INTERVIEW: Young the Giant

The Horn's Eli Watson was able to get an exclusive interview with up-and-coming rockers Young the Giant. They talked about the VMAs, their experience in Austin, and recording.

Young the Giant is not that young anymore. Having released their self-titled debut album back in January, the group has since performed all over the world, having made multiple stops in Austin for SXSW, ACL and a tour with legendary rock act Incubus. Taking time out of their busy schedule, I had the opportunity to talk with bassist Payam Doostzadeh and guitarist Jacob Tilley about the band’s success, the California culture they came from and their love for Austin.

Eli Watson: Your self-titled debut album was released back in January. Fast forward to 10 months later, and you guys have done Lollapalooza, ACL and now you’re on tour with Incubus. Did you expect the reception to be this positive and immediate?
Jacob Tilley: When we signed a record deal of course we were shooting for as high as we could get. But, I feel that there was a more organic growth to it. I am glad it’s done well.

Payam Doostzadeh: I think we are all kind of surprised by it.

Speaking of your tour with Incubus, how were you chosen to be the opening band?
PD: We kind of just got a call from management, and they said, “Incubus has offered their fall tour to you guys. Do you want to do it?” And we were like, “yeah we want to do it!” This was even before we had found out about our performance on MTV. We were on our way to Europe, and that is when we got the call and solidified things. Once our performance on MTV was done, we only had one day to rest, and then we started rehearsing for the Incubus tour in LA. It was a crazy weekend, but it was a lot of fun.

For your album you worked on with Joe Chicarelli, who’s known for working with some well-known artists. You guys also used live tracking for the first time. How was the recording process and working with Chicarelli?

That crowd was ridiculous, especially during “My Body.” It was a trip, and we definitely look back on it. We love Austin so much, and it’s good that our biggest concert to date now is ACL.

— Payam Doostzadeh, bassist

JT: Joe honestly recorded all of the records I had been consuming during the year and a half I was in college. Wincing the Night Away by The Shins was the soundtrack to my college experience, so finding myself dropping out of college eight months later and working with the guy was truly intimidating.

He has so much history under his belt and knowledge that took us awhile to catch up to. The live recording process was great for us, because it taught us how to play as a band, and I think we will continue to record that way. It is a polished record to some degree, but if you listen for it you can hear mess ups and things that did not go right. But, it really did help us grow as musicians which is why I think our live shows are better than our recordings. It was a learning experience, and I hope that with our next record we can bring a lot more to the table.

For “My Body,” you got Justin Francis to direct the video. How was it working with him considering all of the artists he has worked with?
PD: It was an interesting experience, because this was the first music video we had ever done. We had to wake up around four in the morning and drive from Malibu to Orange County, California. It was freezing cold, and we had to play the song 50 times over, and when we weren’t recording, we were just trying to keep warm (laughs). It was a fun experience though. I wasn’t able to see the narrative part of the video get filmed, but it was cool.

Irvine, California, where you guys hail from and California in general seem to birth good bands left and right. Does California or any of the bands that developed out of California influence your style of music?
JT: Well, prior to moving to California, I remember my favorite album being Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So, that was the only real knowledge of California that I had in my head.

California has a huge surf culture, so I was introduced to The Beach Boys, The Animals and The Doors. There is so much musical history from California. I love surf rock and the more mellow stuff, but California has a punk scene, a psychedelic rock scene and jazz scene. It is all over the music spectrum. So, I would say it does influence our stuff.

Yeah California has a bunch of really cool festivals, too.
PD: Yeah: There’s Coachella, Outside Lands Music Festival and the Monterey Jazz Festival.

California is a nice place to skate at as well. All of those smooth roads for longboarding are so much fun.
JT: Yeah, in Orange County, there are a bunch of construction sites with huge roads and no traffic, so you get a couple of buddies and some longboards, go down the road and then go back up, and next thing you know two and a half hours have passed. I have a scar on my knee from falling; I caught speed wobble and it basically took my knee cap off (laughs).

How was it performing at the VMAs, and were there any artists you were secretly rooting for?
JT: We were rooting for Foster the People definitely. We had played many of the same shows together and had become good friends. They are very nice guys and were nothing but kind to us.

I don’t think we were too nervous about our performance. I was nervous at the rehearsal, but once I had seen all of my friends at the dress rehearsal, it took the edge off of the anxiety I was feeling. I couldn’t see any of the celebrities during the performance, so it felt just like another show.

Yeah I know how you guys had a kind of contest where fans were able to join you onstage during your performance.
JT: Yeah it was like my brothers and friends that we grew up with in high school and all of the fans that have been to our shows and have put in the leg work to help us get to where we are now. It was a way of saying thank you I guess.

As mentioned before, you guys did ACL, and I love the live recording of your performance of “My Body,” because the audience sang the song from beginning to end with you guys. Considering Young the Giant is still a young band, how is seeing just a swarm of fans know your music by heart?
PD: It was so gnarly. As we were walking from our bus to the stage, it started pouring. All of us got soaked, and as we walked onstage and saw the crowd, we noticed that they were all soaked too. So, then we just started playing the music and it was great. That crowd was ridiculous, especially during “My Body.” It was a trip, and we definitely look back on it. We love Austin so much, and it’s good that our biggest concert to date now is ACL.

JT: I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I knew it was going to be a festival, and it was going to be fun, but it was different.

Do you think you will come back for SXSW next year?
PD: I don’t think so.

JT: We might play a secret show or something like that.

PD: We did it two years ago, and we did it this year, so it’s not likely that we’ll do it again. We’ll probably do some other festivals that we haven’t done. But, if we are in the area or have off days, we probably won’t play, but we’ll definitely hang out and chill.

Lastly, were there any acts that you saw during either SXSW or ACL?
JT: I saw TV on the Radio who I have been dying to see.

PT: I saw James Blake at the Presbyterian Church during SXSW and My Morning Jacket at ACL. Both of those performances were some of the best ones I have seen.