Interview Young The Giant: ‘When You First Start Out Everyone Treats You Like Crap’

Joe Chiccarelli, facial hair and Newport Beach.

Orange County’s latest export, Young The Giant, have just completed a whirlwind trip to the UK in preparation for their debut album’s release in May. We caught up with the boys to talk Joe Chiccarelli, facial hair and Newport Beach.

You’ve been playing music and writing together for quite a long time. How did that start?
Sameer: We started in high school. We all went to different schools and we all independently started playing music for one reason or another. There’s a big local music scene around the area so all of us started going to shows and meeting each other. From there we just started writing in garages and ever since then it’s kinda been the same thing.

And your album’s out in May over here - what can people expect from it?
Francois: Just this afternoon we realised just how bad we are with this question!
We like to think that it’s fairly eclectic. We have a kind of bizarre writing style and we’re always coming up with two or three songs at a time that can often be similar. Sometimes we’ll take those two or three songs and they’ll make it onto the album, or into the set list, but then at other times we’ll trash everything but one. So you have these different forms of inspiration and stuff so hopefully it’s not just a boring monotonous record.

And are there any tracks on there that you’re especially proud of?
F: We really like ‘Guns Out’. That was one of the ones that we were really proud about going into pre-production with. It was very much in line with what we had hoped for. There’s always compromise and stuff, but the album was very close to what we had hoped for.

You worked with Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, Minus The Bear). How was that?
S: It was a crazy experience. We didn’t really know what to expect going into it because we’d never worked with a producer of that calibre. We’d worked with a producer before that was kind of our age - we just had a good time and had our own thing with him. We were very, very interested to see how the dynamic between us and a much wiser, more seasoned professional would be.
He was everything. He inspired us, he pushed us in a lot of ways. He was very nice, and sometimes he was very aggressive and got the best out of us.
We recorded the album live so that helped us out a lot in the future with our live shows. Now everything is essentially muscle memory thanks to him because he used to make us play every song for two hours each.

You mentioned there about your age - you’re all quite young aren’t you?
F: Yeah there’s three 21 year olds and I’m 22.

Have people treated you any differently because of your age?
S: A lot of people actually think that we’re older. I think it’s the facial hair! But yeah, when we first started most definitely. People would treat us like crap, but that wasn’t necessarily because of our age, but just because we are in a band. When you first start out everyone treats you like crap.
When we went on our first national tour we went with Minus The Bear and another band called Everest and they’re all older guys in their mid-30s and some of them have been doing this for seventeen or eighteen years, so they gave us the whole little brother spiel, but I think it’s actually a good thing.

You recently performed an Adele song on Radio 2. Are there any other British artists or bands that you’re listening to at the moment?
S: Gorillaz.
F: I’m listening to David Bowie a lot. We just went to Abbey Road, the studios. The Beatles have been there and Radiohead. You guys have a lot of good bands over here! It’s hard not to listen to music when you’re in the UK.

You’ve mentioned some of the people you’ve worked alongside, who would you say has been your favourite to play with?
F: I think it’s always been kinda different. Really it depends on what you’re looking for in a band. Like when we were playing with Everest and Minus The Bear it was very much them showing us the ropes. They understood that we’d never done this before and they took on this paternal type of role for us. Whereas we’ve just finished a stint with a band called Pomegranates and they were just badass through and through. Like really awesome and really great musicians and a lot younger than the bands we’ve been recently touring with and it was just super awesome. But we’ve had awesome experiences with pretty much every band we’ve toured with.

What has been your worst live performance?
S: One of the worst ones for me was Pianos. Our first New York show in lower East-side Manhattan… It was in a small bar that’s very legendary among the area. We were really excited about it, but everything just went wrong. The electronics went wrong, Eric fell on stage and tripped over and hurt me really badly on the arm, awkward talks…
F: The thing is I think it was more a gear problem more than anything else. Monitor problems, sound problems. It’s not very memorable for the most part, usually we forget about the bad shows and just try and remember the good ones.

What can people expect from your live performance?
S: Hopefully they’ll see that we enjoy ourselves on stage. Unfortunately there are a lot of bands who take themselves too seriously. Their idea of performance is blocking themselves out completely from what’s going on. The thing is a lot of the time we do do that because we have a chemistry on stage between us, but we still like getting the audience involved at least with the experience of not talking with them. We don’t really do that too much.

So you’ve been having a lot of fun recently by the sounds of things. You’ve been on Newport Beach and in a big apartment in Hollywood. What was that like? Is it anything like The OC?
F: Newport Beach is nothing like all the drama we see on the TV! We actually moved to Newport Beach under false pretences. We told our parents that we were gonna quit school and they were supposed to help and support us while we didn’t have jobs and stuff so we could record that album and get signed and all that stuff. And we didn’t do anything! But half of the fact is that we can now look back on that stuff and kind of draw on those memories. When we moved to Hollywood that’s when we really started working.

So you’re all still living together now. Do you ever get a bit sick of each other?
S: Yeah a bit, I mean we live together and we’re on the road together all the time.
F: When we go back home I think we’re fairly good at not holding grudges. We have our own little tiffs and stuff, but most of it’s just like dealing with brothers – you get on each other’s nerves, but you forget it.

You’re all from different backgrounds, aren’t you? One of you is French-Canadian, one of you has an Indian background and one of you has a Persian background. Was that part of the recruitment process?
F: I’m actually French-Canadian, then we’ve got a Brit and a Persian guy from Iran and then an Indian guy and one guy from Jersey. It wasn’t until after we’d started getting some recognition that people started to draw attention to it. We hadn’t even thought about it that much.
S: I think that that’s just the general make up of southern California.

How is playing in the UK different from playing over in the US?
F: I think that it’s not so much a cultural difference, it’s just almost like going back a few months for us before people really started to know about us in the States. We’re just starting to get to a point where we’re playing our headlining shows now and people come to see us, so we’re coming back here and it’s like people are coming for other bands and people don’t really know what we’re about and they’re kind of apprehensive and a little on edge, but I think that after a couple of songs we try to win everyone over.
S: I think that the best stage that we can get to over here is silence right after the song is done, which seems to me to mean that people are taking a while to process what they’ve just heard. Hopefully, and then next time once they know the song they’ll maybe move around a little bit more and not concentrate so much on the process.
F: I think that the worst thing for us is if people are talking afterwards, like if you finish a song and it doesn’t matter if there isn’t a huge reaction, but if they’re doing there own thing then it’s like they weren’t paying attention and that’s a huge kick.

Any big plans for the rest of the year?
S: We’re going to be doing a lot of travelling. I’m very very excited about doing the festivals in Europe as well as the States. We’re doing some in Paris and hopefully in Amsterdam. There’s going to be a lot of travelling, so we’re just excited to be doing the whole festival thing especially.

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