Q&A with Travie McCoy from Gym Class Heroes

by Michael Jasik

Geneva native Travie McCoy performed on the Vans Warped Tour this summer on both coasts – in Mountain View, California, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The closest he came to the Finger Lakes was Albany, where he headlined the city’s Alive at Five concert on June 13. In May, the recording artist and cofounder of rap-rock band Gym Class Heroes met with me to discuss his new album, his favorite Finger Lakes foods, and fishing.

I hear you come back around Geneva every now and then. Do you still have family here?
A lot of my family is here. They’ve lived on Geneva Street since I was a kid. They should rename it McCoy Street. Geneva Street and Elm Street are McCoy territory. 

So Gym Class Heroes had the Never Ending Summer Tour last year, and you recently signed as a solo artist to DCD2 Records with Fall Out Boy and Panic at the Disco. What’s the latest with your music?
At the current moment, Gym Class Heroes is on kind of a hiatus. I’m not sure how long that will be, but last year was a great way to show our appreciation to fans with the Never Ending Summer Tour. It had been a while since we were active as a band, so it was amazing to go out with 311 and The Offspring, who we’ve always been inspired by, and see so many people singing along to our songs.

I’m excited to say that I have a new album coming out soon. It was recorded down in Nashville with my man Jarrad Kirtzstein, who worked with us on some Gym Class Heroes stuff back in the day. Matt McGinley from Gym Class Heroes also had a big hand in it. One of the first songs we worked on is called “Best Part of Revenge,” which will be released soon. A lot of these songs have tempos and textures that I’ve never played with before. It’s a very colorful, summertime body of work. I hope people enjoy it.

I read that you are a painter. Are you still active with that?
Ya, man! I went to art school in Utica, New York, at Pratt MWP College of Art and Design. I started out as a Fine Arts major, but I was like, “Okay, I can either be a starving artist or an art teacher – forget it, I’m gonna be a rock star!” I changed my major to illustration which was a little more focused on what I was into and it’s something I still do today. Actually, my hands are disgusting right now. I’ve been painting for the past two days. I am working on a couple of vinyl pieces for the Five Points Festival in Brooklyn. The festival is put on by my friends in Beacon, New York, who own a gallery and run Clutter Magazine. This afternoon I’m heading up to Beacon to work with Ron English, one of my favorite artists of all time. He has become kind of a mentor to me for painting over the past few years. We just started working on some collaborations which look crazy.

What are some of your favorite food eateries around the Finger Lakes?
When I was younger I worked a bunch of jobs while Gym Class Heroes was trying to find its legs. Matt McGinley was working at the Downtown Deli in Geneva while I was at the Boys & Girls Club and the tattoo shop. On my lunch break I’d go see Matt and get a sandwich called the Balboa. I’m a vegetarian now but at the time I was still a carnivore. The Balboa is basically steamed roast beef with swiss cheese and tons of garlic butter. It was the most disgusting but satisfying thing you could ever have. I dream about the Balboa to this day. The owner was actually nice enough to give Matt and me our own sandwich called the Gym Class Hero. It was on focaccia bread with hummus, provolone cheese, pesto, and alfalfa sprouts. It was amazing. Downtown Deli, I miss ya, rest in peace.

We miss Downtown Deli in Geneva for sure, but the Seneca Falls location is still open and they have the Balboa. 
Oh, man. I’m gonna have to make a trip up there just for that! And to see family of course.

Do you have a favorite Finger Lakes beverage?
That’s easy. I was never a big beer drinker but at some point I got put on to Apricot Wheat from Ithaca Beer Company. If I do indulge in a drink, that’s usually it. When Jellybeans Restaurant was open in Geneva, I’d drink it by the pitcher. Gym Class Heroes played gigs there and we used to get paid in pitchers of Apricot Wheat. They had huge chicken wings back in the day, too! Big, old, mutant-ass, GMO-pumped, with all kinds of testosterone wings. It wasn’t even chicken, they were like Pterodactyl wings.

What is your favorite outdoor activity to do around the Finger Lakes?
Probably fishing with my Dad. I grew up fishing in the canal at Seneca Lake State Park. We also went to the creek in Gulvin Park, which is kind of a hidden spot we used to fish out of all the time. There were times when my dad would pull like 60-70 bullhead out of there. Decent size bullhead. 

What is one of the best kept secrets in the Finger Lakes?
I think this will probably only resonate with kids that graduated in my class or a couple of years after, but my friends and I used to take “special trips” out to the country. There’s a farm out past Walmart where we used to pull up and park. The cows would literally line up at the gates and just stare at us. We used to sit there and be like, “Wow, there’s some kind of cosmic synergy here. I’m not sure what they’re trying to convey to us. Maybe like, ‘Get us out of here!’” It was something special, especially after “medicating,” if you will. (laughing) We used to call it, “The Route,” and at the end of the route there was this farm. The cows would just be like, “Please. Get us out of here.” Looking back, I kind of wish we could have done something to help them, but I felt like it was more cosmic than that. It’s like they were saying, “Hey, we know what you’re doing and we hope you’re enjoying yourselves.” And we were! We definitely were. Shout out to the cows on the outskirts of Geneva. I hope they’re still alive and well.

Another secret is the Route 5 & 20 underpass in Geneva. When we were kids, there was this myth that it was where the devil worshipers hung out. So we would take trips to the underpass to check it out but there was never anything under there. Actually, under that same underpass, somebody tagged the words, “Real Eyes Realize Real Lies.” I remember seeing that as a kid. It didn’t make sense until I was like 15 or 16, but I thought it was the most poetic thing I’d ever read. I just wanna give the biggest thank you to whoever wrote that because it still resonates with me today.

Michael Jasik’s lostflx.com website features Lost + Found, a series of short, standardized Q&A interviews with people associated with the Finger Lakes community. He sits down with the seekers, artisans, crafts people and enthusiasts of the region, searching for food and drink, entertainment, culture, nature – everything that makes the Finger Lakes great. You can also reach Michael through Instagram at @lostflx.

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