Tom Gray and his innovative rock band, Gomez, are in the midst of a U.S. tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of the group’s groundbreaking debut album, Bring It On. A Mercury Prize winner in Great Britain, the album was both highly acclaimed by critics and beloved by fans upon its release, and continues to find new audiences as it ages. After a smashingly successful European run for the anniversary, Gomez is back in the States, performing the album in its entirety as well as a selection of favorites. We spoke to Gray from a stop in Chicago, midway through their American trek.
How does it feel to present the album again to an audience 20 years after making it?
It doesn’t feel like it’s dated so much. It just feels kind of different. I can still remember the person that I was that made it. It’s kind of funny, when we first came to America and played it no one was interested, really, in it. Things are a lot better now than then.
Any sense of what has changed?
People didn’t really catch on to Gomez over here. It took a few records to kind of really connect with it. It’s fun to be able to bring the record over here and play it, especially for people who are hard-core; who were into this in the very beginning. And, of course, the people who worked their way back to it and found out about it through other things. I’ve met people on this tour who say, ‘I first heard the album in, like, 2005.’ Or five years ago. And fell in love with it. I think the whole life of this record hasn’t been particularly straight-forward.
For those songs on the album that didn’t become staples of the live repertoire, have they taken on new momentum being played in the context of the entire record?
We never really intended to take any songs out of circulation. However, just by nature—some songs being quite tough or quite weird or so distinctive—sometimes they wouldn’t make it in the set. We always wanted to make albums where every song would justify itself on there. We’ve stuck to that throughout our career. There’s a song on there called “Bubble Gum Years” that I sing, that was never a song we played live. It’s almost like coming back to it 20 years later as a sort of forgotten orphan. It’s a world-weary song; quite strange. Obviously, me, age 21, trying to do sort of Randy Newman, Tom Waits kind of thing from a slightly more psychedelic point of view. It’s got a strange poignancy to it now that I didn’t have when I was 20. It feels very different playing that as somebody who feels like he’s lived a little and can inhabit what’s being said in the song a lot more than when I was a kid. Lots of things take on poignancy that you didn’t see coming, really.
Are there ones that stay as reflections of that time?
Playing things like “Whippin’ Piccadilly,” a song about an actual day out when we were kids. It’s more than just a nostalgia fest for everyone in the audience. That’s very nostalgic for all of us as well. We were there; that kind of postcard from our youth, as it were.
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