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As seen in the Lockout 2012 issue.

Young The Giant
This American indie rock band continues to make big headlines.
By Elizabeth Beddall | Photography by Pamela Littky

NNot a mile away from a bus parked west of downtown Houston, 30,000 music fans congregate in the late afternoon heat, waiting to be rocked by some of the biggest names around. In just over an hour, five California boys will take over the festival's main stage to perform a sweaty, no-holds-barred set of singles, with country legend Willie Nelson picking up wherever they may leave off. But at this moment, each member of Young the Giant is sitting back in the band's tour bus, unfazed because, well... they're used to it by now.

"Last year we had just released the record, we didn't really know what was going on. We were working from a van-trailer, we were driving all the time and we didn't really know what was going to come of it," says drummer Francois Comtois of the group's explosive 2011. "So it's 2012 and we're like, 'Alright, we've had all these great things happen. Let's just build on those.'"
 

More than 150,000 miles clocked on that now retired van-trailer later, the fivesome can count an MTV Video Music Awards performance, public props from singer Morrissey, a Glee rendition of their hit single Cough Syrup and a slot on nearly every major North American music fest lineup among the "great things" that have solidified their hard
rock foundation. They've even spotted a female fan with Young the Giant lyrics tattooed (albeit incorrectly) on her body.

"We've been touring for the last two years," says Comtois. "The exhaustion catches up to all of us at times, but it's something where you just chug a Redbull, smack yourself in the face a few times and the second you walk out there it's so nice to see all of those people so excited. It just jolts you back to life."

For the group of early-20s buds, who found each other in a slow-moving, incorporated city named Irvine, a whirlwind breakout has always been in the works.

"We all just wanted to get the hell out of Irvine in high school because we were so bored," says bass player Payam Doostzadeh. "But now having been from New York City to Jakarta to Bali, when I come back to Irvine it's still home. I appreciate its monotony."

It was in the Orange County suburb that Doostzadeh first met Sameer Gadhia, now the band's lead singer, when the two were eight-year-old soccer players on rival teams.

"If anything there was a lot of hatred between us," laughs Doostzadeh. "We were just trying to take each other out."

Years later, the two had a musical reconciliation when one of their chairs was positioned alongside the other's in Irvine's interschool orchestra. Remaining close friends from thereon out, Gadhia went on to find local success with The Jakes, a band he formed along with Comtois, Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata. Additional band members came and went, but the four remained, eventually changing their name to Young the Giant and welcoming Doostzadeh into the fold.

"I sometimes miss my college life," says Gadhia, whose bandmates each rerouted their academic path for Young the Giant. "I think about it every now and again but I can't be too unhappy. I think realizing an audience is one of the most powerful things for a musician."

Textbooks may have been temporarily shelved, but the social aspect of post-secondary has clearly triumphed with a group who lists "hosting big barbecues for their huge mutual group of friends" as one of their primary interests, along with catching up on TV show The Wire and cheering on the Lakers.

"Everyone's different enough that we'll usually get, like, three people in on one thing," says Comtois. "I don't like to surf at all. Jake, our guitarist, loves to surf and he's been able to get Eric and Sameer into it. But Payam and I, we'll go to the beach, but we'll only go in for a little dip or something."

The boys often acknowledge the ocean for inspiring their groovy, instrumental sound, having written the majority of their eponymous debut album in a rented loft on the shores of Newport Beach (in between hitting on girls and holding late-night bonfires.) My Body in particular has become an anthem for a generation of summer-loving, vintage clad youth, who confidently shout out the hook, "My body tells me no, but I won't quit cuz I want more," even if they don't know the band's name.

But like it or not, the onset of maturity has become inevitable for a young crew that has seen the world, grown beards and achieved serious success in a short period of time. And as they visualize their second album -- with a hopeful release date of next spring -- it becomes clear that the band's aesthetic has turned along with the tide.

"We're not naïve anymore," says Gadhia. "I think the next album will be darker, more of a struggle to retain the idea of youth."

"Some of the songs on the last record are really old -- like Cough Syrup was really old, we wrote it when we were like 16," adds Doostzadeh. "We have more mature music, I think as our fan base grows with us, they will appreciate everything we do. That's the eventual plan. Just to do whatever we want, but to have people like it."

The glimmer of young adulthood has far from dulled completely, as evidenced by the band's countless Instagram photos depicting antics and adventures on the road, and a collection of incredible tales that make you want to gather some of your closest buds and learn to play an instrument.

"Every now and again just for fun, when we're pretty drunk we'll do wrestling matches," says Ghadis when asked if the boys have engaged in any inter-rock-group brawling. "I get a little rambunctious sometimes."

Comtois doesn't hesitate to then tattle on his frontman friend, who not a week ago got caught in the whirlwind of an evening in Vegas -- an evening which included an all-night, whiskey-soaked bender that, once the sun came up, looked something similar to the intro of The Hangover.

"I swear I've never seen anyone so out of it in my life," says Comtois of Ghadis' state before the following day's gig. "He looked like death. It got to the point where it was like 10 minutes, five minutes before the show, and he was laying on the couch barely responsive and we were like poking him to see if he was alright."

At the eleventh hour, says Comtois, the band's zombified lead singer returned from the dead.

"Somehow, the second we walked on stage, he played the whole show, then he got off and went right back to feeling like crap," he says. "But for that hour he was playing you probably could never have told that he killed like a bottle of whiskey by himself or something."

The lead singer doesn't deny it, nor do he or his friends deny, that these have been the best years of their lives. And while they may be getting older, and perhaps a little wiser, for now the members of Young the Giant aren't going to quit, even if their bodies tell them otherwise.

"Sometimes we feel the most natural and alive when we're onstage," says Ghadis as he and his best friends head out to rock another show. "We do it every night."

For more stories from the Lockout 2012 edition of The Fourth Period Magazine, pick up a copy or subscribe today.
 

 

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