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Gomez Bring On the Weirdness

Gomez Bring On the Weirdness

September 20, 1999 12:00 AM ET

The night that changed Gomez's lives, the night they won Britain's hallowed Mercury Prize for their 1998 debut, Bring It On, the band members were too nervous and drunk to remember very much.

"I thought Massive Attack was gonna win -- they really deserved to," admits singer/guitarist Ben Ottewell. "We got there really early and enjoyed all the free alcohol. Then when we won, we stumbled onstage, mumbled something into the microphone, and sort of stumbled off. It was all really shocking."

The Mercury Prize was a mere snowball in an avalanche of hype that has only intensified as the band braces for the release of their second record, Liquid Skin. Gomez's kitchen-sink approach to record-making has yielded one of the year's most eclectic and inviting records, an collage of psychedelia, delta blues, pop and assorted artiness bound together by an obvious respect for American music.

Anyone listening to Liquid Skin could be forgiven for thinking that the members of Gomez are a little nuts: Toilet paper rolls, fire extinguishers and underwater microphones (they weren't underwater at the time, band members say, but they wouldn't rule it out in the future) were all employed in the making of the record. "We thought it was a good idea," says drummer Olly Peacock of the use of the toilet paper rolls. "Anything goes, really. That's the way we are."

Unlike many excessively hyped hipster favorites, Gomez are actually good enough to have overcome numerous obstacles to coolness -- namely, being on a major label, singing on a commercial (Ottewell sings the Beatles' "Getting Better" in a Philips Electronics ad) and even listing the Black Crowes as an influence. That the members of Gomez, childhood friends who are all in their early twenties, have never seemed to care about impressing anybody has, well, impressed everybody. Before recording the homemade demos that would serve as the backbone of Bring It On, Gomez had little experience outside the garage and had never even played live before. The demos were recorded as a lark, but a tape eventually found its way to the right people, and Gomez were signed after a major label bidding war a few weeks later. Rapturous reviews, various Brit Award nominations, the Mercury Prizes and splashy American magazine layouts soon followed.

Of course, given the band's apparent lack of ambition (and fashion sense), the fact that Gomez had such quick success sparked a bit of a backlash in the always prickly British press.

"They're always really ready to pounce on you and have a go," says Peacock. "They initially found our ages and where we come from to be just too bizarre to be accepted for what it is, which is guys with great big record collections who want to be creative and have fun. The only major criticism has been about our looks, or something like that, but we don't give a f--- about that. The music is what counts."

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