Young the Giant

February 6, 2014

3D Pictures by Coldie
Words by Eric DePriester

My first job out of college was tour manager for Young the Giant, then known as the Jakes. I acquired the position not out of experience or skill, but through friendship and well timed opportunism. Although I received no formal salary, I recouped hours served through months on their couch, meal mooching, and general substance abuse. On the road, they were too young to hang in the bars they played- apart from the drummer- leaving us to pre-show sessions in the tour van, passing a bottle of warm whiskey in a circle. While they played, I cashed in whatever drink tickets the venue provided and did my best imitation of a tour manager, standing in the back with folded arms and a pleased yet weary expression.

Young the Giant 3D picture anaglyph

In the past five years, they’ve released two records and played countless shows, earning a reputation as a hard working and powerful live band. Their recordings do the trick, but they don’t tell the whole story. You have to see singer Sameer Gaddhia’s frantic movements and impassioned pleas, guitarists Jake Tilley and Eric Cannatta’s effortless chemistry, bassist Payam Doostzadeh’s constantly bobbing beat, and drummer Francois Comtois’s ferocious attack. Only then do you get a sense of the power these guys are packing, the reason why they’ve quickly gained an international following and are opening for Kings of Leon on a stadium tour this summer.

I was scheduled to interview Francois two days earlier, but Jake fell off a skateboard and broke his arm while filming a Mercedes commercial, and Francois accompanied him to the emergency room. Freshly arrived in Delaware after three connecting flights, Francois called me from his hotel room, apologizing upfront for his lack of mental capacity. Truth be told, I didn’t notice much of a difference.

Young The Giant 3D picutre anaglyph concert

Who’s Old the Giant?

You know what, it’s actually Old the Midget. And that’s my grandfather’s, he came up with that joke before everyone else. And I’ve heard it a million fucking times, and everyone thinks they’re the cleverest son of a bitch for coming up with it, yourself included, but my grandfather’s always been pretty quick. He’s a smart cat.

You just got back from Europe. Of all the countries you’ve been to, who liked you the least?

Smallest audience? I’d probably say it’s the French. We’re not dance club music, so maybe that’s why: they’re too busy, just dry humping each other in the discotheques, and whatnot. I can tell you who loves us: the Dutch. The Dutch can’t get enough Young the Giant.

You guys have a lot of international members in your group. Are band meetings conducted like the United Nations?

For the most part, we’re still Americanized. If we did try to get some diplomatic caucus going, we would just end up yelling at each other, and screaming and seeing who could yell the loudest, and come up on some big impass, and it would essentially be another day at the studio.
Just like the United Nations. You keep on lobbing them, I’ll keep on knocking them out.

What’s your favorite water mammal?

My knowledge of water mammals is somewhat limited, so I’m going to have to go with what I do know. I don’t know, I kind of always liked the blue whale. I think that’s the standard answer, but there’s something about being the biggest animal that ever lived, even beating out dinosaurs and shit. And the fact that they’re so big, but they’re still gentle and cool, and they sing really loud- you can hear them sing from miles and miles away.

If you had to choose just one, what cartoon character would you add as a band member? Do Muppets count?

Young The Giant 3D picutre Sameer Gadhia anaglyph concert

That’s a puppet, not a cartoon.

There was a moment, where Michael Jordan [in Space Jam], when the alien is explaining what he is going do to him when he gets him in his park, and he’s explaining that he’s going to have him chained up to this rock, and have all the kids play him and beat him at one-on-one- I want a sad, broken Michael Jordan in our band. Plus, we really need a black guy in the band. That’s the one thing we’re missing.

What’s the first song you ever heard?

The first song I remember hearing is “Louie Louie.” My grandpa, the same one who beat you to the punch on the joke, used to make these mixtapes when I was a little kid. I remember putting that on the tape deck and just dancing. I thought it was great because my little brother is named Louis. That’s the most clear memory without counting lullabies and shit. The first pop song I remember hearing was “Louie Louie.”

What’s going to be the name of the next Radiohead record?

Video Tapenade. I’ll give you one guess as to who uttered that combination of words.

It’s gotta be [guitarist Eric] Cannatta.

Good guess. We were all so fucking tired at the airport, our crew has been gone for a couple of days, so we had 35 speakers and fly gear, hauling this shit barely alive, and Eric just starts singing his version of that Lana Del Ray song, “Video Games.” His version goes [singing] “Licking on my asshole/Sucking on Tabasco/Video tapenade.” I was just tired enough and delirious enough to think it was the funniest fucking thing. That stuck with me. And I knew I needed to remember Video Tapenade. If I was a betting man, that’d be my bet.

When you moved to America, why didn’t they change your name to something that made sense, like Frank Connelly?

When I was a kid, I really did wish that my folks would have done that, because I got so much grief. Moving to North Carolina, you can imagine a lot of the kids weren’t super open-minded to the little French Canadian kid who didn’t speak any English. I hated my name at that time, but I’m happy that I persevered and that I stuck through all the asshole kids calling me names and shit, because now I have a cool name. And people with names like Eric are stuck with boring, shitty names.

Fair.This is my platformto shiton youa little bit.You’re going tohave to print this. 

Well, I don’t have to print anything.

I guess you can edit it out.

I’ve got the audio control at this point. I’m going to doctor it for sure.

Nice. What else you got?

Just who do you think you are?

No one’s ever asked me that. I don’t know, I don’t fucking know, man.

If the United States, France, and Canada all disappeared, where would you live?

That’d be really shitty. I really don’t care if France left, because I really wouldn’t want to live there at this point anyways, but if Canada and America left, that would be fucked. I guess I’d probably go to Japan. I’ve never been to Japan, but I really want to go there and I feel like, for people who grew up with Western culture, obviously there’s a huge difference in cooking culture, but it’s similar to us in a lot of ways and there’s some really cool shit, so it might make it worth it.

How often do you find yourself California dreaming?

Almost every day. Especially as the tour progresses, after you’ve gotten past the first couple of weeks. It’ll be different shit that will set me off. We were walking by Five Guys Burger, which I don’t even know how there’s a legitimate debate between Five Guys and In and Out, because that’s ludicrous. They’re all white and red checkers, so similar to In and Out, minus the yellow, and it just set me off. I [was] just like, “I would murder someone for a double double with whole grilled onions right now.” So any little thing like that.

I don’t even go to the beach often, unless I see anything about the beach. A thing I was doing that’s really depressing, on the last tour: we were driving through all these cold ass places, and I was missing California so much, I would play Grand Theft Auto V, and it’s such a good representation of Los Angeles, I would just get on a bike and go up and down the coast and pretend I was there. I seriously did that. I wouldn’t even kill people, I’d just go up and down the coast. Very often.

Young The Giant 3D picutre Sameer Gadhia anaglyph concert

You’re about to tour with Kings of Leon. What are you guys, Princes of Irvine?

As I understand it, Leon is the name of their grandfather. One of my grandfathers’ names is Martin, and the other is Paul. I love alliteration, so let’s go with Prince of Paul.

Is this the same grandfather that dubbed you Old the Midget?

No, this is the other one. There’s a whole bunch of crazy stories about him, too.

Who’s your favorite Beatle, and why is it Ringo?

Fuck you. That’s just, instrumentalist. Not cool dude. My favorite Beatle is George Harrison. He was the quiet one, who had all sorts of cool shit brewing in his head, and it wasn’t until he was able to find the confidence in himself to be able to start putting that stuff out. And it turns out that he was a fucking genius. I feel that connection with him, I’m just such a deep and intelligent individual and sometimes people just don’t let me shine. If I can find it in myself, people will see. They’ll all see.

You’re Ringo.

Fuck you. But hey, Ringo’s the man, dude. I remember watching the Beatles Anthology, they had it all up on YouTube, and just watching him play, I feel like it helped my feel and my technique a bit, because he was one of the prototypical white rock drummers. I feel like as a drummer, you can always learn a lot from Ringo. I hate when people say he was a shitty drummer, and I hate when people say he was a simplistic drummer.  If you actually listen to his parts, it’s more that he was the epitome for his time of the conscientious and appropriate drummer. I think that’s something that, as a player, in general, you always want to aspire to.

When you live in the same era as “Moby Dick,” it’s easy to be called simplistic.

Absolutely. His playing and his musical mind are [done a] huge disservice, because he really did help to create a whole aesthetic, and I think that’s sort of glossed over. I understand when you’re talking about one of the greatest pairs in songwriting history, and George Harrison who was no slouch himself, but I think he was very important to their success.

What is the best song ever written about heroin?

I don’t really know that many songs about heroin.

Every Nirvana song.

Okay, I’ll go with a Nirvana song, just any Nirvana song. I like Nirvana.

Who’s the worst person you know?

What type of beef do I want to start. Okay, so one time we had- have I had to have met him? I don’t even know if that’s proper grammar, I’m sorry, I told you I’m really tired. Do I have to have known him, like actually have met this person in person?

You can’t say Hitler. It has to be someone on a more personal level than that.

The guy from the Bravery, his name is Sam, I can’t remember his last name. He came over to our apartment- you might have actually have been there. Do you remember us ever telling you about that, the guy from the Bravery came over to help do co-writing and shit, because it was the first album?

When you guys were still on Vista.

Yeah, exactly. He came over, and just like, he was such a cunt, it’s unbelievable. He was so full of himself, and this is years after the Bravery had done anything noteworthy, so I don’t know where this self-entitlement came from. He just like waltzes in, “Let me hear what you got.” Pretty much just discounts everything we do. He brought his lunch in, just leaves his trash all over the place, and we ended up just saying, “We have to go pick up our homie from the airport,” just because we wanted to fucking get him out of the house. He was such an insufferable prick. Eric took the demo that we had done with him and ended up remixing it into the most ridiculous shit ever, so maybe we can post some links or something in your magazine if we still have it.

I don’t know. I feel like, when you’re a musician, especially as a musician in this day and age, you have to be humble, especially with other musicians, and realize that we’re all in this together sort of thing. It’s become a difficult industry to make a long career out of, and when you start treating people like that, I think you lose sight of what it is that’s important. And his music sucks too, so fuck him.

Why aren’t you on the cover of Tiger Beat?

Tiger what? Tiger Heat?

Tiger Beat.

I’m not sure what that is.

It’s a teenage girl- like Jonathon Taylor Thomas was on it all of the 90’s. And like, N’SYNC would be there.

Why am I not?

Yeah, why is Young the Giant not on Tiger Beat?

Because Eric’s in the band. You’re not going to put that on a teen magazine, it looks like he’s about to get the diddling gloves on. Who knows. I wouldn’t be surprised if they asked Sameer, but you don’t want to see a bunch of bearded, 26-year old dudes who most of them have girlfriends. I don’t feel like we’re particularly appealing to that demographic. Again, maybe Sameer is, but as a unit, perhaps not.

Too much diddling in your looks.

There’s a lot of diddling in these eyes.

Settle the debate, once and for all: peanut butter or jelly?

Peanut butter, dude. Absolutely peanut butter. Peanut butter is as satisfying as jelly when you’re stoned or hungry or whatever. But on top of that, it actually has nutritional value. You can have peanut butter in something sweet and it will be delicious, or you can have peanut butter in Chinese food and it’ll be delicious- it’s perfect. Not to talk shit on jam or jelly or whatever, I love a good jam, but I think if you have to pick one, I’m going to go with peanut butter nine times out of ten.

What one show would you go see- any time, any place, any band?

Can it be a festival?

Yeah.

It’s hard to disagree with Woodstock. In the canon of musical mythology, so many of the biggest acts and all these stories that have become legend, all happened at Woodstock. That’d be pretty good. Although seeing Bowie perform at the peak of his weirdness would also be something. I don’t know, that’s a tough one. There’s a lot of shows that I wish I’d been around to see, but just because I’d be able to see so many of these greats, like Hendrix, all this shit, I think I’ll go with Woodstock.

My answer is usually the Velvets at Warhol’s Factory.

That’s a good one too.

But you can’t go wrong with Woodstock.

Or Monterrey Pop or something. But probably Woodstock has the edge, just for cultural significance.

Who’s your favorite past their prime band who should probably just retire?

I guess there’s two answers for that for me. There’s the obvious answer, the Rolling Stones. Like what the fuck are they still doing on stage, gouging their fans and sucking? That was part of the appeal, especially Keith Richards, he was just kind of sloppy, but there was this youthful aggression to everything they did and that’s what made those early recordings so incredible. And now that that’s gone, it’s just really sad. I saw the Scorsese one, Shine a Light. It was so bad, just this overstuffed, gaudy piece of shit. And they just suck now. And the fact that they’re charging so much for their tickets, I don’t know. There’s just a lot of shit they’ve been doing that I don’t agree with, and I think they should step aside at this point.

The other one, and this might sound like heresy coming from me, who is a huge fan: I don’t know how much more Radiohead necessarily has in the tank. I think they’ve kind of gone pretty deep into the whole sound experimentation, and I think that comes at the expense of the songwriting. Especially to hear or read Thom Yorke talk about his disdain for guitar music and traditional melody and all that stuff, I think it’s become this sort of cloistered, self-indulgent group incapable of really sort of breaking out of that. And that’s why I’m so surprised to hear In Rainbows, because it was such a departure from what it seemed like their path was. Like Kid A, Amnesiac, even Hail to the Thief, there’s so much sound experimentation, then they went to this very organic and songwriting driven album, which I thought was super refreshing, but then you hear Thom Yorke talk about the process and how he hated that album, and hated making that album, hated the results and all that stuff. And then they ended up doing King of Limbs, which is a fine album to listen to, but I think it’s just lacking what it is which makes Radiohead so good, which is the ability to meld really solid songwriting with an avant-garde ear for tone, tonality, and sound and arrangements, but I don’t know. I’m optimistic, I hope that the next record is more in line with what I love about them, but I’m not so sure.

What’s you favorite record from the last year?

I gotta say Kendrick [Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city]. Out of the past year or two, out of all of the albums I listened to, that stands out as the most revolutionary without reinventing the wheel. He kind of took that West Coast sound which I love- I fucking love Dr. Dre- and he made it his own, and he brought sort of conscious rapping without beating you over the head with it. He has an amazing ear for rhythm, and an amazing mind for storytelling. It’s a classic, instant classic.

If New York never sleeps, what does Los Angeles never do?

Shuts the fuck up? Just walking around here, they all go out on the balcony- not the balcony, the patios- and they’re eating, and they’re drinking their coffee, and the savage shit that comes out of some people’s mouths is just like, okay, I get it. You’re a struggling actor and you’re fighting for your art and all that, and that’s really cool, but you just spent ten dollars on juice. Shut up.

Which country do you want the US to invade next?

I was going to say something like Mexico, because I just want us to all be together and then you don’t have to worry about traveling, but you would end up losing some of the culture, and the food, and that would suck, so not Mexico.

You know what, Madagascar has been so fucking smug, on that little island all by itself, with all that biodiversity, and they think they’re hot shit. I think someone needs to take them down a peg. And it would be so unexpected. Fuck Madagascar.

Two more questions for you. One: Is your mind always over matter, or does it take a little cough syrup to get you there?

Is that the two questions?

That’s one question.

One question. No comment.

All right, and I guess this is more of a statement than a question, but give me one good reason why I should print a word of this.

Our friendship.

I said a good reason.

I don’t know man. You want to make it, don’t you? You got to give the people what they want.

Got to give them what they need.

If it means anything, this is definitely one of the more enjoyable interviews that I’ve had in that I didn’t have to explain where our band name came from, and how we all met and shit.

That’s the second part of the interview. I’ll call back tomorrow for that.