A Raw Superstar meets a Gym Class Hero
In the latest Superstar to Superstar, Raw's Jamaican Superstar, Kofi Kingston, talks to Gym Class Heroes' frontman, Travis McCoy. The band's fourth album, The Quilt, was released Tuesday on Fueled By Ramen/Decaydance Records. Get it on iTunes now.
Kofi Kingston: Hey, Travis. What's going on?
Travis McCoy: OK. How are you?
Kingston: Not too bad. Not too bad, at all. I just want to start off by saying I was very excited when I was told I'd be interviewing you because "Cupid's Chokehold" is one of my favorite songs.
McCoy: That's awesome. I appreciate that.
Kingston: Yeah, man. Yeah, man. Definitely pretty cool. So, I was born in Jamaica and it's greatly influenced who I am, both as a WWE Superstar and as a person. Can you tell the WWE Universe about where you grew up and how it influenced your music?
McCoy: I grew up in Upstate New York, and there really wasn't much of a music scene there. So we kind of drew influences from the music our parents listened to. We would take Greyhound buses to New York City to see what's going on with the underground hip-hop scene there. We grew up on a lake, so there really wasn't much to do but fish, play video games and make music like we did. I think that's what kind of shaped the sound we have today, which is a melding of a bunch of different stuff.
Kingston: Different styles, right. Now did you have any particular musicians that influenced your music?
McCoy: For sure. Hall & Oates. I'm a huge Hall & Oates fan. I actually have their faces tattooed on my hand. It's kind of extreme. (laughs) I was also really into a lot of '70s soul and '60s stuff. My dad was a bass player, so I heard a lot of it growing up around the household. My mom was kind of into Sade and Teena Marie and all that. There was a lot of soul in my house growing up.
Kingston: OK, true, true. Now, the question that everyone's been asking -- Gym Class Heroes is such a unique name. Exactly how did you all come up with that name?
McCoy: It's funny because there are no hidden agendas behind the name. We were playing a graduation party, and we needed a name for the flyer for our first show. We tossed a couple of names around. At first it was going to be Gym Class All-Stars, but that was a little too long. So we just went with Gym Class Heroes and it kind of stuck. There's no hidden meaning behind it. It's cool though because it's definitely a unique name but at the same time, I think if you see Gym Class Heroes written somewhere, you don't expect the type of music we play.
Kingston: Right. For sure. Speaking of your type of music, in a world that's flooded with popular music, what makes your group stand out in the music scene today?
McCoy: I think the fact that we definitely don't sacrifice or put on a mask or do anything to cater to one particular audience or one particular listener. We're four individuals who have a lot of similar tastes in music, but we also have a lot of different tastes in music, you know what I'm saying? Every day, all that comes into play. The medium is Gym Class Heroes. That's where we all meet and add each of our flavors to the boiling pot. I think that we never labeled ourselves as a certain type of music also kind of helps, set us apart from other bands. This is the type of music we make. I felt that as an artist you get bored. If Gym Class Heroes is this type of music, the next time around, the next record, we might say, "Hey, let's try something else." But then your fan base is like, "Wait a minute, you told us you were this!" So I'm glad we never kind of pigeonholed ourselves.
Kingston: Yeah, that's right. A lot of your music definitely covers a wide spectrum. That's cool. I know you all incorporate live instrumentation rather than the traditional hip-hop format. What made you want to do that? Was that something you've always done?
McCoy: Yeah, that's all we knew, basically. We were always instrumental, but we were also inspired by a lot of hip-hop. We didn't have a Music Production Center [MPC] or turntables or anything, so a lot of times, in some of the songs, we try to mimic with live instruments.
Kingston: Cool. Now you've all had a great deal of success lately. Is there a particular time or a particular event that gave you guys that great commercial push or put you really on the map?
McCoy: There were a series of events. "Cupid's Chokehold" was kind of a fluke. Nobody expected that song to be as big as it was. As we recorded it, it was like, "This is kind of special," but we didn't expect it to be as huge as it was. There were a couple of other elements to that.
There's a radio station in Milwaukee that we definitely owe a lot to for playing the record. They played it, and people started requesting it. Other radio stations started noticing that, and they started adding it. It was like a snowball effect almost.
It was almost out of control to the point where my boy, Pete[Wentz], of Fall Out Boy called and was like, "Yo, Kanye played your song in the middle of his set today." I was like, "What are you talking about?" I YouTubed it, and in the middle of his set, Kanye stopped his whole set and was like, "Yo, I'm over here with my driver, and I heard this song on the radio and my driver went to turn it up, so I figured I'd play it right now," and he put on "Cupid's Chokehold" and started doing a little dance to it.
Kingston: Wow! (laughs)
McCoy: Yeah, that was kind of a trip.
Kingston: That must have been pretty cool! Do you have any songs that you think might work for a WWE event?
McCoy: Right now we have a song called "I'm Home." It's on our new record. It has a crazy, crazy intro and it gets people pumped up. Then it drops into this crazy bassline groove. It would be the ultimate song to walk out to and devour your opponent.
Kingston: Right, right! (laughs) True, true. Your fifth album, The Quilt, is out now. Where does Gym Class Heroes plan to go from here?
McCoy: World domination, man! We've always just kind of had our eyes on the prize. As each year passes, I think our goals get higher and our expectations get higher and higher. We're just as hungry as we were four years ago, when we were unsigned, upstate, working three or four jobs, trying to make ends meet. I think it has us humbled and really grateful that we can do what we love to do and make a living.
Kingston: True, true. Well, I think that covers pretty much all of my questions. Do you have any final messages you want to give to the WWE fans who might not necessarily know about Gym Class Heroes? Something you want to say to them?
McCoy: Yeah, yeah -- get familiar. Get really familiar! (laughs)
Kingston: Yeah, man, because you're all around to come up!
McCoy: Indeed. Run for cover -- The Quilt comes out today, Sept. 9. Make sure you go get it. You'll enjoy it, I promise.
Kingston: All right, all right. Well, Travis, I appreciate you taking the time for this interview, and I'm sure the WWE fans will appreciate it, too.
McCoy: Yes, sir. Good luck to you, man.
Kingston: Thanks, bro, I appreciate it.
McCoy: Don't hurt 'em too hard.
Kingston: All right. (laughs)