Interview: Gomez

Rob GarrattOne of the most inventive and successful British bands of the late-90s, Gomez's latest album has been hailed as a return to their roots - and to form. ROB GARRATT spoke to bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock.Further listening: GomezRob Garratt

One of the most inventive and successful British bands of the late-90s, Gomez's latest album has been hailed as a return to their roots - and to form. ROB GARRATT spoke to bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock.

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In 1998 Gomez were one of music's biggest success stories - going from ramshackle students making four track demos to Mercury Music Prize winners in just months, shifting a million copies of their debut along the way.

Bring It One was a revelation, it's airy acoustic feel, bluesy rhythms and lo-fi home-made production helping to pave the way for everyone from maudlin folkies like Iron and Wine to stripped-back rockers such as The White Stripes.

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It's follow-up Liquid Skin kept up a portion of the commercial momentum while exploring new territories, introducing its audience a more brave, uncompromising sound.

But since then the band have slowly slipped towards the edge of the radar, with subsequent albums, including a live set and a collection of b-sides, slipping by respectfully unnoticed.

Last year the band went back to the seeds of their success and played a tenth anniversary Bring It On tour, where they played the hit record in its entirety.

Bassist Paul Blackburn looks back on the tour without a hint of irony.

'It was great, it was really good fun.' He remembers. 'There's still a large fan base for the record and it was interesting going to all the same places again, it felt just like being there 10 or 11 years earlier.

'When we made that record it was something a bit refreshing, very much 'anything goes'. It was the same time as the 'low-fi' movement, but it was never intentional - we used what equipment we had.

'I think that's part of the appeal - at certain points music gets to be over produced and synthetic and we went against that.'

Gomez in 2009 are spread across two continents, with three of the five-piece scattered across as many different cities in America.

Drummer Olly Peacock is based in Brooklyn, New York. 'It wasn't really upping from our roots or us saying 'we have to live in the States',' he says, 'Over the course of time, because we tour so much over in the States, it was going to be pretty much eventual that we would meet our good friends and wives and that's what led to all three of us out there. We got married and our wives are American. Within the last year-and-a-half two of us have got married and three of us got kids. Ben had twins, which came as somewhat of a surprise, Ian had a kid and Tom as well.'

Tied to their respective cities with family commitments, their new album - notably named A New Tide - was painstakingly put together with an elaborate five-way email conversation.

'It was cool actually,' says Blackburn. 'We were all using Logic on the computer and it was a necessity more than anything. But it very liberating - in the studio you're rushed for time because it's very expensive and this way we could just mess around and throw ideas at it. You have time to really explore. People would send over anything from a whole song to a short idea and just see what everyone else thought.

'If you can all be together there's obviously something to be said for that, but it sometimes nice to have a bit of space and absorb it. With five musicians in a room in can get very chaotic - like going in a guitar shop and everyone playing something different.'

The new record has been hailed by critics as a return to the form, picking up rave reviews after several years of lukewarm apathy.

'The album's probably us looking to move into a new ground again,' says Peacock. 'It's a bit more experimental then the last two albums. There's some familiarity back to the first albums, just us playing around with some things. There's some stuff on there which will maybe confuse some people on the first listen, but after a few times people will hopefully understand what we're trying to do. We're definitely trying to push things forward somewhat.'

The main change that sets the second decade of Gomez from the first is the introduction of a producer - with their first three LPs entirely the work of the band, the last three have seen exterior forces coming in to help craft the work.

Blackburn said: 'At first it was interesting, we've always had full control before and it was unusual to let go. But each time we've worked with a producer it's worked really well and both sides have understood each other.

'As a result the last two records have had a lot more focus - previously we've made records that have been more a random mix of sounds - we would go into the studio and record and record songs and then in the end we would have 30 tracks and decide which ones go on the record.'

'We were just being a bunch of little brats,' echoes Peacock. 'It got to a point where it was nice to not think about all the little buttons and controls. It just means you have a bit more freedom and time to do what you want to be doing and also having an outside point of view to say 'that's crap, that's great'. It just gives you another dimension for making music.'

Blackburn seems more than content with the band latest release, rating in among their best, and promising plenty more to come.

He added: 'It's got a bit of blues and folk feel, it's got more experimentation and we've used soundscapes more. That's something we've always tried to experiment with. The aim has constancy been to try and create something new you've not heard before.

'I have high lights on different records…but I think the last two are best - I feel they're more accomplished.

'I think there's going to be more records. The immediate future is touring this album and there will be more solo albums I'm sure. But there's more Gomez albums to come too.'

t Gomez play the UEA on April 22.

t A New Tide is out now.

Further listening: Gomez