Published on June 2nd, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Anyone who took even a cursory glance at Rocksucker’s most recent Album O’Week feature will know that we take our Gomez very seriously.
Perhaps ‘very seriously’ is not the best way to approach an album as brazenly sunny and optimistic as Whatever’s On Your Mind, the Southport five-piece’s seventh long-player (eighth if you count 2000’s majestic rarities compilation Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline – more on that later) but it is an unavoidable hurdle when assessing the latest movements of a band whose every move you have been in thrall of from the very outset.
If you happen to share this proneness to tragic fan-boy-dom, then you’ll understand how fraught with peril it is to make snap judgements on one of your favourite artist’s new releases; it can take months – sometimes years – before every nuance is absorbed and it all starts to make sense.
However, we at Rocksucker would have considered it a dereliction of duty not to have spewed forth our early impressions of Whatever’s On Your Mind, which it must be said are thus far mixed (read our review for more – erm, a lot more – about that).
We are honoured and delighted to be able to quiz co-singer, co-song-writer and multi-instrumentalist Tom Gray, the voice of such Gomez classics as ‘Bubble Gum Years’, ‘Blue Moon Rising’, ‘Waster’, ‘Silence’, ‘Girlshapedlovedrug’ and ‘If I Ask You Nicely’…
The new album has a very ‘pop’ sound. Was it a conscious decision to make a record like this or did it just turn out that way? If it was a conscious decision, then did you decide likewise for How We Operate? We thought that was a great pop album, but this one’s quite different.
I think it might be lazy to say this album has a ‘pop’ sound. It covers so much ground. To say ‘pop’ is to imply some form of conservatism or straight-forwardness – this record is quite possibly the quirkiest and most eccentric album we’ve ever made. We never set out to make any kind of album, we just try to do something different each time. It’s not dark and moody, but, shit, we’ve done plenty of that already.
Where and how was it recorded? Were you all together to do it, or did you use a kind of ‘drop-box’ method?
FTP site, we’d exchange ideas through it, but we all got together to finalise the arrangements and to put down the basic tracking.
Are you able to tell us who wrote which songs on the album? How do you decide who gets to sing what?
If I write a big emotive song, I ask Ben to sing it. Like ‘Whatever’s On Your Mind’ and ‘Our Goodbye’ on the album; I wouldn’t have attempted to sing them myself but they’re the songs I’m most proud of. It’s good to not be precious.
In general, your albums seem to steadily get happier and more summery. Are you in a good place as a band and as people?
I think our first album is very summery and happy, so I’m not sure if you’re really identifying a trend. The last album was quite down and introspective, so this one is in sharp contrast. This album was the most fun we’ve had recording since we started; maybe that comes through. We’re getting on with each other better than ever…it’s very cool.
Does it gall you that many people still only remember you for that Mercury Prize win? Do you think that initial storm affected how each subsequent album has been received? (On the whole, Rocksucker never really noticed a dip in quality.)
Yes it galls me. I think folk have missed out on some excellent music by ignoring our output. However, our biggest album in the US was How We Operate and our biggest in Australia was Liquid Skin; it’s easy for the British media to believe their version of events is the only version. We’ve gone on enjoying a career around the world despite the Mercury ‘curse’. I can live with that.
Remarkably, you still have the same line up to this day. Do you argue much about things like album running orders, live show set lists, which songs should be singles, which should go on the album etc? How do you settle in-band disputes?
Yes we argue. We can all be pretty stubborn. Mud-wrestling.
Could you ever see it getting to the stage whereby you could release an album independently of any record label? Just making it available from your website, or some such?
Of course, in fact that seems in many ways like an inevitable outcome given the state of play.
Any more solo projects on the horizon?
Not at the minute.
Do you regard Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline as a proper album in your back catalogue? It’s one of our very favourite albums.
I sincerely regret not putting that album out as a proper album in its own right. Basically half of that album was recorded in the same sessions as the Machismo EP and could have been put together to be a long player, but everyone was tired and didn’t want to stay on the road. I think it’s probably the worst mistake we made in our careers. Machismo sold enough to make the top ten as a single but it didn’t chart because it was an EP, and then the album was released confusingly; not as a real collection, nor as an album proper. I thought it was confusing so I’ve no idea what our fans made of it.
Any tips for good up-and-coming bands or artists?
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Gris Gris – Dr. John. Revolver – The Beatles. Hunky Dory – David Bowie.
Whatever’s On Your Mind is released next Monday, June 6th, on ATO Records. For more information, please visit gomeztheband.com.