Sometimes things “Click” and sometimes they don’t

By Anshalee Guarnieri

In 2004, The Click Five was on a lightning-speed path to success. The handsome five-member band performed in July for the popular eastern Massaschusetts music radio station KISS 108FM’s Hatch Shell Concert series on Boston’s Charles River alongside pop music’s top artists.

In October of 2004, the band signed its first major recording contract with Lava Records; by 2005, its first single “Just the Girl” was a smash hit. The Teen Beat magazines and trading cards with the perfectly coiffed quintet were hitting stores nationwide at a furious rate.

The band was formulated in 2003 in a Cambridge, Mass., management office. Wayne Sharp, the mastermind behind the group, found four of the five original members at Boston’s Berklee College of Music during a band showcase. The fifth member and lead singer, Eric Dill, a high school friend of drummer Joey Zehr, was called in from Indiana to complete the group.

Within months of securing management, the band had a demo featuring three songs that would later be found on the group’s debut album, “Greetings From Imrie House.” Their first hit, “Just the Girl,” was written by Fountain’s of Wayne’s bassist Adam Schlesinger, while the band’s keyboardist, guitarist and bassist wrote the other two songs. In no time, the band had signed with a record label and was getting the music industry’s push to power.

The band instantly started touring with huge acts, such as one of the highest selling boy bands in the world, the Backstreet Boys, selling out venues all across North America. Click Five continued to tour with pop princess Ashlee Simpson, earning them a place in pop music history.

“Greetings from Imrie House” pays homage to the band’s home on Imrie Street in Allston, Mass. In its first week, the album skyrocketed to number 15 on the Billboard charts, earning Click Five the highest charting debut of a new rock act in 2005, and also made the band Lava Record’s highest debuting act since the label’s opening.

However, as quickly as the band members came to fame, they fell from grace.

“There was a point where it felt like we were in an airplane,” said bassist Ethan Mentzer to The Boston Globe’s Joan Anderman, “…and the engines just died.”

The Click Five is the perfect cautionary tale for those trying to enter the fickle business of the music industry. In 2005, the band was all over MTV’s playlist and performing for sold out amphitheaters. Since the band’s glory days, four years later, there is one lead singer, one record label. The Click Five members find themselves playing in tiny nightclubs around Boston and New York. They are back to the basics and learning how to deal with the music business without the muscle of the record executives rooting for their success.

The band is now comprised of Mentzer, guitarist Joe Guese, Zehr, keyboardist Ben Romans and leader singer Kyle Patrick, who replaced former lead singer Eric Dill in 2007. The Click Five is a tight-knit group of men who met in college at Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music. To many people, the men of The Click Five were just another prefabricated group of pretty faces. Their gimmick was their matching suits and skinny pants, as if they were trying to be a modern-day Beatles or The Cars.

“I think the band was marketed to a narrow demographic,” said Ben Romans in a recent phone interview. “With all that said,” he adds, “It certainly worked for a limited time.”

When the band debuted, its first album sold over 350,000 copies in the United States alone. The boys seemed like a shoe-in for a long and successful career in the public eye.

Unlike many of the bands earning recognition at the time, the Click Five could actually play instruments. This factor gave the group a little edge against the boy bands it was competing against for radio time. However, when talking to any of the members, be wary of calling Click Five a “boy band”.

“I shudder at that term, as I feel that it means that more photos are being taken than music being heard,” said Romans referring to the “boy band” status.

“If boy band meant singing and dancing then that’s hilarious,” said Romans. He adds, “At the time, I suppose we had a singer who was more in line with that, but reality is our band was always a rock and roll band trapped inside of a marketing plan. That again, most certainly worked to some degree, and while very thankful for it, and with all due respect to ‘boys in bands,’ it always was a strange place to be in.”

In 2007, with the entrance of new lead singer Kyle Patrick, the group took a step in breaking out of the boy band stigma. The matching suits and ties had vanished, but so had quite a bit of the fanfare stateside. In today’s industry, a band only gets one shot before the label moves on to the next big thing.

Though, the label was not as hands-on for the second album, “Modern Minds and Pastimes,” the band was able to move on to tour Asia. They have filled the seats in a number of Asian arenas, stretching from Singapore to Bali, and Jakarta to Phnom Penh. The band played the first ever international rock concert on the ancient steps of the temple Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

In August of 2008, the band was awarded with the MTV Asia Knock Out Music reward, and by December, the band was back in Asia to take part in the MTV EXIT event, a campaign to raise awareness and increase prevention of human trafficking and exploitation in Asia and the Pacific.

Even with all of these accolades under its belt, The Click Five came back to the states and back to anonymity.

“Everything happened so quickly you think ‘This is just going to keep going,’ and it didn’t,” said Guese.

The band was dropped from Lava/Atlantic Records in 2008.

Since returning from the whirlwind experience in Asia and being dropped from the label, the band went right back to the studio to produce a self-financed third album. The Click Five has also moved on to complete several mini tours up and down the east coast.

In March of 2009, the band finished off a residency tour that included performing regularly in Cambridge’s Lizard Lounge every Saturday night, World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, every Wednesday night, Pianos, New York, every Thursday night, and a few shows in Connecticut and Virginia. The band is wrapping up 2009 in another small tour starting December 3 at Boston’s Great Scott, a venue just blocks from the old Imrie Street apartment where it all began.

The Click Five members have big plans for 2010. They plan to drop their third album in the upcoming months, and they recently rocked a second gig for Asia’s MTV EXIT where they performed for approximately 60,000 people at the Military Zone No.7 Stadium on April 17.

Though the band’s sound is still heavy in the power pop genre, it has blended a more mature 70s rock ‘n’ roll undertone. The guitars seem to be wailing a bit louder, the drums are being hit a bit harder, and the Click Five is hoping to get its success back on its own terms this time around.

“When we play live, we play live. That’s that. When we record, we record as pure as possible. It takes more time and more effort, but we also take pride in our songs and aim to write good melodies and such. YouTube the band circa 2009… it’s just apples and oranges,” said Romans.

In an ideal world, The Click Five hopes that its sound, not its looks, will bring the boys the success they feel they deserve.

“At the end of the day, I would hope that good songs and a good band still count towards success,” said Romans.

The Click Five had a bright 15 minutes in the limelight. Only time will tell if they will get 15 minutes more.

Anshalee Guarnieri can be reached at [email protected]