The members of Boys Like Girls live at home in the suburbs with their parents and write vague, emotionally charged songs sugarcoated with precision pop hooks. Add Martin Johnson's wavering, pained voice, a requisite ambiguous name, and producer Matt Squire (Panic! At the Disco), and the band fits emo to, well, an E. These attributes speak to thousands of disenfranchised kids whose best friends circulate on MySpace; fittingly, it was on that site and PureVolume.com that two of the band's songs generated enough downloads to attract record-label interest. Even if their actual record sales are paltry compared to the free downloads, Johnson sounded strangely happy as he spoke with us between Texas tour stops.
New Times: So, are you boys who like girls, or boys who are like girls you know, emo and empathetic?
Martin Johnson: It's boys that like girls just like girls like boys, or some boys like boys, or some girls like girls. It's just a fun statement. It's like what makes the world go round and the never-ending chase of guys against girls. Go to any bar and you see guys stalking their prey. It's kind of a play on that.
NT: Most of your songs seem to have this high-school-romance quality, yet you also tackle issues like leaving home and growing up too fast.
Johnson: A lot of the record is about my youth at the end of high school and then moving on and growing up. A lot of people have come up to me and said, "Oh, I relate to this so much." If anyone can relate to this stuff, that's really awesome, because that's what I live for in music.
NT: Were you disappointed when your album sold less than 1,500 copies the first week?
Johnson: Not at all. I was really happy with that number. I know a lot of kids are downloading; you're going to get that, and that's fine. But I felt like this was a big steppingstone for us. The biggest and best sign for us as a young band is that people are telling their friends, and [sales] didn't drop off after the first week.
NT: Where do you think you would be without Internet exposure?
Johnson: The Internet was such a crucial part of how we developed a fan base and how we interact with our fans. Word of mouth travels so much faster over the Internet. We used it to our advantage. I have no idea where we'd be at this point. Who knows if we'd even have a record out?