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Interview:
Gym Class Heroes give the past a future spin on new album
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Gym Class Heroes won’t be putting out its fifth album, “The Papercut Chronicles II,” until Nov. 15. But drummer Matt McGinley says the group doesn’t mind giving fans a slice of the album at shows prior to the release — including the Top 5 single “Stereo Hearts.”



“It’s good to be ahead of the album. There’s very few expectations for the new material because people haven’t heard it yet,” says McGinley, 28, who co-founded the hip-hop/rock group in 1997 with frontman Travis McCoy — who he met in, yes, gym class at their high school in Geneva, N.Y.

“It’s fun to be able to try things out, changing arrangements and instrumentation and stuff like that to get each song just the way we want it — at least for playing the songs live.



“Then, by the time the album, drops, we have everything where we want it, which is a luxury.”



But while they are working out the material live, McGinley says Gym Class Heroes has the recorded version of “The Papercut Chronicles II,” a sequel to the group’s 2005 national debut album, exactly where it wants it.



“It’s a wide variety of flavors,” notes McGinley. “I think since the inception of this band, we’ve never really fit easily into any one particular genre, and I think with this album we took advantage of that.”



Gym Class Heroes’ stylistic blend has certainly won some favor through the years. The group broke through big with the 2006 album “As Cruel as School Children,” which launched the Supertramp-sampling Top 5 hit “Cupid’s Chokehold” (with guest vocals by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump).



The group’s 2008 follow-up “The Quilt” debuted in the Top 20 — and at No. 5 on the Rap Albums chart — and they co-headlined the 2008 Vans Warped Tour while McCoy provided guest vocals for the Cobra Starship film hit “Snakes on Plane (Bring It).”



McCoy also had a hit — “Billionaire” with Bruno Mars — from his 2010 solo album “Lazarus,” while McGinley started a rock group called Kill the Frontman. But there were never concerns about whether Gym Class Heroes would come back together after that break.



“Y’know, this is a band that me and Travis started when I was 14, so it’s ... something that we’ve both been doing for half of our lives,” McGinley explains. “More than just being band members, we’re actually really good friends, too. The other stuff is a healthy way to balance our creative spirits ... but at the same time I feel like Gym Class is the priority for us all, and it’s always going to be home base for us.”



McGinley says a “Papercut Chronicles” sequel was McCoy’s idea, which he quickly seconded. Like its predecessor, the new album, drawn from nearly 40 possible songs, is “darker ... it just has this really moody, almost eerie vibe running through the songs.” But at the same time McGinley says, “We’re not necessarily trying to rehash the first album. We’re trying to expand on a lot of ideas and themes that we had started and take them forward.”



The group has carefully leaked some of the new tracks online, including “Martyrial Girls$” and “Life Goes On” with Oh Land. Meanwhile, “Stereo Hearts,” with Maroon 5 frontman and “The Voice” judge Adam Levine guesting, is already a platinum seller and Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100.



“(Producer) Benny Blanco pitched us the idea,” McGinley recalls, “and we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s kinda cool. We can probably work with that.’ We bumped the song out pretty quickly, I would say maybe in a morning and afternoon, and things developed quickly.



“And then at some point the idea of getting Adam Levine for the chorus popped up, and that was kind of crazy. We’ve been following Adam and Maroon 5’s career since their first album; actually, when we went in to cut ‘The Paper Chronicles’ we brought ‘Songs For Jane,’ the Maroon 5 record, as a reference of what we wanted some of our drum tones and guitar tones to sound like.



“So to have (Levine) on there was a really cool thing. It kind of brings it full circle in a way.”



McGinley and company are justifiably buoyed by the success of “Stereo Hearts,” and with the next two singles already picked (“Ass Back Home” and “The Fighter”) they’re predicting “Papercut” will make a deep mark in the pop world.



“When we have had radio success in the past, it tends to be a fluke,” McGinley says. “Maybe (‘Stereo Hearts’) is a fluke as well, but with this album I feel like we’re in a really good position and have a solid batch of songs that we feel have that same potential. I guess we’ll see what happens, but it’s ... exciting.”



Gym Class Heroes, Dirty Heads and Outasight perform Sunday at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.



Web Site: www.royaloakmusictheatre.com

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