In the Studio: Gym Class Heroes - Rolling Stone
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In the Studio: Gym Class Heroes

“Yeah! now we’re cookin’, boy!” Travis McCoy yells, pacing the main room at the Deathstar studio in Los Angeles, still sporting his backpack and hoodie. With a new Dodgers cap cocked sideways, the Gym Class Heroes MC shouts, “Drum-and-bass! Drum-and-bass!” He’s leading his band through a rhythm-heavy new tune, as guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo strums his white Stratocaster through a wah-wah pedal like he’s playing with Sly and the Family Stone. It’s still before noon when McCoy begins rhyming: “Tell hip-hop I’m not illiterate/I got greater expectations than Oliver Twist/I went postal before Bukowski did/Tell Jack I’ll go out on the road with him. . . .”

Slouched over an upright piano wearing a porkpie hat is Patrick Stump. On a break from Fall Out Boy, Stump is producing today’s session — for the Heroes’ follow-up to 2006’s As Cruel as School Children, which included the radio hits “Cupid’s Chokehold” and “Clothes Off!” “They’re totally serious musicians,” says Stump, eager to demonstrate the Geneva, New York, band’s musical chops. “Travis is a dead-serious MC. He’s very smart and very sharp and has said some brilliant things. And they have a blast doing it. Hopefully people will get a sense of that.”

McCoy steps out of the booth to pour himself a sweet blend of merlot and Sprite, a new drink he calls the Travalanche. But he’s soon back in the room as the band slips into a classic roots-reggae groove and McCoy spits rhymes about a postmodern romance: “We can’t, more like we shouldn’t. . . . It’s hard to be a good man.” “It’s about what happens when you have a little too much merlot in you and you have access to a phone and a ton of girls’ numbers that you wouldn’t call otherwise,” he says. He thinks up a song title on the spot: “Drunk Text Romeo.”

It’s mid-January, and the band has been in the small studio, located behind a Koreatown barbershop, for a week. The big-screen TV is permanently tuned to the Food Network, with the band members hoping for a glimpse of sexy Italian host Giada De Laurentiis between takes. “We’ve been on a roll, pumping out a song a day,” says drummer Matt McGinley. “When things are going good like this, you just need to be in the studio and pour out creativity.”

McCoy later retreats to his rented SUV with a fistful of cigarettes to play back some tracks recently recorded in Miami with producers Cool and Dre (best known for the Game’s “Hate It or Love It” and Ja Rule’s “New York”). “It’s beautiful how Dre works with melodies and shit,” says McCoy with a grin. “We consumed a lot of greenery.”

One of the Miami tracks is the brooding jam “Peace Sign,” which features guest vocals by Busta Rhymes. “The hip-hop enthusiasts didn’t really take me serious as an MC,” McCoy says, “and I’m making for damn sure they do on this record.” He cues up an unfinished track called “I’m Home,” on which Hall and Oates’ Daryl Hall will be adding vocals. McCoy is a hardcore fan from way back: “It’s like a cream dream to have this dude not only into what we’re doing but wanting to be part of this record,” he says, eyes widening. “I don’t even know where to go after that.”

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