Gym Class Heroes aren’t your average hip hop group. Without a turn table in sight and tours with some of the world’s biggest rock bands, GCH do things on their own terms.
Drummer Matt spoke with us about their upcoming Australian tour and why hip-hop fans should give them a chance…
Gym Class Heroes interview
w/ Matt (Drums)
Tuesday June 19th
By Cameron Chambers
How are you today Matt?
I’m good man.
Do you have some time off at
the moment before you hit the road again?
Umm, I guess we’re in between
shows at the moment. Actually, I’d say we’ve been “in between”
shows for the past 3 years. We’ve pretty much been on tour for 3 years.
Any time we don’t have a show is a break, you know? Ha ha
You guys have been on tour
since “As Cruel As School Children” came out last year
– what have been some of the highlights thus far?
Well, we were on Warped Tour when
we released that record which was cool. Warped is a party every night
so it’s like, a really good festival to be on when you have an album
coming out – or about to come out. You can just get out there and
sell records and get people to listen to your band.
About 6 months later “Cupid’s
Chokehold” exploded and now it’s a slightly different situation.
We’ve always kind of like, well, we know what it’s like to come
from the ground up so we know how to hustle to get people to listen
to our music. We still have that hustle mentality.
Sorry man, I’ve gone way off
topic, ha ha.
I’d say a highlight would be
our first big headlining tour which we did in spring. It was cool because
we were able to bring out bands that we wanted to tour with and see
perform every night. We were able to take K-OS and POS which is great
because they’re musicians we really like.
I guess that’s the beauty of
the music that we make, it kind of transcends genres and we don’t
really get pigeon holed and stuck into thing so it gives us a few more
options than most bands.
That’s the cool thing about
our shows, you can see a rap artist or a rock act and it helps because
the fans we attract are an open minded group of people. It just brings
heaps of positive energy.
When you wrote
“As Cruel As School Children” did you think that the record would
take off the way it has?
No way man, definitely not. We
never write music to “take off”, you know what I mean? We’ve never
compromised the bounds of our music or our integrity and I think that
keeps our music fresh and good and relevant. We just make music that
pleases us and our friends and that’s always been the working formula.
I would never want to think of music that way.
That’s good to hear man.
Ha ha, definitely. We’re actually
in the “infancy” stages of a follow up record now. It’s cool because
musically we’re in a position where we can go in different directions.
We definitely don’t want to do the same record twice. I’m really
interested to see what we come up with!
Your first trip down under
is opening for Gwen Stefani – playing to 15,000 people a night
isn’t a bad way to introduce yourselves to Australian audiences…
Yeah man, it’s cool. The big
shows are awesome. But after saying that, there’s nothing better than
seeing a band and being 6 inches away from their face, ha ha. We’re
just stoked to be coming there in general, just stoked to be visiting.
Being able to perform in front of heaps of people is a huge bonus!
What can people expect from
a Gym Class Heroes performance?
Well… first we take our pants
off…. Ha ha ha.
Nah, we don’t take ourselves
too seriously. You know, every band comes out and says “we have a
high energy stage show” but I really do think we have a high energy
show, ha ha.
We definitely have a lot of interaction
with our fans. Sometimes we’ll just stop playing and Travis will ask
a random person in the audience what they do for a living, ha ha. Actually
talking to people is cool and we just throw towels and stuff from the
stage at people. It’s a lot of fun when we play.
We don’t play the same set every
night which is cool. Every night we do something a little differently,
something will get tweaked. You know, we’ll have a guitar solo, or
a drum groove in a song, or a medley or another riff or something. We
have a lot of spontaneity which is cool for the audience but it’s
great for us as well because we don’t play the same thing every night
which is a blessing.
Is there anything that you
guys will be doing differently for your side shows compared to your
sets on the Gwen Stefani gigs?
Well, we’ll probably play for
a bit longer, ha ha. Umm, we’ll definitely drink more beer and yeah,
ha ha, I don’t know. We’ll just play more songs and probably get
more goofy than we normally would. It’s a little bit more uninhibited
when you’re playing to a few hundred people rather than several thousand
Headlining shows are awesome!
Up until recently, Gym Class
Heroes wasn’t a household name in Australia but since the release
of “Cupid’s Chokehold”, you guys are everywhere
– did you think that of all the tracks on the
record that’d be the one to break you?
Hell no! Definitely not!
I mean, Cupid’s is on one of
our old record and we kind of never really wrote that song to be a single
or anything like that. We actually wrote that track before we were even
signed. We wrote it in our friend’s bedroom, we just thought it was
a cool song, you know?
When we recorded it again we didn’t
even think we’d put it on the album but management said we were crazy.
I guess you could say we didn’t put all our eggs in the Cupid’s
Chokehold basket, ha ha. We slept on that song and I guess you could
say the rest of the world slept on it as well.
The world is to blame! That song
was around for a while before anyone started to listen to it. That goes
with us as a band in general, it seems to take a bit longer for people
to catch onto us, ha ha.
We didn’t garnish the overnight
success that a lot of bands get, which is cool as it helped us build
an honest fan base first and be able to work for our audience. I guess
Cupid’s is something to fall back on though if the rug is ever pulled
out from under us, ha ha. I’m glad it’s picked up even though it’s
3 year old because it’s still a song that we wrote and believed in.
Props to “Super Tramp” for
even writing “Breakfast In America” in the first place, ha ha. But
we never thought this would be our smash. We wrote it because it was
a bit quirky. We never took it seriously as a huge single or anything
like that. We just can’t believe it and we’re really stoked.
I just want people to know that
we have other cool songs as well!
What’s the song writing process
like for you guys? Is a Gym Class tune built around the beat, a lyric
or the instrumentation?
It’s simple really. I write
all our songs on the accordion… ha ha ha.
Nah, I don’t. It’s a democracy
with Gym Class Heroes. Everyone brings ideas to the table. When I’m
home from tour I don’t even really play drums that much, I usually
just play guitar.
Time off is good because it lets
everybody get into their own headspace and write their own stuff. It
lets everyone construct their own ideas so when we get together we move
on to the next stage in the writing and recording process.
I know most musicians don’t
like labelling themselves but how would you describe Gym Class Heroes
to someone who’s never heard you?
Well, I guess its like, rooted
in hip hop with the lyrics but it’s not restricted to hip hop. We
have elements of rock, jazz, funk and other stuff which is separate
to hip hop. We have a lot of melody as well but I guess it’s based
in hip hop.
A lot of kids at our shows are
like “I don’t like hip hop, but I dig you guys are the shit”.
I don’t really get it but its cool!
There aren’t too many hip
hop groups these days that approach
the genre with an emphasis on live instrumentation
– do you feel that gives you guys a bit more to work with when it
comes to piecing your music together?
Totally. I think it gives us more
options to be honest. I think there are a number of different directions
we can go when we write songs coz it’s not so sample heavy. It gives
us more to create different vibes.
First and foremost we’re band,
that’s just the way we’ve always been. We didn’t know we were
a hip hop group when we first got together – that was just the voice
that came out. It felt natural to be playing hip hop influenced music.
It’s not like we were like, “let’s make hip hop but we’re in
a band”, ha ha.
We’re just a band who happens
to flirt with hip hop.
A lot of Gym Class Heroes fans
aren’t your run of the mill hip hop connoisseurs
– do you guys play many straight up hip hop shows?
Yeah, we’ve done hip hop tours.
We just did a predominantly hip hop tour with K-OS and POS. We’ve
been out with people like Louis Logic and People Under The Stars.
Lately we’ve done a lot of radio
shows with people like Ludakriss and yeah, just a lot of big name dudes.
Kanye West as well!
We’re actually going to be doing
a European tour with The Roots which will be great. It’ll just be
a really eclectic bill.
The Roots and you guys are
so different but from the outside I guess it looks the same
approach to your music?
Yeah man, we get compared to The
Roots a lot. I guess because of our live band feel. But that’ll be
a great tour.
How does a traditional hip
hop audience respond to the live band approach?
With the hip hop audience I’m
not really sure. Hip hop is a lot like rock in that you may be a fan
of some rock, but not all of it. I mean kids who dig emo bands and dudes
that dig metal bands fucken hate each other, ha ha. So hip hop is divided
Some people only like mainstream
hip hop but in general, the open minded fans appreciate us.
I guess the thing is that we don’t
focus on hip hop, you either like it or don’t. The last thing we’re
concerned with is being accepted by a genre of people who just like
hip hop. It’s like, everybody’s different and has different tastes
and we just do what we do.
As most people would know,
GCH are signed to Pete Wentz’s Decadence
label (which is an imprint of Fueled By Ramen)
– what made you guys go with a label which built it’s reputation
off the back of pop – rock bands?
Umm, well, we were the first band
to sign to Decadence – but we were originally picked up by Fueled
By Ramen. They were a label who built their success of putting bands
on the road and developing them, and that was our blueprint too!
We were speaking to Major labels
and some other indie labels, and once Fueled By Ramen became interested
we were determined that they were the label we were going to sign with.
It was the perfect situation for
us as we were a band who wanted to play live shows and it was great
to have a label that would keep us on the road and support us. It was
just the most ideal situation for us!
Another big factor with going
to Fueled By Ramen was that a lot of other labels at the time had rosters
that were like novels. They just had so many bands on the label! With
Fueled By Ramen, they only had 7 bands you know, so it was cool. If
we want to call John (FBR owner) at 2am and ask him a question, then
we can do it. Having that exclusiveness was very appealing!
Where to for Gym
Class now? What touring plans have you got for the rest of the year?
When can we expect a new record?
Well, we’re mostly doing international
stuff for the rest of the year. We’re doing radio shows throughout
the US, but then we’re hitting Europe, New Zealand, Australian and
Once we get back we’re going
to be doing a headlining tour in the fall and then right after that
we’ll be doing a huge tour with Fall Out Boy.
It’s going to be dope because
Patrick (Fall Out Boy) produced some songs on our last record so we’ll
probably get him to co-produce some stuff for the new record as well.
We have a great relationship with him and he’s actually bringing a
studio set-up out on the road so hopefully we can track some stuff on
about it man, anything else you’d like to add?
Umm no, ha ha. Thanks heaps for
doing the interview.
Not a problem. We’ll be seeing
you in about a month.
For more info on Gym Class
Heroes check out: