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November 1, 2006 - Entertainment / Music
Author:

Adam Bernard
Gym Class Heroes

A lot of groups that are on the radio today can be described as “cookie cutter,” but Gym Class Heroes is one group that does not fit such a tag. The Heroes, hailing from upstate New York, are originals, combining elements of rock, hip-hop, funk and R&B to make a sound that is uniquely them. Papercut Chronicles had people buzzing in 2005, but it was this year’s As Cruel As School Children that put the group on the national radar, earning them spots on major national tours. Recently Gym Class Heroes drummer Matt McGinley sat down with us at SOAK to discuss the band’s journey to where they are today, their association with Snakes On A Plane, and the origin of Jerry.



SOAK: OK, before we even get started I have four words for you, Snakes On A Plane. How did you get involved with that?
Matt McGinley: It’s kinda funny. I can remember Travis, our singer, first hearing about the movie Snakes On A Plane and then he was like, I gotta tell you something. There’s this movie and it’s called Snakes On A Plane and it’s about snakes on a plane and I remember laughin’ real hard, but then really wanting to see it for some strange reason. A couple days later, they asked Travis to be on the Cobra Starship song, “Snakes On A Plane (Bring It),” which turned out to be the title track for the movie. From there we just got offered to have a couple of our songs actually placed in the movie.

SOAK: Have there been snakes on any of your planes?
Matt: No, not unless you count like fake businessmen or something.

SOAK: I guess you’re on a tour bus, so if snakes are on a plane, what’s on a tour bus?
Matt: Probably badgers.

SOAK: When you’re not dodging the badgers on your tour bus, you are a Gym Class Hero. How did ya’ll come up with the name for the band? Was it your athletic prowess or complete lack thereof?
Matt: I would say it’s neither. The thing is, I’m really really really good at tennis, but I never really participated. Me and Travis basically met in gym class. I had just started high school and we kinda spend most of the period sitting in the bleachers talking about bands that we liked and drum equipment that we wanted to buy. Travis was playing drums in another band at the time. We just kinda sat there talking about music and watched all the other kids get sweaty and you know really apply themselves, so Gym Class Heroes was the term for kids who went all out in gym class, even though there was no real reason to.

SOAK: So who were some of the groups you were talking about? Who were your musical influences back then?
Matt: Back then the bands that got me into actually playing in bands to begin with was Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer, stuff like that. Throughout middle school, I had participated in other bands, but then in high school, I met Travis and he was into a lot of those bands as well as a lot of different Hip-Hop artists, so he put me on to a lot of Hip-Hop groups.

SOAK: You’ve told us how you met and got started, but you’re not a new group; you’ve been doing your thing for a while now. Tell me a little bit about the journey.
Matt: The thing is, when we started performing, we really had no real intentions of doing anything crazy, we were just doing it because it was something to do; it was something we enjoyed, it was something we were good at. So throughout high school, I can remember going to make a recording of four songs in a studio and just doing it basically for our friends to listen to and for us to listen to. I think we always had that approach, even up to this latest album. For the most part, we would go to school and be in a band, and then after we graduated high school, we worked jobs or went to college and still did Gym Class Heroes. When I look back on the last ten years, Gym Class Heroes was something I was always doing, in addition to anything else that I was doing. And I think when we made The Papercut Chronicles, which was our last album, we did that no different than we had done all of our high school recordings. We did it in the same studio, we did it just with the intention of giving it to our friends and selling it at any of the shows that we had lined up, but that ended up getting us a lot of attention and eventually getting us signed. That was kinda the start of our professional career.



SOAK: What do you feel sets you apart from some of the other groups out there?
Matt: I guess the obvious would be from a genre standpoint. I think we’re doing something that’s quite a bit different than what the average bands are doing.

SOAK: Is it possible for you to describe your sound?
Matt: It’s kind of all over the place. It’s definitely rooted in Hip-Hop and there’s a rock element to the music, as well. I think we’re continuously evolving and there are even a couple of tracks on the album where we kind of touch on R&B, as well, so who’s to say what the next album or the future sound of Gym Class Heroes will actually be? I think that’s kind of the fun of it, to keep people guessing. I didn’t even know what to expect from this record. When I knew the end result was something I couldn’t pinpoint, it kind of excited me because for our follow up album, I don’t know what that’s going to sound like either, and I think no one really knows what to expect, and that’s kind of fun. I think it keeps it really fresh.

SOAK: So maybe a little Christian Death Metal?
Matt: [laughs] It’s doubtful, but anything is possible.

SOAK: Do you feel you have a space where you fit in, or do you feel that Gym Class Heroes is in their own space?
Matt: I feel like it’s in our own space, but I feel like we’re creating a space for us to fit into and potentially for other bands to fit into.

SOAK: What do you hope people get out of your music?
Matt: I hope they like it and they listen to it as honest music, and appreciate it and allow us to continue making it for years and years to come, which is gonna happen regardless. It’s like, we’ve always made music even when there were 18 kids listening to our CDs, so I think we’re gonna be around for a long long time making CDs and music that our friends like.

SOAK: You seem to be having a lot of fun doing what you do. Give me some good in studio or road stories that are allowable to share and that won’t irk girlfriends or wives?
Matt: Of course. Jerry’s! This is pretty important. Back in the fall we were on a tour with Emory. We were out in San Antonio, Texas and we had a day off, so we decided to go inner tubing, and we went down to this place, it was a rentals place called Jerry’s, like Jerry’s Inner Tubes or something. They take you to the top of the river with these tubes and let you float down. You can buy beer there and they even gave us a floaty beer cooler thing, and so we spent about four hours going down this river and getting massively wasted, and at one point, we were all just like a bunch of drunken frat boys screaming out “Jerry’s” at the top of our lungs. That started something, it became sort of a motto to go by, a confidence booster. Whenever you need that extra something, you just yell out “Jerry’s” as loud as you can, and then go kick ass at whatever you’re about to do. Before every show we always put our hands in the center and then, on the count of three, scream “Jerry’s” and then basically go rip up the show. Even the character on the front of the new album, his name is Jerry.

SOAK: Did you burn the hell outta the tops of your feet when you did that? I ask because I went inner tubing once and burned the hell outta the tops of my feet.
Matt: I’m sure I did, but my feet right now, I wear sandals every day, so they’re pretty much conditioned to be really gross. I call them Jesus feet, because they’re like basically in the dirt and the dust all day.

SOAK: Any chance you’ll ever meet Jerry?
Matt: On this Warped Tour, we were doing a signing in the MySpace tent and this kid comes through and he’s like, “my girlfriend’s uncle is Jerry.” I think people are starting to know about Jerry’s and how we scream it a lot.

SOAK: Was he legit?
Matt: Yeah, he was totally legit. He was like, next time you guys come through, we’ll get you free tube rentals. It was totally legit; it was totally a dude being honest. It’s just funny to me that Jerry probably knows that these twenty something year old kids are out there screaming his name out there all the time.

SOAK: Finally, other than relatives of Jerry, what kind of groupies does Gym Class Heroes get?
Matt: That’s hard for me to answer because I have a girlfriend, so I pretty much don’t get groupies, unless they’re like male groupies, which are the worst ever; they’re just dudes who want to hang out with you and talk your ear off. I think for the most part everyone else seems to get really hot groupies. From an outsider’s standpoint, that’s the only real description I can give. They’re beautiful young women. Young, but of a legal age for the most part.


Keywords: Rock, Hip hop, Gym Class Heroes, Jerry, Snakes on a Plane, music, alternative, band, artist
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