British exports Gomez looking for U.S. success

You may not be aware of if it, but if you regularly watch television or movies, chances are you’ve already become causally acquainted with the British quintet Gomez. Gomez is made up of Ben Ottewell (vocals, guitar), Tom Gray (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ian Ball (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Olly Peacock (drums) and Paul Blackburn (bass, guitar).

According to Ottewell, one of three lead vocalists for the band, the trouble with British bands trying to get to America, not unlike the struggle for bands everywhere, is trying to get exposure in the first place. The most direct exposure for the band comes from their cover of “Getting Better” that was used in a Phillips television commercial. In addition, they’ve had songs leased to movie soundtracks, including American Beauty, Gone in 60 Seconds and Playing By Heart.

Now, there is a strong sense of anticipation: When will Gomez finally be able to properly stretch their legs in America?

When asked if they felt that they had been sold short by these less than fully representative songs as the band’s first impression in America, Ottewell said, “Put it this way, probably no one would’ve heard us if it weren’t for doing things like that. Doing the advert was maybe a kind of regrettable decision in a lot of ways, but it ultimately has helped us to get across.”

So how does the band plan on going about truly breaking in America? “We just need to play there. It’s very hard for a band like us to get on the radio; we have to go through the roots.”

With his textured, gently granular voice, Ottewell is the most unmistakable of the three frontmen, who is heard taking the lead on the cover of “Getting Better.”

They have always set themselves apart by not adhering to formulaic presets. Their style can be simultaneously erratic and meticulous in varying shades. They are best known for lining much of their catalog with a bluesy heart and a strong pop rock backbone.

“That is just the way it happens when you get five creative people together. We’ve never considered ourselves as blending genres; that’s not what we set out to do. We don’t really say, ‘Oh, OK, we could really use a blues riff here or a jazz beat here,’ it just doesn’t really work that way.”

Regardless of the uncommon element of using three lead vocalists, Gomez has established a signature sound that cannot be properly relayed within a few terms or cited as borrowing from their influences.

To date, Gomez has released three studio records, including the 2002 release In Our Gun and 1999’s Liquid Skin in addition to the 2000 release of Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline, a compilation of B-sides. However, the defining work remains the band’s first release in 1998, Bring It On.

With the release of Bring It On followed a storm of critical acclaim. The band found themselves surrounded by titles, including “Best Newcomer” and “Best Album of the Year” by magazines like NME and Q, as well as being named the recipients of the prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 1998.

In spite of the gravity of the critical success of the record, Ottewell reflects unexpectedly with slightly self-deprecating humor on the production process of Bring It On. “It sounds shitty because the instruments were a bit shitty and the place where we recorded it was a bit shitty. We were really surprised when it took off.” Despite this account, they were able to get sound results from unexpected places with simple means met with raw innovation rather than technology.

Who: Gomez

Where: Birdy’s, 2131 E. 71st St., 254-8971

When: Monday, Jan. 26

Tickets: $17.50 at the door or through Ticketmaster, 239-5151


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