Earlier this afternoon we shared a sneak preview from Gym Class Heroes‘ VH1 Unplugged taping, where they were joined by their longtime collaborator and Fall Out Boy lead singer Patrick Stump for a stripped down version of their smash hit “Stereo Hearts.” Stump, although filling in on the song, felt right at home. “Gym Class is a band I am more directly involved with than any other band except for Fall Out Boy,” he told us before the show, laughing that “the shortest call in the world” was all it took to get him there.
As Stump tells it, Gym Class Heroes first caught his attention with a shout out on an early demo of the 2004 time-capsule “Taxi Driver.” “We were super tickled by it,” he explains. “Unfortunately, it is very rare that something makes you sit up and be like, ‘Wow, this is great!’ And I was in the van and I was like, Pete [Wentz], listen to this, this is really good. And so he took it and ran with it, and before we knew it they were singed.”
The honor, though, he insists is mutual. “You have no idea how much they made themselves and how awesome it is to watch them,” he told us, making sure to point out that this will be his first Unplugged appearance with be with them and not his own Fall Out Boy. “I get to be a fan that has the best seat in the house.”
Before the tapping, we caught up with Stump to get the scoop on his work with Gym Class Heroes, his impressions (musical and otherwise), and what comes next:
On growing together:
- As Stump sees it, he is as indebted to Gym Class Heroes for the lessons they taught him in producing and mentoring as they are to him for helping set their track to fame. “It was a very natural thing,” he says. “They were just family for us.”
“I look back on it now and I am like, aw, if we had planned it, that would have been awesome. That would have been a really good plan but we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, it was just that we found this demo, it was really good. We can’t take credit for them being really good, it was just really good. And also I had never produced anything really, I had done one record before I had done the Gym Class record and all of it came together naturally. Before we knew it, around Gym Class Heroes, I became a producer and Pete became a record label head and Travie became a superstar. It was very much like school.”
- Well, there wasn’t so much rehearsing this time. “I always do this! I always get over zealous and then a couple days before I am like, ‘I don’t know any of it,” he laughed. And so, save for the pre-show warm-up, Stump flew blind. “I pay a lot of attention to the material, so it’s not like any of these songs are new to me, but I never really pay attention to the words,” he said. Not that you would have ever known, just watching.
On filling in for Adam Levine:
- “It’s weird, I mean it’s cool. The temptation is to, because I do impressions, I always have since I was a little kid [breaks into his star impression of Will Farrell’s Harry Carey] and so the temptation is to impersonate Adam Levine. He has a very distinctive, very strong voice and he owns that song. [Bruno Mars] on “Billionaire” has a very distinctive voice, so it’s a challenge to find myself in it because I want to just do them, almost.
I don’t want to distract from the beauty of the original song. Ryan Tedder has this one note [on “The Fighter“] that is really high, and he has a very specific tonality to it that you need in that song. And so I am playing around trying to find my version of that because when I am that high I do a belt, and there is something softer about him. It’s a challenge.”
On his favorite Gym Class Heroes song:
- “I love “Clothes Off,” it was always a fun one and Travie just nailed it. We were just messing around, that was the first time I had ever been in New York by myself, not with the band, I came out to work on the record. That was the first song that came together and it just happened, and I remember thinking, ‘This is a job? This is just fun!’ When you make art, you get really invested in it. When art happens by accident and you were just along for the ride? It’s way more fun.”
Regarding that blog post:
- “I never quit,” he explains. “I was just surprised.”
“The only thing I was trying to get at is that it is weird, uncharted territory. It is the wild west,” he says, referring to the impact of a fast and easy online discourse. “Record reviews have gotten way more personal and way more scathing and way less about, ‘Do I like this song? Do I like this part of their career?’ It’s more, ‘f*** this guy.’”
And up next? Stump isn’t working on any new solo material right now, but says he is keeping busy with writing and producing and mentoring:
- “I think I am in a new place in my life where I am not the youngest dude in the room anymore. Now I can give advice with some qualification, I actually know what I am doing. So that’s been fun, I’ve been producing stuff but I feel like less of a producer and more of a mentor, which is pretty rad.”
And so who will be his next Gym Class Heroes? He won’t say:
- “The thing I’ve learned is that you can’t count anyone out … That’s the secret, literally: everyone!”
VH1 Unplugged: Gym Class Heroes will make its online premiere this Thursday, July 12, at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. You’ll be able to catch it on VH1 that night at 12 a.m. ET/PT.