15 Years Ago: Gomez Blends Blues and Samples on ‘In Our Gun’
Gomez’s musical career began like a rocket launch. Within weeks of submitting demos to Virgin, the British band was on the radio. The eclectic quintet’s 1998 debut, Bring it On, won the Mercury Prize and went platinum in the group’s homeland. A sophomore disc, Liquid Skin, followed the next year and Gomez cleared the decks of its jammy fusions of alternative rock, blues, funk and folk with a rarities collection in 2000. All the while, the British press were torn between salivating over the group’s “next big thing” status and deciding when to begin the backlash.
Exhausted by the rampant touring, recording and promotion, the members of Gomez – Ian Ball (vocals, guitar), Ben Ottewell (vocals, guitar), Paul Blackburn (bass), Tom Gray (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Olly Peacock (drums, computers) – decided to take an extended vacation. When they reconvened in March 2001, each had new musical ideas for the band. One of them was to be more concise in the face of Gomez’s jam-band past.
“I very occasionally go back to our first two albums,” Gray told The Guardian. “There’s a tune on there that’s totally rocking and suddenly there’s this four-minute break in it. I think, ‘Why did we do that?’ We loved it then, but on this record everything doesn’t wander about so much.”
On the sessions for In Our Gun, the boys also set aside some of their Americana influences in favor of tinkering with newer technology. All five members became fascinated by samples and loops and other electronic touches that could bring some new sounds to Gomez. At the same time, the band members worked to integrate the approach into songs that had an R&B or a folk-rock feel, allowing the effects to wash over tried-and-true traditions.
“I think it probably comes out of the fact that we don’t look at a drum machine as a different thing, and we don't see harmonicas and trumpets and bass parts as any different from each other, we think they’re all the same,” Ball told Crud Magazine. “They’re all tools for making music. It’s not one thing is a retro thing and one thing is modern. They’re all the same. They all make sounds. You just have to manipulate them towards your own needs.”
Their needs sometimes leaned toward the political. Although In Our Gun was largely recorded within Batsford Manor in Stratford-on-Avon, the members were focused on what has happened in the United States’ 2000 election as well as the events of the new George W. Bush presidency. The album’s title track, for instance, references this era of American politics.
“It was written at the time of the U.S. election fiasco,” Ball told Billboard. “The main theme of it is shock that a country the size of America, a democracy, can basically fix an election and do it very blatantly. It was a farce but in the end I think the American people were just like, ‘Well, give us a president.'”
For the first time in the band’s run, Gomez self-produced the album, completing it with sessions at Abbey Road in London and Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios near Bath. In Our Gun was released internationally on March 18, 2002, hitting No. 8 on the U.K. charts, while going silver, and rising to No. 5 in Australia. An American release followed in April.
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