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Interview: Boys Like Girls

Just before taking the stage for their UK record release show of 'Love Drunk' in London, Bryan Donahue of the Massachusetts pop/rock four-piece, Boys Like Girls sat down with Alter The Press! for an in-depth interview.

Bryan spoke to ATP about 'Love Drunk', working with Taylor Swift, being a part of the 2009 Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade, the truth of what exactly happened with front man Martin Johnson in Scotland when last overseas and more.

Alter This Press: This is your second time overseas with the release of your latest album 'Love Drunk'. You were only here, literally, two months ago.
Bryan Donahue (bass): Yeah, It was only two months ago since we were here, for a small run, to hype up the release for 'Love Drunk.' It's out today, but we encourage all our fans that come to our shows to just download it. We tell that to every fan in every country. If it's not on sale where you are, and if you can't find it, find a friend who does, and get your hands on it. We are not really anal about record sales or the numbers, it's 2010, the whole game has kind of changed, and we just want everyone to have our music and have as many fans as possible. Before that last small run in February, it was a really long time since we were last here, and, in the future, we definitely want to come back more often, not have such a large gap.

ATP: How were the shows in February?
Bryan: It was very warm and welcoming. Our fans are very supportive of us in every country, especially here, after not touring for such a long time. The fans had fun, we had fun, it was great.

ATP: 'Love Drunk' has been out in the US since September, and even charted to #8 on the Billboard 200.
Bryan: Charts are cool but it's not something that's in the front of our minds. We will get an e-mail from our manager in New York, and they will say, 'This is where the song is at, it's doing well and keep up the good work.' We are usually so busy doing interviews, meet and greets and shows to keep up on how a song is doing in the charts. And, it changes so fast too, it could be up one day and back down the other. We have been really blessed so far, with all the success of our singles and radio support and, of course, our fans; we'd be nowhere without them. If a song does well on the radio, it's great, but we are more interested in getting ready for the next show. Like, for example, tonight is our record release show, and we are really excited that 'Love Drunk' is finally out here in the UK. But, we are more excited to headline this place tonight. Last time we were here, we were support for Plain White T's, this venue is awesome and to headline it, is really cool. Personally, I'm thinking about tonight's show more than how the record is going to do in its first week in the UK.

ATP: How would you compare 'Love Drunk' to the self-titled release?
Bryan: We feel like we grew, not just as a band, and I don't mean that as ‘just in the studio’ either. We toured off that first record for three years, a really long time, especially since bands are pumping out a record every year now. We toured for three and a half years, every month out of those years, pretty much, and you are playing the same songs over and over. We started to have fun with them by changing parts here and there, like me and John (Keefe - drummer) would change up the rhythm a little bit, so it wouldn't be so straight. We would try it a little bit more funkier/groovier and, over time, all the old songs just grew and matured, and just came into this new light; almost like new songs. That's how we wanted to start the second record. It's where we took all the songs from the first record, and how they developed and mutated into these new versions. Even though it's the same thing, we still had to play them a little bit harder, a little bit different. We took that jumping off point and used it in the studio, like taking the way the songs turned out live, after a couple of years, and brought that attitude in. The second record is definitely more diverse; it's not just straight pop/rock. We dabbled. We had a duet with Taylor Swift so it kind of dabbled a little bit into country, there is another track called 'The First One,' where it has a little country vibe on it too. But, we still infuse a lot of 80's hard rock into it too, which we all grew up on. Our parents listened to it and, of course, they turned it onto us; it's all the stuff we grew up on. The second record definitely feels like the older brother to the self-titled, kinda.

ATP: How did Taylor Swift come into the equation?
Bryan: Taylor is an amazing artist and has done a fantastic job of crossing over from being strictly a country artist to a country/pop/singer/songwriter. She just takes over the female genre, she is the queen of girl singers at this point, I guess. How we ended up getting her on our record was, she had a piece in the Wall Street Journal, I think, and mentioned us, and our song, 'Hero/Heroine.' A week later, we saw a YouTube video of her covering 'Hero/Heroine' at one of her shows, and we were blown away by that. After that, we got in contact with her and said, “We are huge fans of yours and it's an honor and privilege for you to like our band and to cover one of our songs, so thank you.” We stayed in touch, and when we were in the studio and tracked the song, 'Two Is Better Than One', we were listening to the playback and thought it was good, it was done, but it didn't feel right. We thought it needed the opposite side of the story, the female perspective. We called her up, asked her if she'd be interested, sent her the track, she gave it a listen and she said she would do it. We were very blessed that she said yes because she made that track, and took it to that next step. John actually played a song or two on her newest record, so it kind of got reciprocated; she sang with us, and John did some drumming. Hopefully, there will be more collaborations down the line.

ATP: It was announced that the video is done for your new single, 'Heart Heart Heartbreak'. What can we expect to see from it?
Bryan: It's actually kind of funny. We made a video for that before we started our last tour in Canada, a couple of weeks ago, and since then, the video has been scrapped. They sent us a rough version of the video; we took a look at it and we said, “We can't use this.” It just didn't turn out the way everyone envisioned it. It's the first time we’ve ever scrapped anything and have to start again from scratch.

ATP: How was it being in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last year?
Bryan: It was the first time we’d ever done a parade, or anything that would fall into the same genre as a parade. It was cool. It was a real unique experience because there were so many people lined up on the streets of New York that day. They said. “Here's your float, stay on top, wave to people as your moving and when it stops in front of the camera for all the news-people to comment on who performing on the floats, two of you come down here, two of you play on the top.” It was so cold, but it was such a great opportunity and an experience that we couldn't pass up. We were in a parade for Christ's sake! The Macy's Day Parade, and that's awesome. We were like, 'Who invited us? We are just these jackasses from Boston! No one wants to wave at us!'

ATP: So you don't know how it all came together?
Bryan: I think someone approached someone at our management, about looking for an act, and 'Two Is Better Than One' was doing well on the radio; it was like ‘the stars aligned’ type deal. We were the right band, at the right time. They asked our manager and it was definitely like a ‘stars aligned’ type thing, it was like, “Hey, do you want to do the Macy's Day Parade?” “Fuck yeah we want to do it!”

ATP: It must have been great because of all your family and relatives tuning in.
Bryan: My mom was so proud! She taped it and everything and said, “Did you get to see it yet? I taped it and everything!” and I said, “Yes mom, I saw it on YouTube.” That's the way our parents are like, with everything the band does, like when we do a TV appearance, they will always Tivo it or whatever.

ATP: You guys stated the band’s already working on the follow-up to 'Love Drunk'. What is the update at the moment?
Bryan: We are always working, always writing, especially Martin (Johnson - vocals). He has always been the type of kid that, when an idea sort of starts boiling in his head, it's hard to get him to stop, even if it's a little idea, like a guitar idea or a vocal melody. He will stop everything to take care of it before it's all forgotten. Martin has some rough ideas, some skeletons of songs, and we need to go in, to fill in the teeth, the muscles, the bones and everything else. It's too early to say how it's shaping up, or how it's going to sound, like, we are still focusing on 'Love Drunk,' but we are always looking at the future and what's next for us. It's not just to keep busy, because there's a lot of downtime on the road, but to stay on top of our own game of keeping in practice, staying fresh and always having new material.

ATP: This summer you will be one of the headliners of The Bamboozle Roadshow with All Time Low, Forever The Sickest Kids?
Bryan: It's us, All Time Low, LMFAO and Third Eye Blind. We are taking a tip from the Fall Out Boy tour, where Cobra Starship and All Time Low were rotating headliners. No one will play first or last every night. The set times will rotate, kind of like Warped Tour. There are two separate stages, the smaller buzz bands, and then the main stage, which opens later, which Hanson and Good Charlotte open everyday. Then it's the four headliners that switch around everyday. In the past, The Bamboozle Roadshow has always been a four/five band bill, just a normal tour, and now it seems they are trying to take on Warped Tour. That tour is going to be so much fun because we've toured with half those bands, at least once, so it's going to feel like a mobile summer camp; buses upon buses parked next to each other. It's really like a mobile home community, or something like that, because you are on the bus all night, then show up at the venue the next day, everyone is pouring out of their buses too, and it's like, 'Hey guys, what you doing today? Want to grab some lunch? Shoot some hoops?'

ATP: There have been a lot of rumors circulating about what happened when the band was over in the UK last time. Just to set the record straight, what actually happened in Scotland with Martin? (Martin ended up in hospital after being jumped).
Bryan: I saw the start of him getting hit. It was after the show was over, the venue had turned into a nightclub, and it was between him and security. When I saw them scuffle back and forth, I was thinking, it was not going to end well, and ran to find our tour manager, who is a bigger dude and supposed to be looking out for us. I ran in shouting, “Chris! Chris! Martin needs our help! Get your ass moving!” He is a big dude, and doubled for security for us, because he was so big. He was literally pulling security guards off of Martin like they were wet t-shirts. I don't know exactly what happened, but I know security went over to Martin and tried to ask him to leave, and he said he didn't do anything wrong, and he didn't do anything wrong. They just saw him talking to a guy and they thought he was trying to fight him, and tried to throw him out. He said, “I've done nothing wrong, I don't have to leave, I played a show here earlier. I'm just trying to have a couple of beers with some friends.” He wouldn't leave and next thing you know, bam, stupid shit escalated. It was something that should never have happened. Thank god Martin didn't break his face, just a couple of bruises and bumps, nothing bad. I just hope that if we play that venue again, the same security isn't working because I'm sure of what they all looked like, and would be like, 'You! You and I have to talk!'

ATP: When will you be coming back to the UK?
Bryan: I haven't heard, or seen, anything about a tentative tour, but, off the top of my head, if we don't come back this fall or winter, I would assume we'll be back right at the beginning of next year. We don't want a long time of space in between tours, like last time, because it only hurts us, so we want to be coming back more often.

ATP: What is the plan straight after this show?
Bryan: We head back to the US and are doing something at Disneyland, like a graduation night party, where we are playing at 2.30 at night. After that, a couple of random shows, then The Bamboozle Roadshow starts May 20th. Then, off the top of my head, I know we are supposed to go back to Asia sometime later this year, Australia, talks about going to Brazil, a lot of international touring. We are playing it one step at a time. At the moment, as far as the US release goes, we are about half way through the record cycle and about to release the third single. We are going to squeeze as much as we can in before we go back into the studio to record our new record, then start it all over again.

ATP: Will there be another single with this album?
Bryan: Maybe one more; not sure yet. I know the fan favorite is 'Someone Like You,' and I think that would be a cool single but two ballads being singles, might be too much. It's up to the radio department to see what would test better. Maybe 'She's Got A Boyfriend Now' or 'Someone Like You,' but I don't know.

ATP: Thank you Bryan. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bryan: Thank you to our fans and your readers. We love you guys and check out my guitar company, VentureGuitars.com

'Love Drunk' is out now on Columbia Records.

- Jon Ableson

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