Hurts So Good

After nine years of pop-punk heartache, the Gamits have the Antidote.

"I feel like the songs we write are the songs that I really want to hear," Fogal explains. "I kind of think of it as filling that void in my own record collection. I want to hear more mid-tempo, melodic rock songs that stick in your head, the kind that people years from now will hopefully still be able to listen to. Not too trendy, not too stuck in any one time frame. Our stuff is more melancholy now, less bubblegummy. Of course, the first thing the more punk-oriented fans say is, ŒWhy do you guys play so slow now?'"

"People keep throwing around the 'emo' word at almost every show," says Walker. "It's really weird. I guess we're just more streamlined, more subtle."

"I think the lyrics are the main thing that sets us apart from all the Blink-182s or whatever," chips in Swarers. "Everybody needs some good pop and rock, you know what I mean? But you don't want to hear every band singing about getting dumped at the prom."

Musician, heal thyself: Chris Fogal (from left), Scott 
Swarers and Jason Walker are the Gamits.
Musician, heal thyself: Chris Fogal (from left), Scott Swarers and Jason Walker are the Gamits.


2004 Westword Music Showcase, with Hemi Cuda, the Swayback and more, Saturday, June 26, 10 p.m., Serengeti, 1037 Broadway, $5, 303-534-0222

"I wish there were more pop-punk bands out there trying to do something original," Fogal sums up. "Not that I'm like Captain Original or anything, 'cause I'm not. But I think there was some intention on the new record to steer away from what most other bands were doing. It's still going to be pop and it's still going to be rock, but we're going to avoid all the shitty cliches. I read a review of our new album that said, 'It just seems like this band knows what not to do.' When it comes to pop, I think that's somewhat of an achievement. We don't want to fall into that cheesy crap-rock territory."

And yet, cheesy crap-rock territory is the soil in which the Gamits' sound was cultivated. When Fogal and Vanleuven -- friends since childhood who still work together running the popular recording studio 8 Houses Down -- first became infected by the rock virus in their early teens, they certainly weren't geeking out on the harmonic opulence of classic pop.

"We were raised on hard rock and shredding guitar styles," notes Fogal. "Me and Vanleuven were all about precision as kids. That's one of the good things about metal: It teaches you to play tight. But, yeah, I lived for that shit. I remember telling my dad about how stoked I was on this Testament record. I mean, I can hardly stand listening to Testament now, but I remember playing it for him and saying, 'Can you hear it? Can you hear what's going on?' I thought it was so cool."

But bad '80s metal is not the only white-trash pastime that Fogal has issues with. After fifteen minutes of sidestepping exactly how he messed up his back, he finally caves in and names the death-defying activity that sent his life into such a catastrophic downward spiral.

"Bowling," he says sheepishly. "But it was years of skateboarding, too, and bad posture and bad habits. It all just caught up with me. But the actual thing that did it was bowling, which is actually number one on the list of sports injuries in America, percentage-wise. A lot of people go through it; it's a huge problem in this country. It's a bunch of fat, out-of-shape men like myself standing crooked on one leg with a fifteen-pound weight in one hand. You're just begging for your disc to explode right out your back."

"I actually just heard this ad on the radio for a back doctor where there's this guy saying, 'Yeah, it's great. I can bowl again!'" teases Swarers. "And in the background, you can hear the pins and shit."

When asked if he realized the seriousness of his injury right away, Fogal replies, "It was mildly painful. I was drunk, though."

Be it booze or music, the guys in the Gamits, like everyone else, choose their own anesthetic. On the song "Bridges," Antidote's glumly strummed closer, Fogal distills into verse his band's struggles over the last decade as well as his own personal archive of cuts, scrapes, bruises and burns: "What's a year in life/Just some made up time/All in all I think I'll be just fine."

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