The Gym Class Heroes have experimented so much on their latest CD that even frontman Travis McCoy can’t quite describe the group’s newly formed sound.
“It’s like our last two efforts combined in a sense, but pushed further. Hence the title ‘The Quilt.’ It’s like a patchwork of sounds, different arrangements (and) real lyrics,” says McCoy, trying to explain the CD, released earlier this month.
“Musically, I think it’s a big cocktail of everything that’s inspired us over the past two years,” he said. “It is definitely rooted in hip-hop and hip-hop is like the main course on the plate, but there’s a lot of side orders.”
But even McCoy knows by that by changing the recipe from their successful breakthrough CD “As Cruel As School Children,” which deftly blended pop and hip-hop, the result may not be as appetizing for some of their longtime supporters. But that’s a risk the group feels that they need to take to grow as musicians.
“There are a lot of artists right now that are kind of breaking out of the restrictions that their fan base have put them in,” McCoy says.
“You have your hardcore, solid fans that have been there forever, and every time you put out a record they say, ‘Aww, it doesn’t sound like the last record.’ Yeah, you’re right, but that’s the point. It’s frustrating in a sense because you don’t want to lose them, but also being a music consumer and music buyer, you don’t want to buy the same record twice, let alone hear the same record twice.”
“The Quilt” includes guest appearances by Daryl Hall, Busta Rhymes, London soul sensation Estelle and the man responsible for Rihanna’s smash hit “Umbrella,” The-Dream, who also appears on the first single, “Cookie Jar.”
To create the CD, the band, originally from the Rochester-area in upstate New York, headed to Los Angeles and shielded themselves from the input of label executives who may have wanted to recreate the gold-selling “As Cruel as School Children.”
“It was definitely refreshing to do a record like that, being that we did that last record in New York City with a thousand opinions,” said drummer Matt McGinley (guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo and bassist Eric Roberts round out the quartet). “It was really cool to duck out to this discreet spot in Koreatown, Los Angeles and record our album in secrecy.”
So far the fan response has been decent, but not overwhelming. “The Quilt” has debuted at No. 14 on Billboard’s 200 albums chart. But that’s an explosive start compared to the slow build of “As Cruel As School Children,” which was first released in 2006 but didn’t start climbing the charts until the breakout last year of the single “Cupid’s Chokehold,” followed by the infectious “Clothes Off!” with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump.
The success of the CD made McCoy, the humorous and charismatic leader of the group, a celebrity. Yet McCoy admits that he doesn’t really recall much of the past two years since he grappled with substance abuse during the group’s ascension in the pop world.
“My routine was: I’d wake up, take drugs, start my day and throughout my day continuously take more,” the lyricist explains.
“And I woke up one day and walked into the bathroom (and) instead of going to the medicine cabinet I went to my computer and I sat down and I looked up opiate addiction and detox and started researching. I don’t know what it was that made me turn around and go to my computer but I’m glad I did because had I not, I would not being doing this interview with you right now,” he says.
McCoy says recovery has not only improved his personal life, but given him more clarity as a musician.
“It gave me this edge that I haven’t had in a long time. When we play shows there’s a rush that comes with coming off stage and having a good show that no drug can compare to. I’d rather take that over a pharmaceutical fix or thrill any day.”
He’s also getting a rush from his romance with fellow musician Katy Perry, who had one of the summer’s biggest hits with the No. 1 smash “I Kissed a Girl.” He gushes about being head over heels in love, and unabashedly declares that their relationship has made him a “wuss.”
“I gave her a ring. It’s not an engagement ring, but it’s to show that I’m committed and ready to take things to the next level. Not the next, next level, but the next level,” he says.
“I don’t feel like I have to put on a facade around her. I feel like she accepts me for who I am and all my goofy glory, and has yet to alert the authorities or call the police on me, and I love her for that.”