Friday, 5 October 2012

Profile - Gomez

Published in the October issue of Rhythms.

Feeling Foolish

Gomez ain’t no fools.  All five, not a fool amongst ‘em.  One of many reasons why they’ve lasted as long as they have.  When these ebullient Englishmen grace our shores once again this month, it’ll be to celebrate 15 years since they first formed, 15 years of playing live, 15 years of spreading their musical effervescence the world over.  Nothing foolish about that.

“I think there are a few different elements to it,” muses vocalist/guitarist Tom Gray on what the secret truly is to the success of Gomez.  “One is we grew up together, so the relationship goes much deeper than, say, a professional band who met in their 20s in order to form a band… we were friends first, and a band second.

“That plays a huge part, I mean, even if we did split up, I don’t think we’d really split up if you know what I mean.  It’d be like splitting up with your mum.”  There’s to be no splitting up here, of that there’s no doubt, although after their Australian tour, the band will be taking a break for a while, recharge the batteries and all that sort of thing.

Back to the secret to the success and longevity of the band – to my mind, one of the reasons Gomez have bloomed this past decade and a half, is because no one has been able to put them into any one musical box, and as such, they have this mass appeal, this mass reach, that other groups just don’t possess.  “Yeah, I think that’s it, I mean, our greatest weaknesses are our greatest strengths,” Gray reasons.

“The difficulty of a band that’s unmarketable because it doesn’t have a singular audience or demographic, the difficulty of a band that doesn’t have one lead singer or songwriter… so all of these things which are perceived as weaknesses, I think are our strengths.  It’s a very naturalistic thing, and I think in that respect, we don’t have any peers.  So whether you like us or not, or give us any credence for that, I think it’s true.”

It’s something which has seen the band survive to this day, never once releasing the same album twice, utilising their three-vocalist attack to the best of its ability, multiple songwriters contributing to what can only be described as the Gomez Sound, in that it doesn’t sound like anyone else.  Or perhaps it sounds like everyone else, just all at once.  Regardless, it’s served them well, it ain’t broke, no one’s looking to fix it.

Meanwhile, on the aforementioned celebratory tour, there’s a bit of a twist – the band won’t be writing set-lists, leaving that task to their fans instead, who vote via the band’s website for their favourite track, the songs with the most votes making the cut.  “Well, we were just wondering what we could do,” says Gray on where this idea came from.  “We’d been touring for 15 years, we knew we were taking a short break [after this tour], and we thought that if you’re not putting oxygen into the show, people are just coming to see the same old show over and again.

“You have to keep giving people something, and this was it… what can we do to make the shows interesting?  Give people a choice.” I venture that there’d be a lot of rehearsal going on, as no doubt some obscure back-catalogue choices would pop up.  “Well we can’t rehearse because we don’t know what we’re going to play, we only shut down the voting the night before,” Gray laughs.  “So we wake up in the morning, look at what we’ve got, what songs there are, and figure out if we can play them.  And it creates an excitement for us as well, and it has the capacity to produce really spontaneous feeling gigs, which is really the lifeblood of performance anyway.”

Not only the lifeblood of performing, but of the band itself, as that spontaneity has been with them their entire career – not so much other people choosing what they’ll play, but the free-for-all ‘anything could happen and probably will’ nature of their music and live show.  It’s a fair bet that, despite the fact they’ll be taking a break, there’s another 15 years in this lot yet.  They certainly ain’t no fools, believe that.

Samuel J. Fell

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