Gomez - 'The Dullest Band on the Planet!'

It's too early for Gomez's Ben Ottewell to be talking about the band's latest record or their imminent appearance at Splendour In The Grass.


"It's 8am in Brighton," he muses. "But my twin boys have had me up for a while, so we'll see how we go."


Baby boys and bands keep the gravelly-voiced Ottewell very occupied.


He released his first solo record, Shapes and Shadows, earlier this year and is now gearing to tour the world again with his bandmates to promote their seventh album, Whatever's On Your Mind.


"It has been a very busy year," he admits. "But, I'll be honest with you: records aren't selling. Simple as that.


"You can't put your feet up any more. You can't do idle life, you've got to keep working, keep moving. Keep creating. Which is fine, we love making music, but it's hard work. People don't tend to think it's that way, but it is."


Critics and music fans have rarely seen eye to eye when it has come to Gomez.


"But the critics can't shut up about that frickin' Mercury Prize!" Ottewell laughs, referring to the prestigious award they won in 1998 for Album of the Year. "I mean, it was what set us up, gave us the platform…"


It also paid for their houses, he acknowledges with a chuckle. But it was thirteen years and six albums ago.


"You would have thought they'd find something else to talk about by now, you know?" he says. "It would be nice for it to just be about the music, but the British press seem to always want that little bit extra."


I suggest to Ottewell that maybe the reason the press keeps coming back to the award is because it's hard to find dirt on Gomez: No dramas, crises, trips to rehab or supermodel girlfriends.


My theory strikes a chord.


"You're right!" he exclaims with a laugh. "You're right! We're the dullest band on the planet, we really are. I mean, we're musicians, you know. We play music and, for some people, particularly in England, that's not enough."


Like the band's 2002 release In Our Gun, which made the Australian Top 50, Whatever's On Your Mind is a self-produced record. And Ottewell likes it that way.


"The record has an energy, a spirit of fun that was there in the earlier records," he says excitedly. "And this one was certainly a lot easier than previous records, where we had a producer and certain things get dampened down, certain ideas took over a bit and… This record's just a lot more equal.


"The strongest thing about us is the creative thing. And to not conform. Not in a rock n roll non-conformist way – we're not the most rock n roll thing going around – but our music is certainly not conformist. We do our own thing."


Gomez has always been without formula, a fact which has sometimes confused people.


"You look at most bands, a lot of the great bands of the past, and they tend to end up with a formula," he says. "But it has always been kind of naturally equal with Gomez."


Whatever's On Your Mind certainly traverses acres of musical territory. From the indie-pop of album opener and first single, Options, the disc passes through late 70s rock balladry (Our Goodbye), electronica (The Place and the People) and punk (Equalize) to the stunning, expeditionary closing song, X-Rays.


"We've always been collaborative," Ottewell says. "We each have our own space, and that really comes through on this record."


Ottewell says he's looking forward to coming to Australia. (But they always say that, don't they?)


"No, really!" he insists. "The weather is good, the beaches are great, the food, the wine, the people…


"The rest of the world is kind of sunk in a recession, but you've got a kind of positivity that's missing elsewhere. It feels an optimistic place."


Gomez tour Australia in July-August, with an appearance at Splendour In The Grass. The new album, Whatever's On Your Mind is available now.

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