Despite forming back in 2004, California's YOUNG THE GIANT seemed to have come out of nowhere over the past year. Of course, that's heavily indebted to their breakout self-titled debut album, which dropped in October 2010 and has been all over the world since. We caught up with frontman SAMEER GADHIA a few weeks ago by phone, getting us all worked up for Young The Giant's gig tonight at the House of Blues with fellow indie risers Grouplove.
So, what’s your favorite part about being on tour?
I think my favorite part is being able to keep up with all the different fans that we meet on the road. We’ve been to Boston nine or ten times but it’s nice to see how people have improved or regressed.
What’s it like to go from venues like BU central to clubs like the House of Blues in a six-month period?
It’s pretty crazy. We never really thought that we’d get to this. Our first national tour was just a little under two years ago and even though we’ve done a lot of tours, since then we were opening up for Minus the Bear. It’s just been such a crazy trip to be headlining now.
What are your favorite downtime hangouts in Boston when you’re not on stage?
Different bars in Allston -– one of the first clubs we ever played was Great Scott. It’s been great to play by all the colleges. We have a lot of friends that go to all the schools over there. We usually go and hang out at different people’s houses, too. I would have graduated just last year so I would’ve been fresh out of college.
Young the Giant met in high school. What exactly was the path you guys took to becoming the band you are now?
I guess it just kind started off as enjoying to play live concerts for ourselves and I don’t think it’s ever really strayed from that. I think first and foremost, we try to have the most fun possible but I think every year it became more and more serious, and we realized that we wanted to write music that we were proud of and that people would enjoy listening to. We wanted to challenge ourselves as people and as writers. That motivation has taken us here. When we first started it was a struggle to write –- we were 16 or 17 years old and we didn’t feel like we had it in us and we didn’t have the experiences necessary to really to kind of get on the road before college. We all decided to go to school and get inspired, and all the while we were still sort of together but no one knew who we were. We released “Shake My Hand” and we recorded it just after freshman year. I think it was at that point that we realized that we have something here and it was this line-up that is now Young the Giant.
It looks like you guys have a very long career ahead of you – did you always know you wanted to do this as a career?
It was process; it started off as a dream -- something we always talked about. We thought, ‘what if this could happen, what if the stars could align and we could actually do this whole thing?’ It was kind of an idea in high school and then we kind of dropped it as we went to college and started pursuing academics a little more seriously... I seriously didn’t think about it until the end of my freshman year and even then I was still very sure that I was going to finish school. It only became kind of a passion at the beginning of sophomore year and then the conversations became more and more frequent and became serious, and I started bringing it up to my family and then I realized that it’s something that I really wanted. Ever since that I don’t know how I could do it any other way. This is my real passion and I don’t think I really am going to stray from music even though I might start doing other things on the side as well. I want to finish school eventually, but music will always be a big part of my life.
I noticed that you guys changed your name at one point, from the Jakes to Young the Giant. Do you feel like that’s made a difference in your career?
It wasn’t really as much a career move as much as it was kind of a personal move for all of us. The gigs started out in high school as a joke band really, as a response to what we thought was a relatively stagnant music scene in Irvine and we really wanted to be a part of rejuvenating it. It kind of just started as a joke and then trying to get people to dance and move around and then finally, as we wrote “Shake My Hand,” we realized we didn’t want to be limited by the past... we wanted to start something completely new and completely fresh. We’ve been traveling to Europe and Australia and there’d be people that tell us that they knew us since we were The Jakes, which was startling to us. The power of the internet is so strong and so it’s crazy that we were completely unsigned and completely indie, like do-it-yourself. We released the albums and maybe had a couple thousand in the States and maybe a thousand in Japan and that was it, and somehow people managed to get to at it.
Why did you guys choose Young the Giant to be your new name?
Well we have a lot of reasons, but in reality there is no real reason. I think at the time it really didn’t mean anything to us we just we thought we connected to it and in some way it felt like home to us. It felt like we could write music under that marker and now, two and a half years later, I think we’re a little bit wiser than we were before. I think we really captured that time of naivety -- we were just 17 or 18 years old and we knew were we had just got signed and we were kind of doing what we wanted to do. It was something about our youthfulness that was powerful and I think we wanted to capture that in every way possible, even if it’s 10 years from now we’ll still have that embodiment of youth somehow.
You're at the House of Blues [tonight]. How do Boston crowds compare with crowds from home?
At home it’s a lot of familiar faces; it’s more of like a homecoming thing. I think it’s fresh to see it somewhere completely different where we really don’t have any roots -- it’s just that feeling that you’re connecting with people that are from far away and that’s absolutely amazing.
Do you notice that Boston crowds live up to their reputation?
I think so. Boston crowds are most definitely rowdier -- in a good way. We have an infamously aggressive group of youths that come to the shows, not necessarily hardcore or anything, just a lot of people pushing to get to the front. I think in Boston it gets to be frantic at some point but it’s really cool to see that passion. People really are stoked to see us, apparently.
And now you guys are selling out... that must be pretty surprising, like you said.
I mean we thought we had it in us and we knew we worked hard enough for it, but we’ve been in this for a while now and we know that things don’t always work out in the way you want, but it’s absolutely amazing that everything aligned.
Have you ever experienced any face-palm moments while on stage?
I have, actually. It’s not really a screw-up, per se, but sometimes when we’re playing our big shows, I get this crazy adrenaline rush and I end up being stronger than I normally am so I have like this Hulk complex that happens and I think I can do shit that that I can’t normally do. We were playing Austin City Limits and it was the biggest crowd we’d ever played -- 47,000 people -- and so I thought that I could do this crazy dance move where I could jump off of my feet onto my shoulders and roll off of my shoulders and then jump back onto my feet again, so I tried doing that, but I ended up just hitting my head on the ground and my microphone punched me in the face and I chipped my tooth. I just kept singing while it all happened.
What was your best moment on stage?
I think it was the same set at Austin City Limits. I put my hands in the air, asking people to sway with me and it was crazy to see a sea of hands, as far as I could see, following what we were doing. It was amazing to see that.
Any big plans for when you come to Boston?
It’ll be a little bit warmer when we get there, but I don’t think we’ll do too many touristy things, we’ve done our fair share of those. I’m happy just being able to go and visit friends again. I’m excited to experience Boston again.
Mike Barry is an intern at the Boston Phoenix.