Tom Gray has an overarching message for Australian Gomez fans; see them at their upcoming Quinceañera tour or be prepared to wait a while for their return.
It’s been a productive fifteen years for the English quartet. Since their debut LP, Bring It On, edged out The Verve (Urban Hymns) and Pulp (This Is Hardcore) for the Mercury Prize in 1998, the band has toured incessantly and released a volley of records, live albums and B-sides every year since.
While other acts that marched to prominence during the mid to late 90s have succumbed to the stereotypical downfalls – sex, drugs and mistresses – Gomez has emerged with their fans and critical appeal intact.
Speaking from his bayside abode in the affluent English county of Brighton, Gray is in a remarkably forthright mood. As he speaks of the band’s weariness and relief of fulfilling record label obligations, he bluntly hints that a holiday is due after their last LP, Whatever’s On Your Mind, didn’t meet expectations.
“There are certain things that bother me about it (the record),” Gray says. “I really hate the mix of the title track and I wish I could go back and fix it. But shit happens when you’re making records, man. There are some stunning songs but I’m not sure it’s the greatest record.”
“Is that the best way of putting it?”
Such honesty is rare from an artist on the verge of undertaking a nationwide tour. Most in his position would bury their critical thoughts in fear of getting duct-taped by a nervy promoter or Public Relations minder.
“I’m enormously self critical. I look at an album after a week that it comes out and usually decide whether it’s good or not. But I can’t really say that to journalists,” Gray says wryly.
“The album definitely wasn’t a creative failure but it wasn’t an enormous creative success either,” he says. “What I do say is that I loved the experience of making the album. That’s the very reason why I make music. That’s the important thing.”
“I don’t give a shit when it’s finished,” he continues. “It’s there, it’s done. Anyone who has the audacity to call themselves an artist makes something, chucks it to one side and does something else.”
It’s admirable – and typical – of a band who has never felt obligated to chase the spotlight of the status quo. Though they provided a snug fit for the Brit Pop invasion of the late 90s, Gomez has constantly slipped between the cracks of classification ever since. Having four distinct songwriters, three lead vocalists and taking a chameleon approach to recording will do that sometimes.
This loose and uncompromising philosophy flows through Gomez’s live performances as well. For their aptly titled Quinceañera tour – a term that translates to ‘15’ in Latin and represents the length in years of the group’s existence – the band will be taking requests from their entire discography.
“We’ve got such a large back catalogue,” Gray says. “I was looking the other day and there’s like 200 copyrights worth of songs.”
Considering the band’s popularity in Australia, it’s a distinct possibility an eager group of fans could rally together to vote for an unheralded ditty buried under their mounds of eclectic quality.
While not exactly a new approach, the trick here is that Gray and co. won’t know what they’ll be playing until 24 hours prior to taking the stage.
“The day of the gig we’ll find out what were going to play and whatever they’ve voted for we have to play. It’s all or nothing, we can’t hedge our bets,” he says.
“Some songs will inevitably be songs we learnt that day. That’s part of the joy – it keeps us on our toes that it could all go wrong at any minute. We had to do that several times (on the last tour), learn a song from scratch when we didn’t have the faintest idea of what we were doing – it’s fun.”
Rather than having to bribe steroid-popping bouncers or weedy door staff, fans will also have the opportunity to purchase after-show backstage passes. Though those hoping for an all-night rock ‘n’ roll chug fest may be slightly let down considering all the members are happily settled with wives and kids of their own.
Regardless, such an opportunity exemplifies a band that acknowledges the importance of their fanbase. Unlike their contemporaries (let’s not mention a couple of Gallagher brothers, shall we?) Gomez realise that their decade-and-a-half longevity can be largely attributed to those who continue to attend their shows year in, year out.
These are fans that, like the band members themselves, have similarly bunkered down with a wife or husband and a crib in the spare room.
“We’ve got to a good point at 15 years in,” Gray says. “We’re gonna have to take a little bit of time and think about what we are going to do next. And I think this is an opportunity to give fans a gig that is memorable before we do something new, exciting and interesting.”
“It feels like a great way to put on a punctuation mark,” he adds. “We’ve been around a lot, especially the past three or four years. It feels like the right time to do these kinds of show before we disappear for a bit.”
Whatever’s On Your Mind is out now through Shock Records. Gomez’ fan service-centric Quinceañera tour kicks off October 10 in Darwin and runs until 22nd October. Full dates and details here.