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Gomez Bring On the Weirdness

Gomez Bring On the Weirdness

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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