While I’ll admit I’ve daydreamed my way through more than one opening act’s set (and even Blackberried my way through a couple of awful ones), Young the Giant’s performance opening for Minus the Bear at the Mayan Club back in May was so energetic and entertaining, I don’t know how anyone could have focused on anything but the stage. The five young artists from California recently spent time in the studio with acclaimed producer Joe Chiccarelli (My Morning Jacket, The Shins) to create their debut album, which will be released digitally on Roadrunner Records in October, and the group will be on tour with Marina and the Diamond throughout the month of September. If you get a chance to head out to one of those shows, I suggest you arrive on time because Young the Giant may be one of the opening bands, but they put on a headliner-worthy performance.
LA Music Blog recently had a chance to talk to Young the Giant frontman, Sameer Gadhia, about the band’s upcoming album, working with producer Joe Chiccarelli, and how the indie rockers ended up on a metal label.
Photo by: Alexander Shahmiri
The first time I saw Young the Giant live was when you were on tour with Minus the Bear. What was that tour like?
It was a learning experience for us. It was our first big national tour. We had done a lot of west coast things, and then we’d spent a lot of time in the studio. It was fast chops learning for us, being able to perform under fatigue, going to a different state every night, playing 10 or 11 shows in succession, and then having one day of break just to drive to the next state that was really far away. I think we just learned how to keep chugging on, how to be road warriors, and stay strong on the road. You just have to really stick to your guns and go with what you got.
How do you keep a band motivated to really pull out all the stops every night?
I think for us, we’re young guys and we haven’t been doing this for too long, so I think there wasn’t too much that really needed to be done. We’d be tired most definitely after the show, but I think we were strong and I don’t think we let anyone see our fatigue. I think just being able to play at these huge theaters with sizable audiences, for whom which we’d never played before, being able to play to almost 1,000 people in a night just in itself is the biggest adrenaline rush.
Minus the Bear’s fans were very, very supportive and really welcoming and warm to us, so we didn’t really have any weird hiccups in terms of the show. I think we always took really good experiences and memories from those shows, and I think the night before was what really motivated us for the next night, to beat that night or to have a night that was as good as that, or meeting that many people, or getting people to listen to our music that haven’t listened to it before.
Photo by: Alexander Shahmiri
You guys were originally known as The Jakes. What spawned the change to Young the Giant?
I think it had a lot to do with the fact that The Jakes existed as a band before this current lineup, before “Shake My Hand” and the songs that people know us under. Jake and I were original members of the band called The Jakes that existed just as a garage band when we were in high school. It wasn’t until we went to college that we really started taking it a little bit more seriously and just being a little bit older and able to write some sort of sustaining material. So this current lineup was the lineup that wrote “Shake My Hand,” and I think we wanted to all be under a name that we felt equally a part of because the majority of the members, three guys, were not with the band at the beginning.
We’ve all been friends since early high school, and we’ve all played music with one another with different bands and projects, but The Jakes had a completely different meaning, so to be able to find inspiration from a moniker and translate that into creative writing was kind of tough for the guys. Sometimes they’d find themselves saying, “I have this cool idea, but I don’t know if it could be a Jakes’ song.” We had had that concept of what The Jakes were from when we were 16 years old, and we didn’t want to feel limited to that. I think that’s why we made that step to Young the Giant. Not necessarily that we had specifically honed in on Young the Giant at that point, but it’s just that we felt like we needed a change, something different.
You guys worked with Joe Chiccarelli to produce your upcoming album. What was it like working with him considering his background and everybody that he’s worked with in the past?
It was great. It was an amazing learning experience, like touring with Minus the Bear was except in a very different way. He really had a vision for us and an old-school approach to how we should go about recording the CD. We did everything live track, which was great for us because we didn’t know that in the beginning, so pre-production was a little tough. We just practiced the songs over and over and over and over again. We had been in writing mode and not necessarily in mastering mode, and we would just skip from one song to another.
Pre-production was the first time that we chopped everything up bit by bit. It was like, “We’re gonna be doing this live.” It’s not like we can erase it once it’s put down there in the mix. It’s hard to change that, so I think that idea of solidity and the feeling of being able to do it the old-school way was really great for us and a big motivational tool. Joe in general is such a wise guy, and he’s worked with some amazing, brilliant artists. We really did trust him and his decisions, and we feel like his vision was not far from ours for the album.
Photo by: Alexander Shahmiri
How do you feel that recording live affected the final sound of the album?
I think when people listen to the album, they’ll realize that while it is a production, and it is a CD, there is a band behind it and you can hear that band playing. It’s not far removed from our live show. We didn’t ever want to put something out there that is impossible to reproduced live, and I think we stick to the integrity of being a five-piece band, which is really refreshing for us.
Nowadays, there are so many advances in technology, and in some ways it’s enhanced songwriting because a lot of songs are ideas based on a new recording innovation. Separate tracking really did change a lot of things, so I’m not discounting that at all, but I think [recording live] was great for us as we’ve always stuck with the idea of being a live band. We didn’t really want to stray far away from that, so I think that is what it really brings to the album.
How do you feel the band members’ diverse backgrounds are reflected in Young the Giant’s music?
I think it really does subconsciously make a bit of a difference. I’ve been around a lot of Indian classical. My sister is an amazing singer, and my mom and my dad’s mother used to sing, so Indian classical is something that I grew up listening to. Even though I started getting into different American styles early on, I still had that influence in the back of my head, so when I’d start writing, some of the melodies would twirl along that axis.
We’ve been playing together now for a couple years, and for the last two years we’ve been fortunate enough to have it be the thing that we do all the time. We’ve been living together for the last two years, and more than just our ethnic backgrounds, I think our personalities now have come into the songwriting. The songwriting is a lot more intimate than “Shake My Hand”, which could be construed as more eclectic because we were all in separate colleges at the time. This album isn’t eclectic. It’s more fused, and I think you can see the combination of everything together.
What can people expect from the upcoming release?
I think when people hear “My Body,” they assume that the album is all gonna sound like “My Body.” I think listeners will most definitely be able to feel the “My Body” vibe throughout the album, but they’ll also be able to listen to parts and personalities of our writing that I don’t think have ever been released before. “Shake My Hand” was two years ago, and we’ve spent over a year and a half writing now. “My Body” was just a small part of that time, and the rest of the time there were a lot of other things that were influencing us, a lot of other emotions and feelings.
Everything is along the same vein, but a little bit different. There are those arena-ready tracks, whatever that means, but there are also tracks that really represent intimate writing and I imagine being listened to on lo-fi speakers in a little room. We really wanted to provide a big expanse for the album and not have it be like the normal debut album from a major label artist, trying to do the same thing for every song. We wanted to take a more organic approach to the whole shape of the album.
Photo by: Alexander Shahmiri
The digital release is coming out in October. How many songs are going to be on the album total?
We are actually discussing that right now. [LAUGHS] I guess I’ll let you know later.
[LAUGHS] That’s fine. How many songs did you actually work on in the studio?
We cut 15 songs. From that we’d had a pool of about 30 songs, so we’ve been doing a lot of writing. Obviously all 15 are not going to be on there, but it’ll be somewhere hovering around the range of 11 to 12. It really depends on what we decide.
We had so much time to write that we still have pieces of writing that we didn’t feel fit this album, but could maybe fit the next album. I think people should expect in live shows even some other new songs that they’ve never heard before that aren’t printed out yet. We always want to be that one step ahead, always be writing, and always take pleasure in doing something new and different, not just playing the same tracks over and over again.
Young the Giant signed with Roadrunner Records. What made you choose them as the label that you wanted to work with?
It’s interesting because when we first heard word that Roadrunner was interested, we were like, “What do they want with us?” We’re not a heavy metal act, and I respect that music, but that’s not what we are. We met with a couple of the guys at the label that we’re now pretty close with and that have really helped us along the way, and it really did make a lot of sense. They were open to the vision that we wanted to create.
A lot of labels now don’t like taking risks, and that’s the reason the climate of music in general is the way it is, because labels were not able to quickly adapt to the fast-changing things that happen on the ground. I think it’s really commendable of Roadrunner to try and go somewhere completely left field. We really agreed with that notion. We were down to try something new.
Besides that, for the most part they are going to give us full musical control. They’re not going to make us tour with a metal act or anything like that. We’ve been on the road with Minus [the Bear], and we’re working strictly in the markets that we feel comfortable. If there’s crossover, then there’s crossover, but I think we just really enjoy the people there. They’re very passionate about us, and we’ve been getting attention there, which is good and rare. They’ve really helped us out.
Young the Giant Tour Dates with Marina and The Diamonds:
09/01 – The Paradise – Boston, MA
09/02 – Webster Hall – New York, NY
09/03 – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA
09/05 – The Wonder Bar – Asbury Park, NJ
09/06 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
09/08 – El Mocambo – Toronto, CA
09/09 – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
09/10 – Triple Rock – Minneapolis, MN
09/13 – The Crocodile – Seattle, WA
09/14 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR
09/15 – The Independent – San Francisco, CA
09/17 – El Rey Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
For more info on Young the Giant, check out: