Before the Gym Class Heroes took the stage last night at the Student Program Board’s Grizzlypalooza Pt. 2, The Oakland Post had a chance to sit down with drummer Matt McGinley to discuss the band’s future and past experiences.
OP: Are you guys working on anything new?
McGinley: It’s really hard to develop song ideas. We are the type of band that has to sit in a room around each other and have a sort of jam session, that’s how most of our songs are materialized. Most songs are usually recorded as longer songs and they take the best bars out of it.
Where did the name come from?
McGinley: That was a term we had for the kids in gym class that would just go all out and get sweaty and reek of body odor for the rest of the day.
When did you decide to become a band?
McGinley: I met Travie when I was a freshmen, he was taking like three math classes. He’s probably the wisest dude I know, but he’s definitely not a guy that really cared about school and classes… (a) classic artist.
We were in gym class together, so we would exchange musical knowledge. I kind of relied on my friends for that stuff. Sharing taste in music, that’s how I learned about new bands and artists. We were into so many different types of music and bands and Travie would be like, “Have you heard this band?”
It’s a really cool relationship that was developed around music. After that we started the band.
McGinley: Touring is great for us. Playing live has always been a part of our presence. We are comfortable doing that. It’s a healthy balance to have the studio setting, to write music and record, but also to go on the road and share that with everybody; songs do change. You may record something, but then spend six or seven years playing these songs, and they go through a metamorphosis. We have our own taste, but yeah, touring is awesome. It’s hard to be away from our friends and family but in a way we have that kind of family bond, so it balances out.
OP: Does it make the closer to home show that much more exciting?
McGinley: That’s always exciting and it’s always a reminder how far we’ve come as a band.
OP: What’s your favorite song to perform live?
McGinley: It’s always changing for me, but right now it’s “Ass back Home” … it’s a lot of fun to play live. It’s the current single and the crowd really responds to that. It’s always cool to see the explosive energy … that’s exciting from the crowd point of view, but also while on stage. It’s inspiring.
OP: Would you prefer the big auditorium type or sort of the coffee house ambient setting?
McGinley: Somewhere in the middle. The way our band sounds, I think we sound best when playing in a room that was made for sound. A gymnasium wouldn’t work. A theatre is ideal.
OP: What do you do in your spare time?
McGinley: It’s always changing. We dropped out of college to pursue our music dreams (though he doesn’t like to admit it). We have been doing it (music) for 15 years, seven professionally. I did, however, go back to get my degree. I got a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
I received my degree from Boston University while on tour and stuff. It’s cool that you can do that these days … going to school from a remote location. It’s was a good feeling to wake up and be challenged mentally, I don’t get to experience that a lot. For the three to four years that I didn’t go to school I didn’t realize what was missing. Knowledge to your brain is like working out or exercising. You have to exercise your brain.
We get along very well, and we have a great relationship. Everyone has their own personal dynamic and we have a lot of fun and laugh all the time. We talk and make fun of people. We have a very unique brand of humor I think. Just being in close confinements for so long we find the same things funny. I’ll get off tour and I’ll crack up at something, and then I’ll realize my girl is not really laughing at that. I realized other people don’t find that funny. I think when you’re with your friends it’s the same for everyone. EVERYBODY get’s the joke.
McGinley: I think putting a heavy emphasis on music is key. Today, it’s so easy to get your music across to a wide audience, but if you don’t have anything to deliver, what is that worth? I think because it’s so easy to get yourself out there, people take shortcuts. I think putting an emphasis on quality and taking every opportunity is important. When we were coming up, there was really no scene for Gym Class Heroes and because of that we were able to get on with heavy metal bands or like hip hop acts, or the feminist slam pole. Just doing something that is outside of the box. It was hard to get a label to take a chance on a band like us. There was no formula or strategy for a band that was ambiguous like us. Don’t worry about getting the right door open, just go for it.
OP: Where did you guy come up with the idea for Cupid’s Chokehold?
McGinley: The song kind of came up really organically … it was Disashi’s (the guitarist) first day of rehearsal and he had just joined the band. We were going just work on old songs and get him familiar with them. He was playing with us and a friend that was DJing with us at the time put on this super tramp record … the song “Breakfast in America” … which is where the “take a look at my girlfriend” part came from. We started playing to that, but would cut it after the phrase, then we’d put our own verse and then we came up with the chorus, then wrote our own bridges and so on. We were like “alright that’s kind of cool,” so the next time we were in the studio we took 30 minutes and recorded it.
Later, Travie put vocals to it and that was that. We probably recorded it in like four hours. We worked on a pretty shoe string budget. We didn’t even want to put it on the record, but we were like ok, let’s do it. It didn’t do anything … we toured on the album for two years. Then we did another album and started promoting that. Then, for some reason, some Dj in Milwaukee started playing “Cupid’s Chokehold” then it really grew in that area and spread to other radio stations and took off.
We were like “that’s some old stuff” and we were kind of stubborn at first. We didn’t want to play it on any late shows… but then that was the only reason late shows wanted us there. Travie has always been really clever about writing really clever lyrics without it being corny … like the quirky romantic song. I think like the way he writes lyrics, they are never entirely serious. Humor is what we do.
McGinley: In that song (Stereo Hearts) we brought him in mid-production. We wanted to work with that dude for probably six years. We actually bought a Maroon 5 album, and were like we want the drums to sound like this. We also bought a Roots album because we wanted it to meet somewhere in the middle, but we’ve wanted to work with him forever. He had the perfect voice for that, his voice is warm and whole. I don’t think anybody has it the way he does. Since we did the song we’ve done a bunch of live performances with him, and he’s just this super cool dude. Really down to earth, and plus he’s in a band, so he’s like “a band dude” and I feel that really helps us connect with him.