a recognition standpoint, it's been an interesting ride," said
Gomez bassist/guitarist Paul Blackburn via cell phone after just arriving
in New Orleans, where the band was scheduled to perform as part of
the city's famous Jazz and Heritage Festival that evening. "We
started out and got some acclaim with our first album, and after that,
we kind of got whacked a bit."
the let down didn't come from the band, but from the label, which
didn't have the firepower to capitalize on Gomez's early success.
"A lot of people get a big push with every album, but we got
less and less," he said. "Virgin took everything (promotion-wise)
in house, so they wouldn't have to spend a lot on the record. It
made it difficult. For the last record, the label (Hut) closed down,
and Virgin didn't know what to do with us. They put us in the hands
of people that didn't sign us. It didn't work out."
But a funny
thing happened as all that was going on. For reasons unknown to
the band, Gomez caught the ear of the Jerry Garcia-worshipping tribe
known as the jam band crowd. Before they knew it, the band found
themselves with an entirely different group of fans, a fiercely
loyal lot that smelled of incense and stale pot.
the Jam Cruise this year down in Florida," Blackburn said proudly.
"We played Red Rocks with Gov't Mule headlining. It's cool.
I don't think we're a jam band, but it's nice that people from that
scene like what we're doing. We have a couple of songs where we
jam out. When we did that cruise thing, we wondered how it would
go down. We were the only band there that played four-minute songs.
What will they think? They enjoyed it."
that momentum, Gomez reentered the studio to record How We Operate,
the first studio release on their new label, ATO. No, the band didn't
give in to any jam-band tendencies. Instead, they stayed the course,
playing the same earthy, British-sounding folk rock that they're
known for outside of the hippy beltway.
than any other Gomez release since the debut, How We Operate
has a streamlined consistency that rings throughout its 12 tracks
of tweedy, mid-tempo rock. Blackburn points to the record's producer,
Gil Norton, who's worked with Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat
Word and Foo Fighters.
new label, we were starting out fresh," Blackburn said. "That
allowed us to make a number of changes. We had never worked with
a producer before, and it turned out for the best."
Norton's influence was felt in how he pulled the songs together
into a structured whole. "It was more in terms of making the
songs more cohesive, and making it something that would work better
as an album," he said, adding that while the record may have
a more commercial slant than previous releases, that was never the
plan. "Our only goal at the time was to get the record in the
best shape possible."
It's a goal
that also applies to their live show, which Blackburn said will
include a mix of tunes from the new album along with some chestnuts
from the Gomez catalog.
more seasoned now," he said, comparing the band to their earlier
years. "We figured out what it's like being away on the road,
getting drunk every night. We learned how to pace ourselves, and
realized it's better than waking up with a hangover every morning."
Published in The Omaha Reader May 10, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
the last record, the label (Hut) closed down, and Virgin didn't
know what to do with us. They put us in the hands of people
that didn't sign us. It didn't work out."