One of the catchiest pop singles to score radio airplay in 2005 was The Click Five's "Just the Girl," but there was far more to the band than just that one song -- which, ultimately, is a really good thing, given that it wasn't actually written by any of the band members. (It was an Adam Schlesinger composition, as you diehard Fountains of Wayne fans probably already know.) In fact, virtually every song on their debut album, Greetings from Imrie House, was catchy as all get-out.
Two years later, The Click Five are back with their sophomore effort, Modern Minds and Pastimes, but in addition to producing an album that's almost exclusively written by the group themselves, there's been another major change: after only one album, they're already gotten a new lead singer. Bullz-Eye had a chance to speak with Joey Zehr, The Click Five's longtime drummer, and he gave us the scoop on "the new guy" (Kyle Patrick), what happened with "the old guy" (Eric Dill), and what we can expect from their second record.
Joey Zehr: Hey, is this Will?
Bullz-Eye: It is!
JZ: Hey, man, it's Joey from The Click Five. How's it going?
BE: Good! Sorry about the confusion yesterday. (Writer's note: The band's publicist accidentally had us penciled in for the interview the day before they told us we were penciled in for the interview, and, frankly, we weren't even remotely prepared. Thankfully, Joey graciously called back on the day and time that we'd been originally given.)
JZ: Oh, it's all good. No problem.
BE: Well, it's good to talk to you.
JZ: Yeah, man. If I cut out…I'm on the road right now, so if I cut out, I'll just call you back.
BE: OK, that's cool. Well, I guess I'll start from the very beginning: you're actually one of the original members of The Click Five, correct?
BE: When did the band originally form?
JZ: We formed in 2004. We were … me, Joe (Guese), Ethan (Mentzer) and Ben (Romans) were all roommates, living in a house. There were about…I think there were about 10 of us, because we were all going to school in Boston, at the Berklee College of Music. So it was, like, our senior year. Ethan, Joe and Ben had played in a band prior to that, and Ethan and I had played in a band prior to that, and we just kind of decided to form this project, and, uh, this one stuck!
BE: What's your personal musical history? I mean, obviously, you went to Berklee, but when did you first start playing music?
JZ: Well, I actually grew up…my father ran a dinner theater in Indiana, so I grew up in the arts and just started listening to The Commodores, B.B. King, and all this different stuff that would come through there. And I eventually kind of got into rock through The Who and Zeppelin. And I played in school bands, and outside of school, I had rock bands all the time. Berklee was just the next logical step for me, because I knew that I was going to do music . I was into what you'd call "modern music," considering that I was listening to rock, and, uh, it was kind of the only option for me. So I went to Berklee and just continued it.
BE: How did The Click Five first really get rolling? I mean, did you just start playing out live, and then somebody from Atlantic spotted you guys?
JZ: Yeah, what happened was…this was actually back when we were still The Click, but we were mainly based in the Northeast, and we were playing all kinds of different venues around there, just doing the circuit that every local band does up there. We had a demo of "Just the Girl," from our first record, and took it to the local radio station, and the music director there really liked it and was playing it on their local music hour. And, then, they have a couple of shows every year in Boston, on the Charles River, and he put us as the opener. It was crazy. It was a nice summer day, and I think, like, 17,000 people showed up…and one of the people who showed up was a college A&R scout from Boston College who, at the time, was with a different label. But he told his boss about us, and then it went into the whole label-fight thing, where they were flying up here and everything. Eventually, we decided on Atlantic...or Lava…which was really cool, because they were one of the labels that we were really into, anyway. And they've been a really good home for us, for a rock n' roll band playing pop songs. It's proved to be really great; everybody there, they're all our good friends, and the way that company works is really in line with how we want to be worked with.
BE: You said your demo tape had "Just the Girl" on it, so I guess you had that Adam Schlesinger connection long before signing with Atlantic.
JZ: Yeah, we did.
BE: How did you meet up with him?
JZ: Actually, the same guy we did our record with, we did our demos with, in Boston: Mike Deneen, who's worked with Fountains of Wayne. So he's the one who suggested that song. And it was one of those things where we didn't have a ton of material at that point, because we were really just starting off, and it was just a song that we were playing for the fun of it, but it was just really working well, so we decided to record it. I think we recorded that song and "Catch Your Wave." But that song, the radio guys really liked it. And, actually, that demo wound up making the record!
BE: How did you end up with a co-write by Paul Stanley on the first record?
On changing singers after releasing only one album: "It's a very weird thing, and you try to keep yourself business-minded about it, but it's music, and, ultimately, in the end, the emotions have to be right. It's too stressful to be an artist and not have the emotions right." JZ: Paul Stanley came about because Wayne Sharp, who's our manager, was a tour manager for one of Kiss's tours in the ‘80s. So, one day, Kiss was in town, and our manager was able to get us tickets to the show. So we went, met him, hung out, and he was really cool, and we all decided to invite him over for Thanksgiving dinner at our manager's house – the next day was Thanksgiving – and he accepted. So we just hung out with him all day, and he was just a really cool guy. And on that first record, we just asked him if he wanted to collaborate, and he said, "Sure!" So we flew Ben out there, and he wrote a song with Paul. It was pretty weird, but it was pretty cool. It's a unique opportunity to be able to have that inside view of a band such as Kiss. I think we learned a lot from their whole stage show. Kiss is a band that writes pop songs…they're a rock n' roll band that writes pop songs…and it's been a really cool and unique experience to be tied in with them.
BE: OK, so you knew I was going to ask about it eventually, so…Eric Dill's departure.
BE: You were actually the one who had the connection that brought Eric into the band in the first place. (Writer's note: Joey and Eric were childhood friends in Indiana.) Was it weird for you when he left?
JZ: It was weird for me, but the thing is that…I mean, it was certainly more weird for me than probably the other guys, but, y'know, it was actually a pretty mature process. It wasn't, like, one conversation. It was something we'd talked about over a long period of time. It was not a secret amongst us that we weren't exactly happy in the current set-up, and there were musical differences and different opinions, so when we finally made the decision, it really was kind of a mutual thing, and it wasn't a really harsh thing on either side. And I know he's happy doing what he's doing now, and we're certainly happy with what we're doing now. We've got Kyle as our new singer, who's absolutely amazing and has brought in this new level of inspiration for us to move into the second record with. He's just an extremely talented musician with a really unique and powerful voice, and it's the kind of thing in our band where we really like to draw inspiration from each other and challenge each other, and he has certainly brought in a whole lot to challenge us with. We've gotta bring our game up to match his. So it's been a really cool thing.
BE: What's his background?
JZ: He's from Georgia, he's a guitar player and singer, and he kind of went through the same thing we all did: he grew up a musician. Y'know, Berklee's that one beacon of hope out there for musicians who say, "Well, shit, I want to play music, but Mom and Dad want me to go to college." So you can kind of sneak it by, by going to Berklee!
BE: Now, how did you go about getting him into the band? Did ya'll already know him, or did somebody tell you about him?
JZ: Well, we went through some of our friends at Berklee to meet him when the whole thing with Eric went down. We didn't really make any big splash about it, because we were still talking with Eric about how we were going to dissolve or whatever, blah, blah, blah. So we just kind of did a word-of-mouth thing, and we really met him early on in that process and were just really taken by him. We hung out with him a lot, and we certainly became friends before the position was offered to him, but it was a very easy transition into being with him, because he comes from a very similar musical background and has similar musical tastes and influences. And he was already at Berklee, so it was a very familiar scenario.
BE: Whose idea was it to have a contest to guess what the new Click Five singer looks like?
JZ: I think that was somebody at our record label, but we didn't want to try and slide one over on people. It was just one of those things to try and give fans a little extra fun thing to be involved with, I guess.
BE: With Eric leaving, were you guys at all concerned about the fact that, after only one album, you were already losing a very recognizable part of the band's sound?
JZ: Sure. I'd definitely say that I was nervous about it, because you're given this amazing opportunity, and we all felt extremely blessed to have been able to make even one album for this label, and now we've got to come back and say, "OK, now we want to switch everything up?" That was a big risk for us to take. We didn't know if our label would be there for us, and we didn't know if our fans would be there for us, but it was something that we knew that…that it just had to happen. It's a very weird thing, and you try to keep yourself business-minded about it, but it's music, and, ultimately, in the end, the emotions have to be right. It's too stressful to be an artist and not have the emotions right. So we just went with it. And, fortunately, our label's been so supportive, our fans have been so supportive, and it was so much more of a smooth process than it probably potentially could've been. So, yeah, sure, we were nervous, but I think we made it through, and we're all excited and in good spirits.
BE: I'll tell you, I loved "Jenny" from the get-go, but the album as a whole has taken some time to grow on me. I'm having to disassociate myself from the first album a little bit, y'know?
BE: But I'm definitely learning to enjoy it the more I listen to it.
BE: I'm guessing, though, that there's going to be a lot of that, at least to a certain extent.
JZ: Yeah. (hesitates) Well, what is it that…
BE: (pre-empting the question) Well, y'know, it's just that their two voices are so…
JZ: (clearly familiar with this response) Yeah.
BE: …they're just so dissimilar.
JZ: And, y'know, that was something that we wanted to do. Like I said, we didn't want to try and pull anything over on anybody. We didn't want to, like, bring in a new Eric.
BE: Right. And it's nothing against Kyle. He's got a strong voice; it's just very different from Eric's, and when I first spun the album, I was just, like, "It's so different." It was hard for me to wrap my head around it at first. But, now, I'm three or four spins in, and I'm starting to get more of a feel for the album on its own merits.
BE: Now, I literally just got the hard copy of the CD about 15 minutes ago, so I haven't had a chance to study it in-depth, but it looks like more of the songs were written in house, with far fewer outside collaborators.
JZ: Yeah. They're all either co-writes or totally by the band. I think pretty much the only outside co-writes on this one were with these guys that are in a band that we're big fans of, a band called Farrah?
BE: (surprised) Wow, yeah!
JZ: Yeah. So that's really cool to us. I think we're the kind of guys who, if we're going to do co-writes, it's gotta be with people who mean something to us. I think that, if anything, it's more about being open to the idea of getting ideas from other people who inspire us rather than, y'know, getting help. And we actually have a co-write again with a guy who had a co-write on the first album: our friend Nate Campany, who was one of our roommates in college. He co-wrote "Say Goodnight" on the first record. Nate was in my band before The Click Five, so it was really cool to have him involved. And he's gone on to do some really impressive things since then – he's signed a publishing deal – so we got him back and co-wrote with him again, which was great. It's so weird to be at this point. As a musician, growing up, we're certainly at fantasy level right now in our minds, because this is all we've dreamed about. And, then, to be able to do that with our friend, who came up with us? That's a very cool thing to us.
BE: Absolutely. And I have to say, it's pretty cool to me to hear that you're writing with guys from Farrah. I love their stuff. "Living for the Weekend" and all that.
JZ: Yeah, yeah!
BE: So you guys have toured with, like, Ashlee Simpson, the Backstreet Boys, and, over in the UK, you did a tour with McFly. If you had your druthers, though, who would you say would be the optimal co-pairing for The Click Five?
JZ: Well, I mean, generally speaking, I think we've always been really open to touring with anyone. For us, it's about getting in front of people. I think…I feel like maybe we were a little too much into the pop world, and it'd be nice to go out with some more, like, rock acts. Because we really are, we're just rock n' roll fans at heart, and that's just what we're trying to be: a rock n' roll band. I think that if we want to go with, like, the ultimate, then (laughs) I think the ultimate would be to get on a Paul McCartney tour! But we're very big fans of the big rock bands, so any of those huge tours would be awesome. But, yeah, I mean, I think we're pretty much open to touring with anyone. We're cool with touring with anyone who'll have us.
BE: Yeah, I just didn't know if there was, like, a major band that you think would be a perfect match for your sound. Because, like, for instance, Fountains of Wayne have a not entirely dissimilar sound.
JZ: Oh, yeah, no, no, we'd love to tour with Fountains of Wayne! I think that'd be perfect for us! I don't know if that'll ever happen…but we've certainly suggested the idea! (laughs) Touring's just so weird and so political, and there's so much you have to go through.
BE: Now, I've never actually seen you guys live, but is your fanbase, in fact, predominantly screaming young girls? Because I'm a little concerned about losing the upper range of my hearing if I go to one of your shows.
"We have to pinch ourselves just for being on our second record on a major label and being able to do what we want to do, musically. It's just really cool, so we're going to try our hardest to make sure that we can keep it up and keep doing it." JZ: (laughs) No, I mean…yeah, there is that segment. But I feel like we're pretty lucky to have a pretty broad fanbase. I think there's something for everyone. We certainly have the power pop tie-ins, so we get a lot of that crowd. And, yeah, because of some of the bands we've toured with, we have quite a big teenage female fanbase. But it's pretty wide. Because, I mean, we've done tours with Lifehouse, we've done random shows with Rod Stewart and Fleetwood Mac, so there's been a lot of exposure to a lot of different audiences. So I don't know that it's fully screaming teens, but I would encourage you to come out. We'd love for you to come out. We always try to get as many non-screaming-teens out as possible.
BE: (laughs) So you got to open for Fleetwood Mac? That must've been pretty awesome.
JZ: Yeah. Oh, yeah. It was at the Tweeter Center, in Mansfield, Mass.
BE: Did you get to meet them after the show?
JZ: No, we didn't get to meet them. But we did get to eat Stevie Nicks' birthday cake. I guess it was her birthday that night.
BE: That's funny; my wife and I actually just went to see Stevie Nicks in concert last night.
BE: OK, last question: you guys doing a bunch of TV gigs to promote the new album, and, if so, do you know any of them yet?
JZ: Uh, well, I think you'd have to ask…well, we're doing a lot of morning news shows. Like, we just did "Good Morning Texas" today, and we did Chicago's big morning show a couple of days ago. So we're doing that. We're touring a lot. We're planning on staying out on the road for the rest of the summer…probably for the rest of the year, if all goes well. We're definitely going to go overseas and promote the release over there; I'm not sure when the release is, but I think that's being worked on, and we're certainly going to go over there and promote that, whenever it is. Hopefully, we can just grow with this record and create something that won't be able to go away. Again, it's one of those things where we have to pinch ourselves just for being on our second record on a major label and being able to do what we want to do, musically. It's just really cool, so we're going to try our hardest to make sure that we can keep it up and keep doing it.
BE: Cool. Well, I think I'm good.
JZ: Cool, man.
BE: Good talking to you, and hopefully you'll get to Norfolk on the tour. Norfolk, Virginia, that's where I'm at.
JZ: Oh, yeah, that's the NorVa, right?
JZ: Yeah, I love that place!
BE: Yeah, I knew you'd played here before, but there was some scheduling glitch on my end, and I couldn't make it. So, hopefully, you'll make it back and I'll be able to make it to the show this time.
JZ: Yeah, man! We'd love to have you!
BE: Sweet. Well, thanks again!
JZ: No problem. I appreciate you taking the time!