Louisville hosted Young the Giant for the first time in a most unusual venue: the Kentucky State Fair (a place that I’m familiar with as housing cows and award-winning tobacco). Lucky for us, the boys were on their way to a wedding on the east coast, and stopping in Louisville on the way seemed like a good idea.
With accents and last names from all across the world, a group of guys came together in California more than 7 years ago and evolved into Young the Giant, now including Payam, Sameer, Eric, Jacob, and Franҫois. I sat down Jacob Tilley and Payam Dootszadeh in the humid Kentucky weather (which their Californian selves couldn’t have enjoyed) for a brief chat.
It’s probably the first thing I noticed about them – and you should, too – these boys are not putting on a show. They’re dressed rather plain and still look so cute that I could scream. Nothing about Payam and Jacob (including his British accent) seems fake – they’re in t-shirts and pants sporting absolutely no jewelry and no visible tattoos. To sound stereotypical, I get the vibe that they’re really serious about producing and sharing good music – more so than other hipster-savvy bands and musicians lost in our warped version of talent.
It’s safe to say that Young the Giant is also serious about spending quality bro-time both on and off the road – having just moved into their “fourth of fifth band house” in the LA area without plans to separate anytime soon. When I asked about the home’s dynamic, Jacob chuckled and matter-of-factly stated “we just like jamming together” and let’s hope they stay best friends. With plans to release an album next year (and crossing fingers that it will be finished by December of this), Payam wants to let the music “mature and develop” as the year passes.
In regards to their mainstream success, Jacob and Payam are quick to defend the band’s decision to manipulate means of exposure that others would have turned down. I mentioned their musical feature on Glee, when the cast covered “Cough Syrup”.Of course, they’re already too familiar with the Cobain-inspired psychology – a belief that good music shouldn’t be exploited by the mainstream media. The threat of being called a sell-out could damage an indie-rock band’s career and rep, but it’s clear that Young the Giant’s hipster mentality is small. “It’s different now…10 or 20 years ago people were ridiculed more for selling out…but now it’s kind of bread and butter for most bands” Jacob says in defense of other lesser-known bands willing to permit their music to commercials or TV shows for the exposure.
Payam even adds “we were happy we did it…it had a meaning and we all really connected to it”, even citing the amount of Gleeks that they wouldn’t have reached without that deal. (So the readers know: it was played during an emotionally intense episode that featured an attempted suicide).
The group released a self-titled debut album in October of 2011, but it was after the two singles “Cough Syrup” and “My Body”, the group saw major success. On winning MTV’s PUSH artist of the week and getting the opportunity to play at the Video Music Awards alongside artists like Lady Gaga and Kanye West, Payam and Jacob acknowledge how rare that opportunity is – especially for an indie-rock band. Although their resume even includes a pat-on-the-back from Morrissey, it’s obviously not the titles that give them satisfaction.
Payam recalls the night they played at Pacific Ampitheater in Costa Mesa, California to 12,000 fans. “Playing a sold-out amphitheater in your hometown is so meaningful – more so than the VMAs – and I just thought ‘wow, we’re really doing this’”.
Photos: Eric Voet/The Louisville Cardinal