The story goes that an unnamed band was playing their first gig in a school hall in England. They posted a sign outside the hall for a friend named Gomez reading ‘Gomez, the gig is here!’ Fifteen years later the band are still using the name Gomez which stuck after that gig, and are going strong despite members now being spread across the world. Paul Blackburn talks to Buzz about the predicament from his home in Detroit.
‘Ian [Ball]’s in L.A., Olly [Peacock]’s in New York, Ben [Ottewell] is somewhere in Brighton in the U.K., and I’m here in Detroit.’
Despite the distance, Gomez remains busy, touring relentlessly and with a new album out this month. Paul describes the album, A New Tide, as ‘a collection of good, strong songs.’
‘It is going to have quite an experimental edge to it,’ Paul says of the new album. ‘I think there are going to be quite a lot of unexpected moments on the record to keep people excited and entertained.’
Experimentation is nothing new for Gomez. The band have previously explored compositions and instrumentation unusual in rock music, including the use of Oriental and Middle Eastern instruments.
‘We’ve always tried to keep it interesting and keep the listener entertained,’ Paul explains how the band will continue to evolve. ‘We try to make something to keep people’s attention, as well as taking things off in different directions.’
When including new instruments, Paul notes that it is important to chose the right producer for the job, ‘to keep it all going in a certain direction while bringing their own experience to it.’ In the case of the new album, that role has gone to Brian Deck, who has previously produced music for Modest Mouse, Counting Crows and Brisbane’s The Grates. ‘When we have ideas like this, they [the producer] need to make sure it can be pulled off in the right way, or even suggesting ways in which it can go even further.’
In this regard, Deck has been the perfect choice. ‘He is a very musically minded, very intelligent guy,’ Paul says. ‘He approaches music in a bit of a different way, in terms of trying to create things that are new and exciting. That’s something that we’ve always tried to do ourselves, so it’s kind of good to have somebody in there that’s got another angle to bring to that kind of approach… It’s just like having another musician in the mix.’
With such multilayered mixes and heavy instrumentation, translating the recorded music to the stage for live performance can be a challenge.
‘That’s another of the challenges of being a musician,’ muses Paul. ‘A lot of thought has to go into how you’re going to get it across. Sometimes you have to make compromises, because it isn’t always possible to do it. With arrangements and how certain parts are going to work on different instruments, sometimes the live versions might be quite different to the record, by order of necessity.’
This is particularly true since, although all of the band members are multi-instrumental, ‘there might be certain instruments where we want to get someone better.’ Paul thinks of some examples from the new album. ‘For instance, we have used a horn section and stuff. None of us play any horn instruments, or brass or woodwind, so we got people in to play that. Also, we had an upright bass player come in and play. Having somebody who is proficient makes for a better take.’
The process of reworking the songs for the stage is important, because the band tour frequently, particularly in the US and UK lately, and also make regular visits to Australia. This dedication to fans has continued despite the distance between band members’ homes, and other changes. For example, several members now have children, along with various solo and other projects. Ian Ball’s solo debut Who Goes There was released in 2007.
‘I know that Tom’s been working on some stuff,’ Paul says. ‘And I think Ben’s planning a solo record too. Tom’s been doing other work for projects like music aimed towards kids and stuff. He’s been working on music for a kid’s puppet show.’
This seemed like quite a departure from the work of Gomez, and luckily Paul explained further. ‘His wife and a friend of hers put together a puppet show in the UK, and it became really successful. They were actually invited and went to Number 10 Downing Street, to put on a performance for children there. It’s been doing really well, and they’ve got a lot of reviews. It was based on an idea of a friend of hers who is an author. She put a children’s book together called “Shoe Baby.” Basically it took off and has been doing really well, so he was doing music for that.’
Even though Gomez toured prior to the release of A New Tide over the summer festival season, Paul says that the band hope to return soon. ‘We’re hoping to get over for the summer. Later on this year or early next year.’
A New Tide is out this month. From Buzz Magazine, April 2009.