VIDEO: Boys Like Girls, "The Great Escape"
Martin Johnson isn’t quite sure where he is. The 21-year-old frontman of Boston’s newest rising stars, Boys Like Girls, has already spent the better part of two years on the road, “sowing the seed,” as he puts it, for the slow-building breakthrough of the band’s homonymous Columbia debut. The disc came out in August 2006, but it wasn’t until earlier this year, in the wake of a Spin magazine readers’ poll that crowned the fledging band 2006’s “Artist of the Year,” that business started to pick up. The band’s second single, “The Great Escape,” has found a home on Top 40 radio, and two weeks ago the video for it hit #1 on MTV’s TRL. Meanwhile, Boys Like Girls are plugging away on the Warped Tour, the punk-rock musical circus that hits the Tweeter Center tonight, August 9.
“Right now, I think we’re somewhere in Pennsylvania . . . maybe close to Philadelphia,” Johnson says via cellphone from the band’s tour bus. “I never really know where we are until I’m on stage and I start screaming at our drum tech, ‘Where are we? Where are we?’ And then I run up to the microphone and scream the name of the city. We kind of just wake up in a different place every day. And it’s been that way for a while now.”
If Johnson sounds prematurely jaded, that’s because he’s been in the game a lot longer than his years would suggest. And if it appears that Boys Like Girls have come out of nowhere, fully formed, with a soaring summer anthem, that’s only because they’ve been cultivating their rock-and-roll career opportunity since day one. Before forming Girls Like Boys in 2005 with drummer John Keefe (now 23), bassist Bryan Donahue (22), and lead guitarist Paul DiGiovanni (19), Johnson fronted the pop-punk band the Drive. Keefe and Donahue had already played with Johnson in another all-ages scene band, Lancaster. So the four wasted little time getting Boys Like Girls off the ground.
“When we first started, I had an enormous backlog of songs,” Johnson explains. “We practiced for two months straight, eight hours a day, wrote as many songs together as we possibly could, and then went on our first tour.”
It was something Johnson had been preparing himself for since grade school. “I’ve been in bands or at least trying to be since I was in third grade. When I was in second and third grade, I made all my little friends learn instruments so we could start a band. So I’ve been wanting this forever. My first touring band was when I was 17, in junior high school. We went on like a do-it-yourself national tour. That was the Drive. That band actually did more in the local scene than Boys Like Girls did because Boys Like Girls immediately started touring. But the bands we were in before Boys Like Girls were more like local Boston-type things because we were too young to get out and tour. Once we started Boys Like Girls, it was like we were already ready to do it as a career.”