New kids on the rock

By FRANKLIN SOULTS  |  June 29, 2007

The band’s history proves it. According to most accounts, the mastermind behind the Click Five is Boston music-biz vet Wayne Sharp. Back in 2003, this former Kiss tour manager and Madison Square Garden executive got in touch with three members of Oscar Bravo, a band he’d seen perform at a Berklee showcase. He told the young musicians — keyboardist Ben, guitarist Joe Guese, and bassist Ethan Mentzer — that he wanted to manage them in a new group, honing them to appeal to the now-dormant, once-mighty teen-pop market. In 2005, Sharp told the Boston Globe that he’d sold the concept with blunt honesty: “I said, ‘If you’re interested in going in this direction, all your friends at Berklee will think you sold out, and the critics will hate you. But if we’re right, you’ll get on the radio, sell a lot of concert tickets, and make enough money to be set for life.’ ”

So far, Sharp’s predictions have been half right. The set-for-life sales haven’t materialized, but thanks to his tutelage, financial support, and insider influence, the trio grew into a synchronized, suit-wearing quintet with a major-label debut album, Welcome to Imrie House, in about a year and a half. Even so, aside from “Just the Girl,” a breakthrough hit penned by Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger, the 2005 disc’s bright, youthful tumult sounds mostly like the Click Five’s own. With Eric Dill’s clean tenor slipping over Guese’s grungy guitar and the straightforward Pop 101 songwriting of Mentzer and Romans, the band sound like headliners on a Warped Tour kiddie stage.

Modern Minds and Pastimes, on the other hand, marks a break with the group’s only non-Berklee member, lead singer Dill, who was kicked out in November, after the recording sessions for a second album had stalled out. “It was the clichéd story of differences within the band,” says Ethan. Fellow Berklee student Kyle Patrick joined in February, and his deeper voice moves the group sound from emo-lite into straight modern rock laced with vaguely ’80s flourishes (instead of the other way around, as hipsters from the Killers to Interpol do it). Although the disc’s second half drags, the first part demonstrates real growth for Romans and Mentzer. They still collaborate with big guns like Chris Braide, author of Clay Aiken’s “Invisible,” but they also now write with like-minded newcomers they’ve befriended from Berklee to London. (Be among the first few hundred to check out the MySpace pages of Jez Ashurst and Nate Campany.) Writing with others or alone, they often play off the bright, rushing music with various shades of loss. You’d almost think the theme had been weighing on their minds.

“Definitely there’s been a lot of relationship struggles with just anyone,” says Zehr. “When your life changes as much as ours did, you go through a lot.

But, as Romans emphasizes, as some relationships fall away, the ones in the band have firmed up. He’s only half joking, after all, when he says that playing with these guys saved his life. “Look at him,” says Patrick. “You think he could be doing something else? He has my hair braided into his! He can’t be at an office and have that!”

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