After their killer set at UCLA’s Kerckhoff Grand Salon this past Thursday, I met up with Young the Giant to ask them a few questions. This five piece band is comprised of Sameer Gadhia (vocals), Jacob Tilley (guitar), Eric Cannata (guitar), Payam Doostzadeh (bass), and Francois Comtois (drums). If you’re thinking those names sound sort of crazy, you’re right. These guys are like a United Colors of Benetton ad: they cover a range of ethnicities, don’t look like carbon copies of each other, and were all smiles. Their music is as diverse as their background; it’s a mix of velvety Chris Martin-esque vocals over upbeat, exciting rock rifts and plenty of melody to go around. And, to top it off, these were some genuinely nice, interesting, smart, talented, and funny blokes. That’s a lot of adjectives (and one British word), and I mean every one of them. (Unfortunately, Payam was unable to stick around for the interview–he had to pack up the merch table. However, the rest of the guys filled in for him.)
Claire Gallagher: Where are you guys all from? What nationalities are you? It’s known that you’re a pretty multicultural group.
Sameer Gadhia: I’m East Indian.
Francois Comtois: Michigan!
SG: [laughs] No, but I’m from Michigan.
FC: I’m French Canadian
Eric Cannata: I’m an Italian Jew
Jake Tilley: And I’m English. [pauses] And I’m Payam from Los Angeles! Represent!
CG: Woah, that’s a broad spectrum. So where did you guys all meet?
SG: We all met in high school, started playing music together on the local scene, just for fun.
CG: Where at?
SG: In Irvine. Most people just played music to have a good time on the weekends; we never thought we’d be doing it full time, and, now, here we are.
CG: Who/what are some of your biggest musical influences?
FC: We listen to a good deal of Radiohead. Umm, when we first started playing together we were–I mean we still love The Strokes–but that’s one of the earlier influences for us. We always tried to keep the energy that they were able to bring to the stage, I guess.
SG: That was a focal point for our music.
FC: We listen to a lot of stuff, and I don’t know that any of it is, like, super influential, but just the fact that we do listen to so much, it all finds a way into our writing style.
SG: We’re really into like…something with rhythm, like R&B and hip-hop, anything like that.
JT: And mixing something like that and alternative rock music.
CG: Any influences outside of music? People, art, literature, film?
SG: Definitely literature, at times. Photography is cinematic, I guess. Sequentially, you can be motivated or inspired by film–just be like ‘wow, that was f****** beautiful and I’m gonna write something about it.’
CG: Anything in particular?
SG: Um, nothing…like, I don’t think anything consciously came from watching like, FernGully, but…[laughs]
FC: Ya, lots of FernGully influences…
SG: Fantastic Mr. Fox. Actually, our producer–we went back into the studio on a Monday morning and he was like, ‘What did you guys do last Friday night?”
JT: No, no, no, it wasn’t last Friday, cause we worked on Saturday. We had one day off a week when we were recording, which was Sunday. [Our producer] Joe has a fancy life, and we were living–[pauses] It’s true!–we were living in L.A., and we were kinda broke and didn’t do too much and we watched–
FC: I just remember watching Fantastic Mr. Fox together–all of us–and were just kinda looked at each other and were like…alright…
JT: Alright! [laughs]
FC: Well cause we spent all our time together in the studio and so you’d imagine that we’d go out, but we just went home and watched movies.
CG: It’s a cool movie though!
All: Ya, totally! It’s a great movie!
CG: So what bands do you think you sound like, if any?
EC: Um, I think we have energy kinda like The Strokes, like I was saying.
JT: We’ve been listening to the new My Morning Jacket album a lot when we recorded, so..
FC:It’s kinda hard to say, you know because to us, it’s our music style, but to other people, like, some have said My Morning Jacket.
SG: I’ve heard The Walkmen, but that’s very far reaching, a stretch maybe.
EC: I think we have like a…most of our songs are mellow but they’re really pop influence, I guess. A lot of melody.
SG: Motown, oldschool.
JT: Some throwback.
CG: Any particularly incongruent comparisons? Like, people said you sound like someone and you think, ‘what?’
JT: Someone said the Jonas Brothers to me not so long ago…
SG: The thing is that we never know. When you write music, you’re so detached from what people think about it. People say Maroon 5 sometimes? I don’t know, we used to get that a lot earlier.
EC: People told us we sound like Crystal Skulls. I still haven’t listened to them but we on tour with a band called Everest and Everest and Minus the Bear told us we sound a lot like a band called Crystal Skulls.
SG: People have said Morrisey before.
CG: So if you weren’t playing music right now what do you think you’d be doing?
FC: Working out. [laughs]
JT:What we were gonna do after school I guess cause we’d be graduating at this time.
EC: Just trying to figure out my life [laughs]
CG: So what did you guys want to be as a kid?
SG: I didn’t really have anything set, maybe be an architect…but it switched off like every three weeks.
FC: I really wanted to be an archaeologist…I really want to do cooking now.
EC: I was into drawing and painting before I picked up a guitar and then once I picked up a guitar it just got a hold, but I guess I just wanted to do art before.
JT: I think I just wanted to play music, initially. I always had some sort of love for it.
CG: What has been a personal high and a personal low of your guys’ music career so far?
FC: Well we’ve had opportunities to open for good acts–big acts–that we wouldn’t have otherwise had a chance to play.
CG: Ya, you guys had mentioned Minus the Bear?
FC: Ya, we said Minus the Bear and doing that was great as far as something to draw on.
EC: We did Kings of Leon.
FC: Ya, we did Kings of Leon a couple years ago. We just did one show where we opened for them. All those were a lot of fun. But as for low points, I guess its just the shows where you go and you’ve been driving for 10 hours and there are, like, 10 people in the audience
EC: Or when the van just breaks down and you’re like ‘what the hell.’
FC: Ya! We were driving to Boston from Orange County and our transmission just crapped out when we were in Lincoln, Nebraska. We had to rebuild our transmission and then just do a marathon drive to Boston–like thirty-something hours.
SG: Ya, but then our low points end up being some of the most memorable times.
EC: We haven’t been touring very long, but going from playing a theater where there’s a lot of people, and you don’t really–well, you can connect with them if you go and talk to them after or something–but with the smaller shows I feel like the audience is right there, you know?
FC: And there’s not a backstage where you go running to.
CG: That was definitely the the vibe tonight, I feel. Do you guys consciously think about that connection with the crowd?
FC: I don’t think it’s so much conscious…but we’re so comfortable playing with each one another that it just ends up showing and I think people feed off of that. And when there are enough people and if they’re diggin’ it then it ends up just sorta being a big party…which is the best thing ever.
CG: That’s awesome. So, final question: what’s next?
JT: We’re heading to Detroit tomorrow to start a tour with Neon Trees in the Midwest and in December we’re resting. After New Years we’re touring and pushing the album to radio.
EC: Going to the U.K., I think…
SG: London, doing a full European tour hopefully in spring, and some festivals hopefully.
CG: Maybe make a debut at Coachella 2011?
All: That’d be great!
JT: Finger’s crossed!
SG: That’s one of our big goals cause those are all great California bands.
FC: [sighs] I love Coachella.
CG: Any albums or EPs coming out?
EC: Our album was just released officially on October 26th so it’s on iTunes right now. The idea is to try and build some hype for that and we’re gonna try and have a big release in January with, like, a physical release. Right now we only have physical album copies on tour but we’ll be pushing it to stores.
SG: And we’ll have vinyls soon too!
Beyond Young the Giant’s stellar sound, their lyrics have a certain brutal but beautiful honesty to them, and, talking to them, it makes sense. Be sure to check out their new self-titled album, Young the Giant, or head out to catch them on their Midwestern tour! You won’t regret it, promise.
And here are some super-awesome tour dates!
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