Gym Class Heroes

Fiona Doran 06/02/2007

Interview with Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes - Oxford Zodiac 3rd Feb

Its 6.30pm in Oxford, and already the kids are queuing down the street to get into tonight's sold out gig from indie hip hop outfit Gym Class Heroes. Although on the same label as bands like Panic! At the disco, Paramore and Fallout Boy, Gym Class Heroes are seen as the more diverse act attracting fans from all walks of life. I caught up with front man Travis on the tour bus to have a few words with him…

So Travis, how are you enjoying the U.K so far, any memorable places?

"Yeovil! (I make a face!) Everybody makes that face! Here's the thing, I love it out here, we have a good time, last time we came we were on the label Atlantic, and everyone was like so where are you going tomorrow, and I was like Yeovil, and everybody's faces was like hmmmm, and I've never been there and I'm seeing everyone faces, so I'm all like… (Part of the Gym Class Heroes team comes in and asks Travis for his jean size…The interview then resumes)
So anyways, I brought up Yeovil and everybody gave me the sour face, and we were staying in a kind of Ski Lodge, and we got to the town and we were like (whistles to insinuate a ghost town) but the show ended up being one of the best shows on the tour, probably because they don't get a lot of music out there. So they were really excited, which made the show awesome and we're going back this tour. Yeovil, a little untapped oasis!

On your Wikipedia site, you're described as 'emo hip hop' (Fuck Wikipedia!), what do you think about that, what is 'emo hip hop'?!

I don't know! People try to put a name on our music, and it's cool if it makes it easier for them, and we've been called everything from 'emo hip hop' to' rock rap', but the minute we label ourselves people have expectations, and that's the thing that's cool about us, we never have to cater to any one type of music, the music we do is hip hop but we go all over the place with it, and we don't have to be caught up in one particular thing, and I think that's why people have been so accepting of us, there's something for everyone.

What did you listen to when you were growing up?

Shit! I grew up in a really musical household, my dad played bass guitar and my mum was like a heavy metal groupie so to speak, so I heard all types of music, my uncles' are break dancers, so there was all kinds of crazy shit going on in the house, which made it hard for me to like just one thing. One type of music that really grabbed me as a kind was really early eighties R&B, pop music, corny shit like early Prince, Ready for the World, Hall and Oates, they are one of my favourite groups ever, and you usually hate what you listen to when you are younger, for example Michael Jackson, but as you get older you realise you really love that music, and its so nostalgic and brings back memories for you.

You're called Gym Class Heroes after being in gym class at school and laughing at the sporty kids, where you any good at sport?

No I was horrible, I'm just tall, people expect me to play basketball but I was too into girls to waste time getting sweaty with a bunch of dudes!

You're on the Fueled by Ramen label, what's the relationship like with them?

Its cool, they definitely gave us a foundation, nowadays days bands get signed to a major label, and shoved into the limelight for public consumption, and a lot of people think we are a new band but we have been together a long time.

That leads onto my next question; Pete Wentz of Fallout Boy is sometimes credited with discovering you, how much truth is there in that?

Pete is credited with offering us a deal, but we had been together a while, we met Pete in around 2003, but we had been together for six years before that, although we were just kids making noise. Pete saw something in us, and the opportunity came to sign with Fueled with Ramen, we took it, the idea of touring and building a solid following was good.
Fueled by Ramen seems like a family label, everyone promotes everyone…

Sure, it's really cool, I feel a lot of record companies lack that, a lot of bands fighting for attention and the spotlight, and it's not like that at Fueled by Ramen. We all get along and want to see each other succeed and support each other so the label prospers.

You're seen as the more diverse band on the label, do you agree?

Yeh, we are the black sheep of the label; we are the black sheep of the music scene! We didn't set out to be this different band, but we have definitely had to knock down doors and win over crowds, we toured with a lot of rock bands, and people assume we are going to be the same, and then we start and they are surprised. Its cool that people leave our show interested in other things beside rock, I mean there has to be another Gym Class Heroes out there or something similar, its cool when kids who are usually into rock and roll pick up a hip hop CD after going to our show, I'm like Yes! People can get so locked into one kind of music, and that's it for them.

I agree there is definitely a scene culture of kids who are very narrow minded about music…

We are going to destroy the scene. Down with the scene!

Myspace is a big part of peoples social lives now, be honest do you ever use it to search for hot girls?

I used to frequently. It's pretty sad, there was a point when a lot of my time was consumed by myspace but it's horrible, I mean I'd much rather be having this conversation with you now in person, rather than over a comment. It's cool as you lose a lot of inhibitions when typing, but if you apply that same enthusiasm in face to face conversation, you'll realise its better. We gotta bring it back! There is a point where I would have a conversation with somebody and I would see everything they were saying in text above their head!

How important do you think the internet is in promoting music these days?

It's amazing; there are bands that are being signed, simply because they have a shitload of myspace fans. Its cool to expose bands that might not get a lot of attention otherwise, but when did myspace fans make up for really shitty music, I mean there are a lot of bad bands out there with a lot of fans!

If you weren't in Gym Class Heroes what do you think you would be doing instead?

Stripping. I'm really into the whole stripper culture. No, I would probably be a tattoo artist I did that for five years, and I was an art teacher for five years.

How do you get into becoming a tattoo artist?

When I was young, a guy who knew I was into my art approached me and asked me if I wanted to tattoo, but I said no, I mean there's no room for error with a tattoo and I was only 14 or 15, but I went down the shop one day, and saw how many girls were coming out, and I thought, yeh, I could do this! I stayed there for half a year, working as a slave but I learnt a lot, and saw a whole sub culture of really cool people who were really into their art, but I wasn't very focused so gave it up, but I came back to it and loved it. Every now and then when we get time off I still tattoo. It's cool that someone trusts you that much. I'll show you something really cute, (Rolls up his shirt sleeve to reveal a tattoo on his inner arm) that's a photo of me when I was in second grade.

Does it hurt to have it done?

You get used to it, your body gets into a weird thing where you are really anxious, they say the same endorphins are released when you are having a tattoo that cocaine produces. I don't know if that's an addiction, but when you're having a tattoo you're so full of adrenalin, you're getting yourself hyped up to be mutilated basically.

You have a lot of tour dates coming up, how do you keep fresh for every gig?

Marijuana keeps me sane. I used to go partying after a gig, but more so now I get my fix from playing the show. When I was younger I was more lets play the show and get fucked up, playing the show was like a rite of passage to get to the after party but now I have my rocks on the stage. By the time I come down from that high I'm done. I still drink though. (The guy from before returns and Travis enquires after vodka. Matt the drummer of Gym Class Heroes turns up and Travis asks him to show us his tattoos on his arms, which coincidentally Travis did himself) I did these a long time ago, its just some shit I came up with. There is a stereo holding a sign that says "Don't think too hard", and the other side is angels holding a banner that says "Just live". That's the way we live life, right Matt! We don't think too hard about things we just fucking live yo!

What do you guys do to keep amused on the tour bus?

Listen to music. We get drunk sometimes and beat each other up. We are just rowdy man!

Well that's about it, any final words?

Umm final words. Are you guys' familiar with Lily Allen? I love her. I love her music but I think she's amazing. (I tell Travis about Lily Allen's myspace Blog and how she recently lost but has now found her dog) Aww. I should read it. Well if anyone out there finds Lily Allen's dog, bring it to me so I can blackmail her into marrying me! Thank you, those were my final words!

Just after the Dictaphone was turned off, Travis stood up to show off how tall he was, 6'6 to be exact. With a tour bus not being very accommodating for anyone over normal height, this resulted in his head sticking out of a window on the roof of the bus Almost immediately his adoring fans queuing outside soon noticed him and promptly started screaming and shouting declarations of love. Leaving him to the masses, I exited the tour bus.

More info: