Keep on Truckin'

Times may be tough for Gomez, but three nights at the Fillmore proves you can't keep a good British band down

Predictably, that's also when the troubles with Virgin really began -- a tale that countless bands over the last half-decade will find painfully recognizable. The label halved its global workforce around the time of In Our Gun's release, and among those cut were virtually all of Gomez's early supporters. Last spring, the situation came to a head when Virgin shuttered its U.K. subsidiary label Hut -- to which Gomez had been signed from day one -- the week that Split the Difference (a return to the more traditional, rootsy vibe of Bring It On) was released, and brought the band into the fold of the mother ship. Neither side knew the other even remotely, and the relationship quickly dissolved.

"We were like the awkward child of a broken marriage, you know?" Ball recalls with a laugh. "It was like, 'Oh God, you want him? Nah, I don't want him, you want him?' So we were like, 'Ahhh fuck it, just let us go.' And they did, it was that simple. They faxed a letter to our manager saying, 'If you sign here, it terminates your contract.' Bang. Full stop. No fucking 'Thanks for selling 2 million records, nice working with you,' it was just like, 'OK, that's that.'"

"I mean, a lot of the people who worked our stuff in the States were wonderful people," he continues, "but they actually had to do it on their own time and from their own heart because they weren't allowed to do it during office hours, they were supposed to be working on fucking Lenny Kravitz. So I'm not slagging off the individuals, just the concept of the corporation and how they treat people. Business is very liquid, and when the numbers don't add up, whoever owns the company starts wielding a wild ax."

Still, explains Ball, the members of Gomez were hardly sad about leaving -- after all, they didn't receive a dime in tour support from the label during the last four years of their tenure. Chuckling that his band is far too broke to front the expenses needed to start up its own venture, Ball says that Gomez is negotiating another record deal with a smaller label that the band trusts, and once that's in place the group will set about working on the next album. The singer/guitarist isn't too worried about that at the moment, though -- the band is preoccupied with digging through its catalog to meet the challenge of crafting different set lists for each of the three nights at the Fillmore; he promises there'll be acoustic tunes and material broken down to resemble a radio session, in addition to Gomez's renowned, expansive jams.

But in the backs of their minds, Ball and his optimistic compadres know that holding things together and pushing forward with the heavy-duty touring, as exhausting a road as it can be to travel, keeps the door slightly ajar for the possibility of long-term success.

"I was speaking to Jeff [Tweedy] from Wilco about that at some length when I met him a couple months ago," says Ball. "He's been on the road for fuck knows how long, for, like, 20 years if you go back to when Uncle Tupelo started, and then all this time later it finally all falls into place. That's scary that it can take so long, but it's great that it even happens at all. Wilco's the bright shining beacon to all bands that have been going and going and going and kinda treading water, and all of a sudden bingo, a stroke of magic occurs. It gives a band like us a little bit of hope."

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