[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, July 7.]
For vocalist and guitarist Tom Gray, the realization that his band,
Gomez, officially has arrived came during one strange night a month
or so ago.
It was the night that the British quintet appeared on former Squeeze
keyboardist Jools Holland's live music-television show in England. It
was also on this night that former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy
Page and Robert Plant (now of Page & Plant) were in the audience --
"It was funny, because Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were dancing
while we were playing," the 21-year-old Gray said from his dressing
room in Paris, where Gomez just had finished a performance on yet
television show. "And it was like, 'OK, we're playing on national
television, and half of Led Zeppelin is dancing to our music.' And then
we got drunk with Natalie Imbruglia, which made the whole night
"All these very famous people have Gomez records," Gray continued.
"I think the word about Gomez has spread among musicians faster
than it has among [the general public] so far ... What we're doing is
very musical, very interesting, and people weren't expecting that
from a young British band."
A far cry from Brit-pop, Gomez's music has one foot in psychedelic
rock and the other in modern alternative rock, fortified with
elements of the blues, funk, folk and whatever else that exists
beyond and between. At least that's how they sound on their
promising debut, Bring It On, which will hit American record-
store shelves Sept. 8. Those living stateside have to wait until then
for Gomez to premiere their brave new world of noise.
On Gomez's first single, the hummable
HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Gomez/78_Stone_Wobble.ram" >"78 Stone Wobble"
>"78 Stone Wobble"(RealAudio excerpt), three bandmembers
sing at different points, a creative decision that fits the song's
stylistic shifts from hip-hop to pop to blues. The tune is also an
example of Gomez's thriftiness in their home studio -- Gray's vocals
were recorded as he spoke through a telephone that was stuck up
against an old monitor.
"We're just five guys from a garage in Northern England," Gray said.
"There isn't a style; there isn't an image; there isn't a philosophy.
There's just a whole bunch of sounds. Hopefully ... Gomez will become
like a brand name. Hopefully, people will just buy our records. They
don't know what the hell's gonna be on them, but they buy them
anyway, because they know it's going to be weird and wonderful,
and they know they're going to like it."
The band, which has yet to even perform in America, has already
begun making a name for itself in the U.K., where the album was
released in April, according to Sig Sigworth of the band's Virgin
"Something like 20 labels [in England] were trying to sign them," said
Sigworth, director of product management at Virgin. "We feel very
strongly about this act -- that Gomez has definitely got it. It's going
to be a long-term act for us, and we want to take it by each step and
build them into their career."
Recorded before Gomez ever played a live gig, Bring It On has
sold 40,000 so far in the U.K., debuting on the charts at #26, Sigworth
said. Often as hilarious in spirit as it is adventurous in sound, Bring
It On has a spontaneous, roaming quality to it, as Gomez explore
their sonic terrain and recall such distinctive artists as the Grateful
Dead, Beck, Tom Waits and Jeff Buckley in the process.
Gray is joined in Gomez by bassist Paul Blackburn, drummer Olly
fellow guitarists and vocalists Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell -- all of
whom are in their early 20s. More than a third of Bring It On
was recorded on a four-track when the bandmates -- who were
attending different universities in Northern England -- would get
together on holidays, jam and put the results to tape.
As Gray said, they never thought they were making what would
become their major-label debut.
"The album is pretty much the record that we were going to record
and pass off to our friends, and that's really the only place it would
have gone," said Gray, who was studying politics at Leeds University
when the band was signed. "It was totally, ridiculously surprising
that it happened the way it did."
Not only do Gray, Ball and Ottewell swap instruments throughout
their material, but they take turns on the microphone as well. "It
depends on what we're aiming for," Gray said of deciding who sings
what. "If you want a real clean pop sound, you get Ian to do it. If
you're going for a bluesy, soulful sound with a bit of dirt, you go for
Ben. If I do any singing in my talky, lazy voice, it's usually because
no one else wants to."