On the record with Gym Class Heroes

Gym Class Heroes, a band from Geneva, N.Y., came to Williams College last Friday to perform at the annual Spring Fling sponsored by All-Campus Entertainment (ACE). Hillary Higgs ’12, contributing writer, sat down with lead drummer Matt McGinley before the concert to discuss the origin of their name, intoxicated fans and lead singer Travis’s new solo album.

Why “Gym Class Heroes”?

[When we started,] we didn’t have a name or a real idea of what we wanted to do. Travis and I had our gym and math classes together. We had our first show and we needed a name. Travis said, “Gym Class Heroes. That’s the name, that’s it.” We never really questioned it or looked back on it. We also didn’t plan on it lasting as long as it did.

How did the band stay together?

We started early and it was always something we were very passionate about. Playing music and writing our own music, we never really skipped steps becoming a band, we took everything slow. [Taking it slow] helped us develop as a band, like setting up our own shows and producing our own music. I think in the long run that gave us a leg up. By the time we were professional musicians, we were [real] professionals.

So the band definitely grew more experienced together.

Yeah, absolutely. When we first started I barely knew how to play my instrument. I credit the band and I think it’s awesome that we are still together.

Everyone knows your song, “Clothes Off!” So can we take our clothes off at the concert?

[Laughs] Are there some haters out there, people who don’t know us? Is it the kids in the boat shoes? [Laughs again] Nah, its fine with us. I don’t know how your administration and Security feel, but when Gym Class is in town, we fully expect everyone to get butt naked and take your boat shoes off.

What’s your craziest experience with a fan?

I’ve definitely had some uncomfortable moments with fans, where you can tell they’re just a little too drunk and talking a little too close to your face about your music. There comes a point where it almost feels hostile. If you come watch us, take something from it, but you don’t have to come back to us and hound us on our music and how we’ve changed. I think people get attached to certain records and that’s okay, but as an artist you get ADD and you want to keep pushing to do the next thing. We’ve never been the type of band to cater to anyone, and I think that is something distinctive about our band. We have influences from jazz, hip-hop, rap music, and once you start to cater to someone you start to lose the [originality of the] band.

Would you consider yourselves an “emo rap” group?

I think we’ve always been scrutinized, but we focus on making music that comes naturally to us and music we believe in. I think when people label you, you will label yourself, and with that I feel you will always have one foot in the grave, so to speak. With us, we’ve been able to keep pushing limits on our own music because we never fit into one specific genre and it’s something we pride ourselves on.

What’s going on with the band, considering Travis’s solo album?

He’s going to be tied up with that for about half a year. We’ve already been in the studio working on a follow-up record, To the Quilt. We’ve already got about 15 or so songs. I think we are really trying to set the bar high, very high, for this record. I wouldn’t be surprised if we keep writing and developing ideas for quite awhile before we get in the studio. I think with some albums we jump into the studio to quick and drive ourselves crazy trying to put together an album. This break will be good for us as people to be able to take time, and I think it’s also going to result in a much more cohesive record.

So stepping back will help?

Absolutely, I think having Travis have his record out there will give the band some time to breathe.