If it’s true what they say—that there’s something in the dirty water of Boston’s Charles River—then Boys Like Girls drank up. Little else could explain the band’s meteoric rise after forming as teenagers in 2004. In the modern age a story like theirs is designed in boardrooms over speakerphone. The story of Boys Like Girls, however, was forged from the very beginning in the damp basements, garages, and VFW halls of the Massachusetts coastline over tattered lyric books, guitars, drums, and a collective dream. A half billion Spotify streams later, it‘s clear this was a fairy tale in its first act, and the world was about to find out.
What followed was the self-titled debut album Boys Like Girls —nearing Multi-Platinum RIAA certification—and its chart-topping successor Love Drunk —which bowed at #1 on the Top Rock Albums Chart and Top 10 on the Billboard 200. There was a slew of successful singles including Platinum-certified hits “The Great Escape” and “Love Drunk”, as well as Gold-certified hits “Hero/Heroine” and “Thunder”. There was the Platinum-certified, BMI award-winning Hot 100 duet with Taylor Swift, “Two Is Better Than One”. There were sold-out shows, international tours, and unforgettable moments from Madison Square Garden to Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia. But by 2012 lead singer and song-writer Martin Johnson was beginning to feel the universe pulling him into a new arena.
Collaboration was nothing new to Johnson, but for the first time he began writing and producing music not intended for his own band. What followed was another string of wild successes with hits from Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Blink-182, Avril Lavigne, Jason Derulo, Daughtry, Christina Perri, Gavin Degraw, Pentatonix, and more. This—along with Johnson’s bandmates’ own successful musical endeavors—lead to a years-long hiatus for Boys Like Girls.
In 2016, the band would return to the road for the 10th Anniversary tour of their debut record. While fans across America were ecstatic for the reunion they’d been waiting for, internally it felt more like a farewell. “It was important to us to leave it all out there for the fans,” Johnson says. “To really give them the ‘thank you’ they deserved.”
“At a certain moment, your songs are no longer yours,” Martin observes. “I don’t even remember writing our first couple of records, but I do remember going around the globe and singing them. If I look into the audience, I know it’s not really about me; it’s about them. Over the years, I’ve realized the importance of being a vehicle for their soundtrack. Music needs to bring joy and escape. That’s something we can do to be of service.”
In 2019, Boys Like Girls plotted another return to the road—this time to Australia and Asia. However, their plans would be delayed due to the global events of 2020. After making good on their promise to return in 2022 and punctuating the tour by playing both weekends at the lauded Las Vegas When We Were Young Festival, Boys Like Girls meant more than ever not only to the band’s members, but to the fans as well.
“We got out there, and it was euphoric for all of us,” smiles Martin. “I realized how fun, youthful, and beautiful it was to be on stage with my best friends. Seeing the state of the audience, it was deeply nostalgic, but there were also all of these kids who had never seen us. I looked at the boys and said, ‘We need to make a record. I’m going to put everything on hold until we go and say what we need to say’.”
It’s for this reason that Boys Like Girls signed with Fearless/Concord Records for the release of their fourth full-length offering, SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS. The band worked out of Johnson’s Nashville recording studio and embraced a newfound sense of creative freedom rooted in the same energy that sparked their seminal output. They ignited this era with “Blood and Sugar.” Neon synths wrap around a stomping guitar as the chorus cleverly reminds, “Even though the girl’s a looker, we’re only blood and sugar, right?”. With a swaggering bridge punctuated by warbling synths and howls straight-the-heart, it’s classic Boys Like Girls with an infusion of experience and wisdom. “I think of it as a relationship with a bunch of empty calories,” Johnson reveals. “You might fear this girl, but we’re all just skin and bones, so why can’t you move on?”
It also simply set the stage for SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS. If you’re from somewhere in New England, you know what the title means. For the uninitiated, FOXWOODS is the Connecticut casino and resort that beckons adults to cut loose on the weekends.
Take “THE OUTSIDE.” Following the intro “SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS,” an arena-ready beat boosts a chantable chorus, “It’s okay. It’s alright. Baby, welcome to life on the outside,” in between recollections of “the days in the class of 04.”
Martin adds, “I don’t think anyone in the back row of freshman health class looks at the kid next to them and says, ’Want to be best friends for the rest of our lives?’ Or, when the guidance counselor tells you about this nervous new guy from Singapore who plays bass and likes punk rock and asks, ’Why don’t you guys take him to a show?’ You don’t assume you’d dub yourselves ‘the three amigos,’ end up with matching tattoos, and still talk every day nearly 25 years later. Whoever your three amigos are and whatever outside you call your own, raise ‘em high and turn it up. This one’s for you.”
They harness the friction of a primal bounce on “LANGUAGE,” which Martin dubs as “a riff on the unspoken language of attraction…our ‘mating dance’ of sorts.”
Then, there’s the “CRY.” As the album’s emotional centerpiece, it went through various iterations over the years, but Martin always knew it was special. It would finally be completed for SUNDAY AT FOXWOODS. Uplifted by soft piano and strings, it culminates on a promise, “I can be your shoulder when you cry,” giving way to a hummable guitar solo.
“Keefe and I were in my truck,” recalls Johnson. “At the end of ‘CRY,’ I looked in the passenger seat, and the toughest man I know had tears running down his face. We hugged and cried—two old friends still making music together, pushing each other to be better musicians and men 20 years after we met.”
The same could be said of the flirty fire on ”PHYSICAL” where finger-snaps brush up against a coy chant, “Let’s get physical, don’t be so cynical.” Old friends and flames live on in the likes of “Hourglass” as he sets the scene, “Cause you remind me of a girl back when the world was small and life was easy.” The album concludes with the wistful acoustic guitar and gentle exhale of “Lost In Wonderland.” Johnson could be very well referencing the band’s journey, “Maybe I’ll see you in Brooklyn, maybe I’ll see you in France as long as the waves keep rolling in, things don’t always go the way they’re planned.”
But things do go how they’re meant, and BOYS LIKE GIRLS are meant to be here for a long time to come.