In the midst of a sold-out UK tour celebrating 20 years since the release of Mercury Prize winning landmark debut ‘Bring It On’, Gomez singer, guitarist and keyboard player Tom Gray spoke to NME about the story behind the record, it’s legacy and literally whipping Piccadilly station.
What are your memories of making ‘Bring It On’?
“We were just kids mucking around with tape machines. We were just a group of mates who played music for fun. That’s what we did. We were nerds who liked making music and mucking around with song form and having a laugh really. My memories of it are being in a big social group of friends in which we would just nip off, go and record some music, come back and carry on the party really.”
What were the songs about?
“They were songs about running away, having nights out, going to Mexico. It was pure escapism. It was about 20-year-old kids desperately trying to get out of their small town mentality.”
A lot of my friends have told me over the years that an old school mate of mine inspired the single ‘Whippin’ Piccadilly’. Is it possible we know the same person?
“Ha no way. The story goes, we all went to see Beck at Manchester Academy in 1995 on the ‘Odelay’ tour. Beck was ruling the world at that point in time, he was just incredible and his band were the best band I’d ever seen. The person that was ‘dressed in a suit looking like a lunatic’ in that song was Beck and the other person was our mate who took the string out of the bottom of his coat and he was literally whipping the floor of Piccadilly station that night. He was completely on one that night.”
You won the Mercury Prize for ‘Bring It On’ in 1998 ahead of Massive Attack’s ‘Mezzanine’ and The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’. Was that ultimately responsible for the record reaching Number 11 in the UK album chart and selling nearly half a million copies?
“To a degree yeah, but the first big thing that happened to us was when we first appeared on Later…With Jools Holland. That was when we were like ‘Oh Lord!’. People leaped on to it very quickly. And then we had two sets at Glastonbury that year. We played in a tent and the gig went so well that we were asked to fill a set on the Main Stage (after Beth Orton pulled out) as well. So on a whim we did a second set on the Main Stage at Glastonbury in the pouring rain and managed to cheer a whole lot of people up. That set off a bit of a fire really and then in September when we won the Mercury Prize it was like a perfect storm. The word of mouth was out there and ready and everyone was excited about it but then when it got this big stamp of approval, it was like boom. Then the record was just flying out. It was crazy.”
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Your second album ‘Liquid Skin’ enjoyed similar success in the charts but it all seemed to go wrong in the UK after your fourth album ‘Split The Difference’ in 2004. What happened?
“By then people were actively gunning for us so were just like ‘fuck it’. It was a classic case of you walk a tightrope and you eventually fall off the wrong side of it. So we left our label and just went to America which was great because we ended up scoring our biggest album over there on our fifth record (‘How We Operate’) which is a record no one in Britain has ever fucking heard of. It was a case of, ‘If you don’t want us, we won’t stick around. We’ll just fuck off’.”
Gomez’s remaining ‘Bring It On’ UK tour dates are:
5 May – LONDON, O2 Kentish Town Forum
6 May – CAMBRIDGE, Corn Exchange
7 May – LIVERPOOL, O2 Academy
8 May – GLASGOW, Barrowland