Gym Class Heroes is This Year's Breakout Band

Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy was half-flattered, half-annoyed when his band won the best new artist trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards last month.

"It was really cool," he says of the Heroes' victory over the likes of Amy Winehouse and Carrie Underwood. "(But) I mean, in a sense, it was kind of a little bit interesting, because of the fact that we've been a band for 10 years."

"Part of me is like, `Yeah, awesome!' and the rest is like, `We're not really that new,'" McCoy says of his mixed emotions.

After years under the radar, Gym Class Heroes has emerged as this year's breakout band. And McCoy, 26, the charismatic rapper-singer and goofy star of the music video of the group's huge single "Cupid's Chokehold," has gotten plenty of attention. He is the Pete Wentz of the quartet, more of a camera ham than guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo, bassist Eric Roberts and drummer Matt McGinley.

The Heroes watched their profile rise after "Chokehold" hit the radio last year. The undeniably catchy song — which samples the hook of Supertramp's oldie "Breakfast in America" — eventually reached No. 4 on Billboard's "Hot 100."

It first appeared on the band's 2005 album, "The Papercut Chronicles," and was featured again on the follow-up disc, "As Cruel as School Children," first released in July 2006 and reissued several months later with "Chokehold" as an additional track.

When asked for his take on the song's popularity, McCoy shrugs and says simply: "I don't know. You have to ask the people that."

"We try not to analyze our music too much," he explains, munching on potato chips in the band's trailer before a recent Manhattan concert. "Us not doing that kinda gives us the freedom to (make) the music we want as opposed to drawing ourselves in a certain category."

The group, which blends diverse musical styles including hip-hop and emo-rock, began in the '90s after McCoy and McGinley bonded during gym class at their high school in Geneva, N.Y., near Rochester in upstate's scenic Finger Lakes region. They added Lumumba-Kasongo and Roberts a few years ago, and ultimately signed to Fall Out Boy bassist Wentz's Decaydance Records, an imprint of Fueled By Ramen, which has more than a dozen youth-friendly bands on its roster.

While Wentz remains Fall Out Boy's most conspicuous member, the emo outfit's lead singer, Patrick Stump, went behind the scenes with the Heroes to co-produce "As Cruel As School Children"; his power-pop vocals can also heard on "Chokehold" and the album's other hit, "Clothes Off!"

The Heroes have further cemented their association with Fall Out Boy on the current "The Young Wild Things" tour, on which they serve as the opening act.

"There's gonna be a lot of debauchery and a lot of crazy happenings," McCoy says.

Indeed, McCoy seems like the kind of guy who loves to whip up trouble — and haze friendly journalists. During the course of this interview, the 6-foot-5 McCoy — surprisingly soft-spoken — fake-wiped potato chip grease on this reporter's jacket sleeve (Gross, but kind of funny).

Another surprising thing about McCoy is his taste in music. He cites Hall and Oates as one of his favorites — which explains a lot about the eclectic Heroes songbook. For example, "Clothes Off!" uses the melody from the 1986 Jermaine Stewart abstinence song "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off." McCoy, however, switched up the chaste message by omitting the "don't" from the chorus.

McCoy gets a kick out of people who try to define the Heroes.

"They've called us emo hip-hop," he says. "They've called us alternative hip-hop, they've called us hip-hop and rock. Whatever makes it easier for them to categorize us so be it. I just laugh at a lot of `em. I always thought we were a country-western band."


GCH - Come out and Play Atlanta

Gym Class Heroes will be at John's Creek in Atlanta on November 3th at 1:30 signing autographs and saying hey! Here are the deets:

2637 Peachtree Pkwy
Suwannee, GA 30024


mtvU Woodie Awards 2007

Click here to vote for Gym Class Heroes at the mtvU Woodie Awards 2007!!

An Interview with Gym Class Heroes

You guys have gained a lot of success while playing with a lot of rock bands. Was it hard to find an audience with that crowd?

Recently it hasn't been as much because a lot of the places we go are already familiar with us so they kind of know what they're getting into. When we first started touring, it was way harder to be opening up for Fall Out Boy and then you have a kid in the audience not sure what to expect and we come out with a band and he ends up looking at us like, "What is this?" At the same time, we go out and do Hip-hop shows. It's kind of strange because they might expect something else and then we bring out instruments. It's kind of like no matter what audience we have to fight for that audience.

Is your crowd these days mostly Hip-hop fans or rock fans?

It's all over the place, actually. When we're doing our own headlining shows, you'll look down and see a 15-year-old teeny bopper standing next to a hoodie-wearing Hip-hop back-packer. It's really all over the place and every once in a while you'll find a 40-year-old mom in there or two. You never really know.

You guys have been touring for a while now promoting your album "As Cruel As School Children." Do you have any plans to go back into the studio any time soon?

I think that we're going to be going towards the end of the year, maybe December or January. We're going to be writing and perhaps recording as well. I mean, there's nothing concrete, but I think those are the plans right now. It's going to be cool because we're going to have studio space on our next tour, the Fall Out Boy tour, on the bus so we can really get the ideas flowing.

Two of the three singles from this album featured Patrick Stump. Are you worried at all about people seeing you as riding the coattails of Fall Out Boy?

I guess for certain people it could be perceived that way. If you really go back and look at it, it really hasn't been that way and if you look at the entire album it definitely helps. No one's saying that Fall Out Boy hasn't helped us get to where we are. Lots of bands get help from someone else who believes in them, so I think that's cool, but the last thing you want [is] to be perceived as this is the Fall Out Boy band. It's kind of like a double-edged sword but I'm not too worried about it right now.

You guys are on Pete Wentz's label and you're the only Hip-hop group on it. Do you feel a bit out of place at all?

I don't think we feel out of place on it. I mean, it's another one of those things that there's never going to be a place that's like, this is Gym Class Heroes' place. We kind of make our own place no matter where we go. But we don't really feel out of place either because we know all the guys on the label. It's not like a strange "these guys are weird" kind of relationship. It's more like a family thing.

As a Hip-hop group, what is the advantage of using live instruments?

I think it makes it significantly more dynamic during the shows. As opposed to having someone up there who's just walking around with music, you can actually see us being a part of the music we wrote ourselves. It's also cool because kids come out to shows who are used to seeing a band. Rock kids can come out and be like, "This is still Hip-hop but in a different format than we're used to it." It can also open the doors for lots of people who normally wouldn't look at other types of music. It's the same with Hip-hop - we can come out and be like, "Hey, we got an MC out here - let's check this out," [or] "Oh look, we've got all sorts of other types of music going on also. Maybe I'll check that out." I think it really opens people's minds.

Your first breakout single, "Taxi Driver," was basically a list of rhyming band names. Was that song a tribute to your influences or just a fun thing to do?

I think the way it's usually explained is that the first, "I took cutie for a ride in my deathcab," Travis was just writing around in his journal. He was like, "Oh that's cool" and then he started thinking that there are tons of "scene" bands that have names that would really lend themselves to describing a story. He called up Matt and was like, "Oh I've got this line" and he went back and wrote another line and another line and that's how the whole song was done. I would say that there are a lot of bands in there that have been influences. I wouldn't say its necessarily a tribute song, but our influences are definitely in there. I think our influences are really really broad which is what makes our sound so all over the place. As much as Coheed and Cambria is an influence, so are Michael Jackson and Hall and Oats.

You guys are known for blending a lot of different genres. What is your writing process like and how has it changed since your early EPs?

Actually, I joined in 2004 after we signed with Decaydance and our bassist joined shortly after that. But from what I understand, the earlier songs and EPs the songs were basically written like, "Here's going to be our jazz song, here's going to be our rock song, here's going to be our Hip-hop song." As time progressed and things evolved, it became more of an organic process. If you listen to "As Cruel As School Children," it's not really quite a rock song but you might be listening to a song and hear a rock solo infused in there. I'd say the process is whatever makes a good song. If I come up with a song idea and share it and it's a good song, cool. If we're working with one of our producers and they have a cool beat and then we write over the beat, cool. If we like a song idea we're going to use it. We don't really have a set way where we say, "This is how it has to be done."

A lot of the songs on "As Cruel as School Children" are about hard parties and the girls that come with them. Are these personal accounts or fictional stories?

I think there's a little bit of both in there. Travis tends to write about experiences that he's had or observations that he's had through experiences. So even the stuff that might be fictional probably has some truth in it. Also, there's a couple of songs in there like "The Queen and I" that sound like, "Oh, this song's just about girls" but if you dig a bit deeper it's actually about something a little more messed up, like wanting something that's bad for you or alcohol problems. It's packaged in this way that might seem straight forward but it's actually kind of cool.


GCH Back In Town

Gym Class Heroes has gone from under the radar this time last year , to more popular than free T-shirts on Fairfield Way. Opening up for Matisyahu last October, Gym Class Heroes returns to Jorgensen Center for the Perfoming Arts for a second time.

UConn is one of the last stops the indie/hip-hop band from Geneva, NY, is making before embarking on The Young Wild Things Tour with Fall Out Boy, Plain White T's and Cute Is What We Aim For at the end of October. The tour will be stopping in dozens of major cities including Las Vegas, Sacramento, San Diego, Chicago, Austin and Columbus, Ohio.

Formed in 1997, lead singer Travis McCoy, drummer Matt McGinley, guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo and bassist Eric Roberts, make up the popular band, signed by the Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen record label.

Since the release of their single "Cupid's Chokehold," Gym Class Heroes have gained an ever-growing national fan base and continuous play on many of today's popular radio stations. Their newest CD, "As Cruel As School Children," demonstrates how the band has "stepped up their game on every level," according to

Many students around campus were excited to hear of the Gym Class Heroes return to Jorgensen Center.

"Gym Class is awesome and underappreciated," said John Chick, 5th-semester American studies major. "The songs they're noted for aren't even their best so hopefully the people that are going will see how good they really are. I'm pretty excited."

Gym Class Heroes are praised by critics for their individuality and sound unlike any other band in their genre.

"Earlier rap-rock stars loved to remind their listeners that they were transgressing musical and cultural boundaries. But to their credit, Gym Class Heroes dispense with all that; at his best, Mr. McCoy sounds less like a maverick and more like an inevitability," writes Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times. "Plenty of young listeners enjoy brash hip-hop and wimpy emo; it was only a matter of time before someone successfully combined the two genres."

In an interview with Tony Pascarella from, McCoy spoke about the Heroes' growing fan base and their reaction to their musical style.

"A lot of kids are coming to the shows, they've kind of heard of us," McCoy said. "The thing is, we're used to dropped jaws when we first start playing. It's something different, and it always takes a while for kids to get used to something different. I don't take offense to it; it's cool by the second song when I see them dancing."


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GCH Join Hobard and William Smith Colleges

Travis McCoy, a member of Gym Class Heroes, the Geneva-based band that recently received MTV’s 2007 Video Music Award for Best New Artist, met with students from Associate Dean Chip Capraro’s First Year Seminar, “Rock Music and American Masculinities,” on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Geneva Room.

The band was in town for a sold-out show at the Smith Opera House, their first hometown appearance since Seneca Lake Whale Watch in August 2005.

Capraro’s class looks at the lives, times and music of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Bruce Springsteen and Kurt Cobain, -- central figures in the history of American rock music from 1950s rock and roll to 1990s grunge. The seminar was designed to give students an appreciation for the role of gender, race, class, sexuality and region in shaping men’s identity and experience.

The band has been on MTV several times in 2007, with “Cupid’s Chokehold/Breakfast in America” spending time atop the network’s playlist. The group was also featured on such programming as Spring Break ‘07 Live, TRL, and MTV Live, as well as on MTV2, mtvU, MTV Hits, and MTV Tr3s. “Cupid’sChokehold/Breakfast in America” also proved a rotation favorite at VH1, Fuse and Mun2.


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GCH Hold Local Meet and Greet

Gym Class Heroes held a meet and greet with fans at the North Broadway Verizon Wireless store. The local visit was part of GCH's headlining spot in a 15-stop east coast Verizon Wireless College Campus Tour that also included a concert that evening at Hofstra University.

By Victoria A. Caruso,