Hailing from Irvine, California, Young The Giant, made up of Sameer Gadhia (vocals), Jacob Tilley (guitar), Eric Cannata (guitar/vocals), Payam Doostzadeh (bass) and Francois Comtois (drums/vocals), first met in high school where band the members played at local venues and contributed to their thriving local music scene. Since then, YTG released its very first album, Young The Giant (Roadrunner), and had the good fortune to work with music legend, Joe Chicarrelli (My Morning Jacket, the Shins). With a couple of outstanding sets at CMJ Music Marathon 2010, Young The Giant has proven itself, time and time again, to be comprised of a bunch of energetic live performers.
Despite the attention, Young The Giant seems to be taking the road to success one step at a time. Lead singer and YTG lyricist, Sameer Gadhia, explains what that’s been like so far.
One of the first things that struck me is that you’re such a diverse band, ethnically speaking. There’s some Indian, Persian and French thrown in there. How have your varying backgrounds influenced your music?
Although there is no deliberate funneling from our ethnic backgrounds (Middle Eastern bastardizations of Islamic prayer, or MIDI controlled tabla beats), I really believe the cultures that we represent and feel a part of have influenced the more subtle aspects of our writing. The narratives that enrich the driving forces of our descendants [and] the stories of our parents and how we were raised has much to do with the music we were weaned on; the lyrics and melodies that struck a chord with our old stories. Our backgrounds create a mesh of what makes us tick, and therefore provide stories for us to tell.
Young The Giant includes some pretty poetic lyrics. To what extent have you drawn from past experiences to create a lot of your songs?
For me, the lyrics process is a mix of conscious substance and nonsensical spontaneity. Sometimes the most heartfelt lyrics come directly from the subconscious without the need of thinking. Often, I start with one true phrase or line of a song. From there, I extend the phrase into a whole story; one that I might have been a part of, or perhaps one I imagined a fictional hero, or villain. Often, these stories tell of secret inhibitions and the desire to break from self-imposed walls. Sometimes they are just good old-fashioned love stories.
For your debut album you got to work with music legend Joe Chiccarelli, who has worked with greats like Tori Amos and the Strokes. What was it like working with someone with his amount of expertise?
At first it was scary and intimidating. We were criticized in ways we had never even thought of, and were constantly pushed to reach the next level. Looking back on it, none of us will ever forget the experiences we shared with Joe. He shaped us into better musicians, performers, and songwriters. It was also great fun hearing his stories about Bono, Jay-Z and Elton John. As Kanye says: “Bow in the presence of greatness.”
You’re signed to a metal-oriented label, but your sound is a far cry from Megadeath. Why did you pick these guys, and how’s that going for you so far?
We don’t believe in judging a book by its cover, especially if most of those other books with novelty names are just, well, a novelty. Roadrunner might be new to the game of alternative/indie (whatever that means) music, but they have a group very passionate and serious about our endeavor. They also have balls, and are willing to take risks. We respect that, in the light of an industry as manically anxious as a rampant gambler running from his bookie debts.
You’ve lived in a lot of different places. Did this inspire your music in any way?
We spent a full year writing the album. It was a very consuming process, and so naturally, our music was affected by the places we hung our hats at night. The songs we wrote at the beach, and the songs that harnessed the mentality of the beach (“Strings”, “12 Fingers,” etc.) are much lighter and more carefree, but are still drenched in a numbingly warm goo of foolishness in that carpe diem, How I Learned To Love The Bomb sort of way. We remember the times when we just sat at the beach, knowing the world was passing us by without a care, our brains cleaned with the splash of the surf. The times back in the suburbs of Irvine paint a more self-conscious, almost mournful and autumnal portrait of time (“Apartment,” “God Made Man,” “I Got”). Living in L.A. brought out the night in all of us (“My Body,” “St. Walker,” “Islands,” “Guns Out”).