By Julie McMahonArts & Entertainment EditorTom WilderEditor-in-Chief
The Lamron sat down with Gym Class Hero Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo, an Ithaca, N.Y. native. After establishing the Upstate connecton prevalant in much of the Heroes' music, the interview began.
The Lamron: One of the lyrics in the song "7 Weeks" is "We carry Upstate on our backs." So first of all, how does where you come from affect your music, and is there some special meaning to coming to Upstate to perform?
Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo: It's really cool because Upstate - it's where we're from, where Gym Class started. And there's no specific Upstate scene. You have a few different things going on … I think all of those different music scenes have definitely helped lead into Gym Class Heroes and so there's no one specific sound. Basically all of our sound comes from whatever music we like. We don't really let ourselves be categorized by one specific genre. And so that's pretty much what Gym Class Heroes is all about.
Playing shows there - any time we get within the area of Buffalo, Rochester - even if it's not Ithaca or Geneva, we know we've got friends and family coming out to see us so it's awesome, especially when it's been a long tour.
The Lamron: So starting with how you guys came together - since you are all from areas around here, but your band formed over a couple of different stages, how did you get into playing the guitar, how did you end up in the band and what were you up to before then?
DLK: I started playing guitar in middle school; I stumbled upon my parents' acoustic guitar and just kind of fell in love with it. After that I was in a high school band called Earl's Garage and I was in that until college. I actually played a show with Gym Class Heroes at Planet 505 in Syracuse. That's how I met them originally. Then later on after Earl's Garage I started to play with a band called the Midnight Society, which is now called Soul. Then some time before Gym Class Heroes got signed, their lead guitarist was getting ready to head off to school. They remembered me from Syracuse and hit me up and asked me, so I was like, "Hell yeah."
The Lamron: So it was a quick decision? Right when they asked you were like, "Absolutely"?
DLK: Well, yeah that's the decision that went on in my head, but at the time I was in school at Cornell University and I think an education is important. But at the same time I was not happy being in school because all I wanted to do was make music. And so I'm not trying to weigh those things out but, I mean, given an opportunity like that to make music the rest of my life, there was no way I could pass that down. So in my head, I was like yeah I'm there, you know? But I didn't want to throw away my education, which I haven't. I can still go back any time, which is pretty cool.
The Lamron: So you've been in the band for about five years now and in 2007 you guys won an award for Best New Artist. Since you're relatively new, where do you see yourselves going in the future?
DLK: You know, lately I've been trying to think more about the present. But I do see that if we continue to make records consistently - music that we love - which is the plan, then you never really know what's going to happen in the future. But it's really inspiring to be on tour with bands like The Roots, for example, who put out album after album and are still developing and still doing what they love and still doing their own thing so I think it'd be awesome to be a band like that.
The Lamron: So more having to do with the present then, as far as concerts go and performing live, what is your favorite song to perform?
DLK: It changes all the time depending on the tour. We also like to mix stuff up a lot in terms of changing our sets around. But lately my favorite songs to perform live are "Cookie Jar" and "Live a Little." When a song comes on and it starts out real big and things just get crazy, I feel like a real rock star and it's really fun when everyone jumps around and it feels like a rock show.
The Lamron: Along those lines, what are you working on right now in terms of tours?
DLK: We just finished a college tour, which was awesome. It was the craziest schedule I've ever experienced, or at least one of them. And now we're doing shows here and there and working on writing and recording a new record for the next couple of months.
The Lamron: Do you have anything planned out yet for that new record? Any songs in mind?
DLK: Well, we've actually been staying in Ithaca and we already wrote out a bunch of demos. We also just shot a video for "Live a Little" and we're going to put that out soon on the Internet.
The Lamron: On a side note about what you are all doing right now, lead singer Travis [McCoy] has been really involved in the MTV Staying Alive charitable organization. Have you been up to anything like that too, and what do you feel are your responsibilities as an artist and also as a role model in the music industry?
DLK: It's really cool actually; I just went to a Staying Alive event last night. It was really intense just to be made aware of the seriousness of AIDS. Everybody knows it's a big deal but when you are sitting back there listening to the facts and looking at people and seeing how it affects people, you can't help but to want to change something. I'm really stoked that Travis has been doing that and I can't imagine how his travels have impacted him.
In terms of being a role model, I think people who start out being musicians don't necessarily want to be role models and a lot of people get put in that position. Because you have so much power in a sense, and people really listen to you. For me personally, I think that it's really important to use that power to help people positively. And whether that means being a part of an organization like Staying Alive or if it just means inspiring people to do what they want with their lives, I think it's an important thing on some level to try to inspire and help people.