Travie McCoy, Gym Class Heroes – The Jitters Never Go Away, Interview
by Anna Denejkina
Travie McCoy – The Jitters Never Go Away
Written for Future Entertainment
Originally published on March 12, 2012
From punk, emo, and indie rock, to death metal, comedy and feminist slam poetry bills. It is hard to picture a band that has been part of every clashing niche imaginable, and even more difficult to keep your mouth shut when hearing of an outfit that not only successfully managed to permeate each scene, but did this as an alternative hip hop troupe with its routes of inception planted in a high school gym class.
The seed was planted in 1997, their fifth studio album was released in the latter part of 2011, but their beginnings are still an interesting, and even humorous talking point, underlining that genre segregation is not an essential path to undertake when faced with a difficulty of describing even your own musical sound.
“We played with basically anyone who would let us get on a bill with them. Death metal bands, to slam poets, to comedians. There was no scene that we fit into,” reflected Travie McCoy, also known as the front-man and lead vocalist of one of the most recognizable and diverse alternative hip hop fusions, Gym Class Heroes.
“In a sense, we kind of dabbled in all of them [live scenes],” he continued. “After a while of not being accepted in any of them, there came a point where we were embraced by all of them. And I think that’s kind of when we knew that we had something special.
“The fact that we could do a tour with Fall Out Boy, or a tour with a band like Fear Before the March of Flames [Fear Before], or even Bring Me the Horizon for that matter, and then do a tour with T-Pain and Lil Wayne, I think there’s not a lot of bands that can do that.”
The fusion of hip hop, reggae, jazz, rock and even pop music elements is overtly heard throughout the band’s eclectic career, with their Warped Tour stint and the current Future Music Festival tour trek acting as a further beacon to the Gym Class Heroes’ wide-spread reach.
Following three years between releases, Gym Class Heroes’ latest studio record, The Papercut Chronicles II, came as a sequel to their 2005 effort and second studio album, The Papercut Chronicles, to re-visit the quartet’s history and the band’s simpler days. This week has additionally seen the outfit hit their inaugural number one position on the Australian ARIA charts with single ‘Ass Back Home’ [featuring Neon Hitch], following the album’s charting on the US Billboard 200 and Top Rap Albums, as well as the UK’s R&B Albums Chart in 2011.
“I think it’s more of an anxious feeling, rather than a nervous feeling,” expressed Travie, as he pondered the sentiment of anticipation before their fifth studio album dropped on the world in 2011.
“We’ve spent so much time kind of nurturing these songs… and to present it to the world, I compare it to waiting nine months for your child to be nurtured, and the release date is like the date-of-birth in a sense. It’s all anticipation and anxiety, and then you want to show it off to the world and find out whether or not the world thinks your baby is ugly or cute,” he laughed.
Overtly, Australian fans are indeed ecstatic about Gym Class Heroes’ latest child birth: a baby that represents not only the rich history of the outfit, but indeed takes a step back to revisit the themes and music of a record that Travie described as their opening to the world.
“In retrospect, The Papercut Chronicles was our introduction to the world in a sense, and it’s an album that I feel like a lot of people connected with,” he explained. “So to expand on that album, to kind of revisit some of those themes in the music and some of the tones that the album had, was awesome and fun for us. I think at the end of the day, we make music for us first and foremost, and our friends secondly, and the world last,” Travie commented with a humorous tone.
But stepping over decade into the past also brings an unavoidable wave of melancholia, and with such a life-style the strain is similarly inevitable. Nevertheless, for Travie it has become a relationship in itself and one that he has worked to prefect.
“With the touring [life] style, time goes by so fast and it’s crazy to think that this is our fifth studio album. Where the fuck did all this time go?!” he exclaimed in rhetoric. “So you kind of have a chance to reflect on our very first album, which, in a sense you have your entire life to write, so it was kind of a trip.
“But I think over the years I’ve definitely become much better at trying to find a balance,” he continued. “But I mean, realistically, this whole life style is a relationship itself, a girlfriend. So to try to balance two relationships is definitely a tough thing, but I think I’m getting better at it, in a good way.”
Travie McCoy’s work with Gym Class Heroes as well as his solo musical endeavor has taken him onto a path that no matter how influential, infrequently receives mention. This aspect of Travie’s life is his participation and work with various charities and humanitarian organisations, in particular, the Staying Alive Foundation, a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign which he joined in 2009 as an ambassador, raising awareness for an issue that is admittedly very close to his heart.
“It’s something that’s definitely very, very close to my heart,” Travie began.
“When I was younger, I had someone very close to me die from HIV complications. And when you’re that young, you don’t really understand just death in general, but it’s a disease that still has so many stigmas attached to it.”
Speaking slowly and with a tone of uncertainty, Travie continued to describe the past, seemingly searching for the right words to express his passionate views through a sense of a lingering guilt.
“There is this kind of tremendous amount of guilt that I carried with myself for thinking that this person was living a terrible lifestyle, and it just happened and it was unfortunate. Working with Staying Alive is a way for me to kind of get back and kind of [get] retribution for all the time I spent feeling that way and falling for all the stigmas that were, in a sense, implanted in our brains as kids.
“It’s just all about being educated and educating yourself,” he expressed, “and taking that knowledge and spreading it in the hopes that the people that you share it with will do the same.”
For more information on the Staying Alive Foundation, please visit: http://foundation.staying-alive.org