Under the influence of no influence
Hip-hop/rockers Gym Class Heroes spring from the nothingness of Geneva to the somethingness of success
Geneva's Gym Class Heroes are going big time. The band just finished headlining a tour, spent the whole summer playing one of the Warped Tour main stages, and has a new album getting the big push from Atlantic. And Gym Class Heroes --- McCoy, guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo, bassist Eric Roberts, and drummer Matt McGinley --- have a lot of friends. A lot.
The band's MySpace page boasts 197,478 friends.
"Yeah, it's kinda disgusting," says frontman Travis McCoy, through cell phone static in New York City. "It's funny because I'll leave the country for like a week or there's times we'll be on the road and internet access is few and far between, and I'll have like 2,500 friend requests. And kids actually get pissed off when you don't add 'em. I don't have time to sift through all of them. It's funny how personal people take it."
McCoy tackles the phenomenon on the band's new record As Cruel As School Children with the song "New Friend Request."
"It's pretty much an observation that MySpace is such a big part of everyday life as far as keeping in touch with fans," he says. "It's an awesome platform for music. There's definitely other websites that have been crucial in building our fan base, but MySpace has done a lot for us."
The GCH fan base is definitely growing but McCoy is somewhat skeptical if all requests are from true fans. Motorhead'sLemmy once wondered aloud if all that fans that had the T-shirt had actually bought the record. McCoy suggests they put their money where their mouth is.
"That'll be my new thing," he says. You wanna be my friend? Then buy a fuckin' record."
McCoy, now 25, and his band have been together since they were 15 growing up in Geneva. He credits the band's foray into music on the nothingness surrounding them. No influence proved to be their influence.
"What helped us nurture and mold the sound we have now is the fact that, coming from upstate New York, there's not much of a music scene," says McCoy. "And there definitely wasn't anything in Geneva. When there is a huge thriving music scene a lot of the bands that come out of that area sound the same 'cause they're influenced by each other. And it was the opposite for us because there wasn't much for us to draw from. So we pulled influences from the music we were listening to."
In the beginning these influences clashed slightly; there was no real cohesiveness or specific sound. It was more of a gym class free-for-all.
"Earlier on it was like 'This is gonna be our hip-hop song, this is gonna be our rock song, this is gonna be our jazzy funkier song,'" McCoy says. "But then as we progressed it all became an amalgamation and everything kinda blended together and we started making songs that dynamically had elements of all that shit."
Those various elements became evident in the band's growing fan base. It awes McCoy.
"The beauty of it all is you can't really put a face on a GCH fan," he says. "They come from all walks of life. It's funny; we just finished a headline tour and there were times during the set where I would just have to stop and in my head [think], 'We're breaking ground.' I'm looking at the faces and there's hip-hop kids, indie kids, emo kids, there's moms. It's crazy. Not to toot my own horn but there's not a lot of bands that can do that. We have something really special."
Sure, there's the band's catchy hip-hop/rock hybrid and lyrical humor. But that something special has got to be the band's use of melody. You remember melody, don't you?
"Everybody thinks they're a rapper nowadays so I have to up the ante a little bit," McCoy says. "I feel like a lot of times rappers are afraid of melodies. Guys like 50 Cent, they're trying but it's like, dude, just let loose. I used to hate my singing voice. Hall & Oates is one of my all time favorite groups; I listen to them all the time and I think that kinda helped me get a little more comfortable with my voice. I think melodies can make a song legendary."
But that ain't all.
"Melodies definitely get you the girls," McCoy says.
Gym Class Heroes play with All-American Rejects, The Format, and The Starting Line Monday, November 6, at The Auditorium Theatre (note venue change), 875 East Main Street, 232-1900, 7:30 p.m., $26.50. 232-1900. General admission show; first-come, first-served.www.gymclassheroes.com or www.myspace.com/gymclassheroes.