Jan 30, 2010

Biography of The Click Five

The title of The Click Five’s sophomore album, “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES,” perfectly sums up the quintet’s raison d’etre. The title is a nod to Ray Charles’s classic 1962 album, “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music,” and, as bassist Ethan Mentzer explains: “Our record is an eclectic mix of styles dating back to the ’60s and everything in between, so it was a cool way of summing up what we’re doing. As a band, we have ‘Modern Minds’ – we’re young and a product of our time – yet at the same time we’re old souls, so the word ‘Pastimes’ has an appropriate dual meaning.”

That dynamic duality is evident throughout the dozen power-pop gems that populate “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES.” “Jenny,” the first single, meshes musical buoyancy with a melancholy sentiment to create an irresistible ode. The blazing “Flipside” is a bouncy, gutsy, edgy rocker steeped in ’70s sensibilities and dynamics, in contrast to the warm but heart-rending ‘Mary Jane,’ a poignant ballad with soaring guitars guaranteed to have every lighter in the house held aloft.

While The Click Five may be “old souls,” there’s a brand-new member: 21-year-old singer/guitarist Kyle Patrick, who, like the rest of the band, attended Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music. Lead guitarist Joe Guese tells the tale: “Our new singer had to walk in the door with the right guitar, the right attitude, the right skills and voice – he had to ‘get it’ right off the bat. Kyle walked in and had all those elements. It was very natural; it wasn’t ‘American Idol’ tryouts, which is a path we could have gone down. We wanted it this way – to go back to where we all found one another, to Berklee. And sure enough, there he was.”

Patrick was thrilled to fill the newly vacated singer slot, and, while meshing easily with the other guys in the band, he also knew he was bringing something different to the group. “My voice has a deeper tone, a different register, so that makes our sound a bit more rock now. It still has that pop element, but with more of an edge,” says the Atlanta native, who led his own indie rock band starting at the age of 17. And The Click Five fans were on board with Patrick from day one. “We got amazing feedback from the moment I joined, and people are totally psyched about ‘Jenny,’ both hardcore fans from the first record and tons of new listeners.” As keyboardist Ben Romans explains: "We already knew this album was going to be different from the first one. Kyle joining the band actually fit exactly with where we were going musically. Rather than a step back, the change ended up being an opportunity for five steps forward.”

The achievement of “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” is all the more remarkable considering that the tough act it had to follow. The Click Five’s Lava/Atlantic debut, 2005’s “GREETINGS FROM IMRIE HOUSE,” entered the Billboard 200 at #15, making it the year’s highest-charting debut from a new rock band. Critical raves followed, with Rolling Stone calling “…IMRIE HOUSE” “relentlessly catchy…simultaneously retro, current, mainstream-minded and knowing.” People praised the single “Just the Girl” as “a guitar-pop gem,” while Entertainment Weekly raved about The Click Five’s “insanely catchy blend of guitar crunch, pop hooks and Queen-worthy vocal harmonies.” The fans spoke loudly as well. The group’s Myspace page ( was #1 on the Most Viewed Band Page, and “Just The Girl” topped the iTunes chart for over 2 weeks – a feat almost unheard of in today’s world of shifting musical tastes that can be instantly gratified through digital downloads.

“MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” was created with producer Mike Denneen (Fountains of Wayne, Aimee Mann) and mixed by Mike Shipley (The Cars, Cheap Trick, Green Day). Recording commenced at Q Division studios near the band’s Boston home – which they all share – in February 2007. Thanks in part to The Click Five’s relentless touring schedule, which had them sharing stages in the U.S. and overseas with everyone from the legendary Fleetwood Mac to U.K. pop-rock sensations McFly to singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette (not to mention a pair of life-changing shows with KISS in Japan), they earned a wealth of life and musical experience. And that maturity and growth is evident in the infectious grooves of the new album. The record was born over the course of two years, 80 songs, and a singer change, all a heady education for the young band. As Romans rhapsodizes: “It’s like there was a great struggle and a crazy Revolutionary War, then a new freedom, a new person at the helm, and now we’re building this new country! You can hear the new heart, the new unity and growth. The effort, soul and energy seeps out and bleeds onto the record.”

“So many people reach a cutoff point when they stop listening to new things and stop being influenced by music and life, and that’s SO far from the truth for us,” observes drummer Joey Zehr. “There isn’t much that we shy away from musically; we’re always listening.” Alongside universal influences like the Beatles, The Click Five draw inspiration from Nick Lowe, the Cars, ELO, Foo Fighters, the Raspberries, Tom Petty, The Feeling, and many more artists both new and old. Patrick is a big James Taylor and Neil Young fan. Zehr cites classic rockers Keith Moon and Mitch Mitchell as favorite drummers. And Romans draws apt analogies between literature and lyrics, honing in on songs to discover what makes them work.

“From Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ to Nick Lowe, there are rhyme schemes which have been going on since the Tin Pan Alley days,” Romans notes. “The reason you sing lyrics is because the melody is so damn catchy. I read Hemingway, and I like that simplicity; he never says anything unnecessary. That’s the beauty of it. The puzzle is breaking it down to its pure essence. Lyricism is minimalist, and I like the challenge of writing pop music. It’s modern art, like Rothko, in blocks, instead of doing an Impressionist painting.” And the impression that “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” creates is slightly darker and more cinematic than The Click Five’s debut, while still retaining the propulsive and engaging power-pop musicality and stellar vocals. “They’ve definitely grown up…a lot,” notes producer Denneen, who also helmed the band’s first album. “There’s more breadth to the topics they’re writing about now and more depth both to the lyrics and the music. There’s some real sadness and loss this time around, as opposed to the more playful vibe of the songs on the last record. These are songs about real relationships, which I think people will really be able to relate to.”

While The Click Five mine multifaceted personal emotions, they’re not stuck inside their heads. “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” is effortlessly relatable to anyone who has experience with that most famous of four-letter words: love. Patrick wryly terms several of the tunes “trouble-with-someone songs.” “Empty,” penned by Romans and Patrick, was so emotional that Patrick did vocals curled in the fetal position to capture the isolated, vulnerable sentiment. Musically, the band and Denneen used any means necessary to depict the moods of each song, using open guitar tunings and vintage keyboards – like a Wurlitzer and a Mellotron – to paint a fully realized, intimately detailed musical portrait. Zehr affirms, “We worked hard to create parts that have extra pizzazz – sparkly touches and details that reflect our emotional input.” From “I’m Getting Over You,” which Guese terms “a three-minute pop song that hits you over the head,” to the darker cautionary tale “Addicted to Me,” to the insinuating build-up and gang vocals of the not-what-it-seems “Happy Birthday,” to the vivid, cinematic tableau evoked by “Headlight Disco,” “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” is a treasure trove of intense ear candy.

While the snappy dressers of The Click Five look as good as they sound, hearkening back more to the Small Faces than Nirvana, they are quick to stress that “You can’t base your band on external things. It’s about really loving to create, and more so, loving to communicate.” And on “MODERN MINDS AND PASTIMES” they do just that. “It’s ‘National Geographic.’ We’re making musical snapshots and memories; making the moment stand still,” concludes Romans. “We respect all the decades that have gotten us here. We are creating nostalgia; I hope our songs become a soundtrack to someone’s life, just like the songs we grew up with did for us.”

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