Gym Class Heroes - Sweat It Out
3D’s Cyclone works up a sweat with Gym Class Heroes; the New Yorkers who have carved out their own heavyweight niche in the hip hop scene.
With Black Eyed Peas on hiatus, Gym Class Heroes are pop's reigning alt hip hoppers.
The Geneva, New York band has existed since 1997 in different incarnations, but it took the contagious Cupid's Chokehold - with that Supertramp sample - and a major push to break them internationally. Last year the urban rockers even toured Australia supporting Gwen Stefani. Alas, frontman Travis McCoy didn't enjoy the experience. “I was sick on that tour so I didn't really get out much,” he says sadly. Indeed, the poor thing was stuck in the bathroom.
Today McCoy is a bona fide pop star, appearing in celebrity mags with his spunky love interest Katy Perry of I Kissed A Girl fame. And, hoping to assure their place in pop's pantheon following 2006's As Cruel As School Children, GCH have a new album, The Quilt, led by the salacious Cookie Jar. “A lot of people don't know that this is actually our fourth full-length record,” McCoy says, “so, as far as that sophomore slump pressure, we didn't have to worry about that.
“There was definitely a lotta pressure in the beginning trying to outdo what As Cruel As... did, but we just put our hearts into it - and [we] wanted to make a solid record as opposed to making a record with a few singles.” This time GCH have connected with big urban names - from The-Dream to Busta Rhymes to Estelle - but McCoy pre-empts any suggestion of commercial strategy. GCH reach out to those they admire, The-Dream's Love/Hate one of his favourite LPs of 2007.
More unusually, GCH sought blue-eyed soulster Daryl Hall to sing on the sublime NERD-meets-emo Live Forever (Fly With Me), Travis, a Hall & Oates fanatic, ducking out of the studio to compose himself.
The group again trusted de facto 'Hero' Patrick Stump (of Fall Out Boy) as main producer. (They're signed to Pete Wentz's Decaydance Records.) “He understands the band, and we've recorded with Fall Out Boy millions of times. It's cool to work with someone who not only just understands you, but [also] wants to bring out the best in you and knows your potential. He's like a big brother to us - and always has been.”
McCoy believes that, after years of struggle, the hybrid GCH have created a niche for themselves. “It's been a huge and long, tedious uphill battle for us, trying to fit in anywhere. But then, once we stopped trying to fit in anywhere, that's when people started respecting us and started appreciating our music.”
Not all of that newfound attention is welcome. McCoy admits that now that his relationship with Perry is “out there,” he's become a paparazzi target. “People wanna know more and more, and are more and more apt to pry a little bit,” he sighs. “It's been weird trying to adjust to that - but it is what it is.”
In fact, McCoy reckons thinks GCH are too geeky to warrant being papped. “We're not the kind of band that feeds off the attention or feeds off the media. If anything, we shy away from it and just try to focus on our lives and our music.”
“We're like anti-rock stars. We party a little bit but, for the most part, you catch me in the back of the [tour] bus watching old Tim Burton movies or live concert DVDs or documentaries on early Philly soul artists. I'm kind of a nerd.”
WHO: Gym Class Heroes
WHAT: The Quilt through Warner
WHEN: Out now