Gym Class Heroes release new album (Exclusive Interview)

Gym Class Heroes release new album
Interview by Michael Aaron Gallagher

Gym Class Heroes
Gym Class Heroes
With their hit radio single “Stereo Hearts” currently at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 music charts, Gym Class Heroes is tearing up the airwaves and proving that stardom doesn’t mean losing touch with your Central New York roots.

The alternative hip-hop group, hailing from Geneva, started to come together when rapper Travie McCoy met drummer Matt McGinley in gym class. Eventually, guitarist Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo would join the group, as the band went on to thrill crowds on the Vans Warped Tour.

As a graduate of Ithaca High School and a former student at Cornell University, Lumumba-Kasongo originally played with his own band, Earl’s Garage. Some of his favorite concert memories were playing on the weekends at the teen center in downtown Ithaca, the Youth Bureau and Castaways. On the local concert circuit, he crossed paths with the band he would later join.

“The first time I bumped into them was at a show we played together,” he said. “I felt like it was a horrible show. I think I threw my guitar or something drastic. Matt later told me after the show he came to say, ‘What’s up?’ to me and I was kinda like, ‘Whatever, man.'”

In 2004, when the band was starting to get serious about touring, he was asked to replace the guitar player Milo Bonacci (of the Syracuse indie rock band Ra Ra Riot), who wanted to pursue his education, according to Lumumba-Kasongo.

With so many bands out there trying to make it, being from a small city didn’t stop Gym Class Heroes from attracting attention in the music business. In fact, they were eventually discovered by Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy and signed to his record label.

“Attention basically just came because Gym Class was doing something unique and had fun live shows and was connecting with people,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things where we were moving people with our personality and the personality of our music.”

Featured in numerous magazines, including Spin and Rolling Stone, Gym Class Heroes has become a Central New York success story, inspiring other local musicians along the way.

“I often hear people say, ‘I want my band to get famous,’ or ‘I want to get big, how do I do that?’ Lumumba-Kasongo said. “And I think maybe you should change your focus to – how do you make a genuinely awesome product that will speak for itself, that people will want to be a part of in the first place, and then move from there.”

The guitarist recently talked about the group’s new album The Papercut Chronicles II, which will be available on Nov. 15. Hearkening back to their 2005 album, “The Papercut Chronicles,” their new record, “The Papercut Chronicles II” shares some similarities with its predecessor and gives fans a chance to experience how the group has evolved over the years, while staying true to their trademark style.

“As the title suggests, it’s a sequel to the original ‘Papercut Chronicles,’ which is the album that turned a lot of our fans on to us in the first place,” he said. “Musically and lyrically we revisited a lot of the themes from that album. … I think for the fans of the original ‘Papercut Chronicles’ what they will enjoy most are the little throwbacks to the album that you definitely won’t get if you haven’t heard the original album. I think that will help them feel like, ‘I’ve been a part of this since the beginning.'”

Despite the changes that the group has experienced over the years, Lumumba-Kasongo still lives in Central New York and is proud that they still maintain their ties to the area.

“Without the following that we had in Central New York and the support that we had, we wouldn’t be the same people and the band wouldn’t exist,” he said. “So thank you guys so much.”

Gym Class Heroes release new album
Copyright 2011 by Michael Aaron Gallagher
Photograph courtesy of Fueled by Ramen

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