sucker for technology, too; I’m out with my friends, posting an Instagram of what’s happening rather than experiencing it. The only thing that slows people down and keeps us sane is music, and the challenge is trying to get a nugget of reality into it.
(Continued in the new issue of RAGGED…)
posted by Staff