Gym Class Heroes Balancing Top 10 Success with McCoy's Health Problems
The members of Gym Class Heroes kept their day jobs at arm's length after releasing and promoting their 2008 album, "The Quilt." Drummer Matt McGinley graduated from Boston University last spring with an interdisciplinary-studies degree. Bassist Eric Roberts played on and off with his indie metal band, Willing Swords. Guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo spent quality time with his son at home. Perhaps as a result, the band looks fresh and ready to promote its new album, "The Papercut Chronicles II," due Nov. 15. The odd (and visibly exhausted) man out is lead vocalist Travie McCoy, who, frankly, appears to be badly in need of a nap and a monthlong stay at a resort with palm trees.
After all, McCoy, 30, used Gym Class Heroes' "time off" to become a solo star. Last summer he released his solo debut, "Lazurus," which boasted the aspirational jam "Billionaire." With the assistance of breakout crooner Bruno Mars, the cut peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and solidified McCoy's place as a standalone act.
"It was just one big fucking menagerie of work," he says. "During the 'Lazurus' cycle, we were already writing songs for 'The Papercut Chronicles II.' So for me, it's been pretty much nonstop since 'The Quilt.'"
In addition to the workload, McCoy is suffering from a stomach virus. But while he admits a time-out might've been a good idea, he says he just couldn't resist performing. "It's a weird situation," he says. "Because when I'm off the road for too long, that urge to play shows kicks in."
So, as he sat last month with his relatively bright-eyed bandmates in the conference room at their label, Fueled by Ramen, the question looms: Is he physically fit for the road? "Oh . . . no," McCoy says with a laugh. "I've been to the hospital twice."
Unfortunately for the frontman, things won't be slowing down for the Heroes any time soon. "Stereo Hearts," the group's bubbly, bass-knocking new single featuring Maroon 5's Adam Levine, is already platinum, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and currently rests at No. 5 on the Hot 100. A string of TV appearances to promote the new album-not to mention a huge gig at top 40 WHTZ (Z100) New York's Jingle Ball on Dec. 9 at Madison Square Garden-are also on the schedule.
All these engagements, of course, aim to drive record sales. Gym Class Heroes have yet to notch a platinum album, according to SoundScan. While "Stereo Hearts" is the band's second platinum single (2007 song "Cupid's Chokehold" was the first), 2007's "As Cruel as School Children" is the act's lone gold LP. Still, don't look for the group to switch up its style to pad its stats. "Chronicles II" is loaded with the heartfelt, goofball lyrics and rap-rock sound heard on previous releases. But, as seven-year veterans in the music business, Gym Class Heroes have grown. The hope is that the band will grow its fan base as well-without selling out.
"I don't think you need to be the poppiest, corniest band to sell records," McGinley says. "It's just about having a balance of stuff that stays true to ourselves, but also gets as many people into it as possible. We'll push certain songs to the radio, but this album is completely filled with songs that we're stoked about."
McCoy says the band's fans seem equally excited. "We took a chance [at a show] in Philly and played a new song, 'Matyrial Gir$,' and they ate it up," he says. "I got super-gassed and jumped into the crowd, and they were singing it back to me. I was [thinking], 'How do they know this shit already?'"
According to label president/CEO John Janick, Fueled by Ramen -- home to alt-rock powerhouse Paramore -- is confident about "Chronicles II" as well. "We think that there's at least three big hit singles on it and plan on working this album through next summer and beyond," he says. "We believe in Gym Class long term."
But music sales won't be the only way that the group rakes in revenue: The band is also capitalizing on the success of "Stereo Hearts" with a T-shirt that'll be available at Hot Topic the week of the album's release. "It's smart marketing," Janick says. "It's just more floor space and marketing for Gym Class Heroes. When you have this big single like 'Stereo Hearts' and you tie it into the merchandise, it does well."
Following his interview with Billboard, McCoy spent more time in the hospital due to the stomach bug, forcing the band to cancel its remaining tour dates with the Dirty Heads. But his bandmates are confident he'll be ready for the rigors of the road. McCoy recently proved that to be true when he appeared alongside Maroon 5 when the band appeared on the Nov. 5 episode of "Saturday Night Live."
"Usually when we put out a record, we like to tour for at least three, four years," McCoy says with a laugh. "If that's the case, I'll be 34, 35 when it's over-I think it'll be time to take a break."