If the Click Five had sold more copies of its debut album, the Boston pop band might be in an even trickier position than it is now.
Modest sales, an executive at the group’s Atlantic Records label says, are precisely what enabled the Click Five to survive the departure of original lead singer Eric Dill, who quit last year during preproduction for the follow-up to 2005’s “Greetings From Imrie House.”
“The band had achieved a good deal of success,” says Andy Karp, head of A&R at Atlantic, pointing to “Imrie House” sales of 333,000 copies. “But they hadn’t really become a household name” by the time Dill exited to pursue a solo career.
“That allowed us to make the change in a little bit of a vacuum. We weren’t at an ‘N Sync level, where if Justin Timberlake leaves, you don’t know what to do.”
Bassist Ethan Mentzer says the Click Five knew exactly what to do: find a new frontman. “We either had to deal with this or lose what we’d established,” he says. “And the four of us” — Mentzer, guitarist Joe Guese, keyboardist Ben Romans and drummer Joey Zehr — “really wanted to keep making music together.”
Their talent search began (and ended) where the band was born, at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. “The guys are pretty connected to the Berklee scene,” Click Five manager Wayne Sharp says. “So many talented kids go to school there that it seemed like the logical place to start looking.” After a few rounds of auditions, Berklee music-business professor Jeff Dorenfeld, an old pal of Sharp’s, recommended the group take a look at 20-year-old Kyle Patrick.
“They checked my stuff out on MySpace and gave me a call,” Patrick recalls. “We got together and jammed on some Tom Petty tunes and all got along really well.”
New lineup intact, the group set about finishing what’s become “Modern Minds and Pastimes,” which is set for release June 26. During the two years since “Imrie House,” Mentzer says, he and his bandmates had written upwards of 70 tunes.
Though it still adheres to the Click Five formula — “rocking guitars, cool synth parts, catchy melodies and big harmonies,” according to Patrick — “Modern Minds” is a bit moodier than the debut. Lead single “Jenny” and opener “Flipside” recall the post-grunge fuzz-rock of Weezer circa “Pinkerton,” while “Happy Birthday” features loads of pop-metal guitar squall.
“It’s not as much about having fun and being young,” Sharp says. “But they’re two years older now. They’ve been around the world and had relationships and been through a lot.”
Patrick’s lower, raspier voice has also altered the band’s sound. “I’m not here to mimic anyone,” the singer says. “I’m here to do my own thing and make the songs new and fresh.”
Karp and Sharp agree that introducing Patrick to the band’s audience has been and will continue to be a crucial part of promoting “Modern Minds.” “Any attempt to sneak in a new singer would blow up in our faces,” the manager says.
In May, the group premiered a popular documentary series, “The Band Behind the Band,” on YouTube, while a small-venue “fan appreciation” tour last month afforded opportunities to meet fans face to face.
“From the feedback we’re getting, people are happy to see us again,” Mentzer says. “And they’re happy to see us happy onstage. We’ve spent a lot of time talking to fans, and some of them have said they think the chemistry is actually better now than it was before.”
Dill, meanwhile, has relocated to Los Angeles, where he is writing tunes for a solo album on Atlantic, and doing some acting.
“Eric’s looking to go in a harder, more alternative-sounding direction,” says Karp, who expects the album to hit stores in early 2008.