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