Mix equal parts psychedelic Brit-pop with one cup of Kid A-inspired electronica and top off with two heaping spoonfuls of jam-band improvisation. Serve to critical and fan praise with a side dish of radio-station and record-label apathy.
Over the course of four proper albums, a few EPs and one b-side compilation, the Gomez recipe brought the band instant recognition (their debut album, Bring It On, won the U.K.'s grandest prize, the Mercury Award) while their tireless touring ethic has earned them a sizeable following in both America and Europe.
The monkey on Gomez' back has been the inability to categorize their rootsy, psychedelic music, which meant their record label was stumped on how to market them to any sort of mass audience. Out of frustration, Gomez asked Virgin Records to release them from their contract in the midst of supporting their latest album, Split the Difference.
"It's the oldest, most clichéd story in the book," says guitarist-vocalist Ian Ball. "We were very relieved, 'cause we actually owed them one more record and we asked them to just let us go."
Ball says his reasoning to the label was, "We don't know any of you because you fired everyone we knew."
Ball, vocalists-guitarists Tom Gray and Ben Ottewell, bassist Paul Blackburn and drummer Olly Peacock are now free agents. It's a position they're comfortable with.
"It's good," Ball says, "because we realized the record company wasn't going to help us, so now we can actually make money and not lose any money."
Gomez' dedication to the road has had many benefits, including adoption by the rabid jam-band community and an invite to play the 2004 Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, which ranks next to Coachella as one of the country's top music orgies. Gomez' set was one of the most talked-about performances on music blogs and among acid freaks trolling the festival grounds.
Based on that set, fellow Bonnaroo performers Gov't Mule asked Gomez to join them on tour. Ball recalls the shows like a scene out of This is Spinal Tap, in which instruments seemed to go way past 11.
"Hilariously loud amplifiers on that stage!" he says. "I literally turned on the guitar to the smallest number I could and it sounded like the fucking walls exploded on me. Great fun!"
With the band now on break, Ball is enjoying the numerous taco stands of his adopted city of L.A. His bandmates remain in England, but they'll reconvene for a small West Coast tour in January that kicks off with a two-night residency at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.
"A plan of ours, which is finally coming to fruition, is to record a live DVD and album," says Ball. "We are going to shoot it at the Fillmore in San Francisco following the gigs in San Diego and L.A. In San Diego, we're just going to use it as a fabulous experiment to just try out loads of stuff and see what we can do. Both nights are going to be pretty different from each other."
Gomez plays at the Belly Up Tavern, 9:15 p.m. on Jan. 14 (w/ Patrick Park) and Jan. 15 (w/ West Indian Girl). $20 per night. 858-481-8140.