Young the Giant’s Baby Steps Lead to Big Things
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 15:02
Young the Giant is no stranger to the main stage in last year's festival circuit, which led to a tour with Incubus and a session on "MTV Unplugged." And even with all of the road testing and successful radio play they've seen over the last year and a half, the group's reception has teetered on the extremes. Pitchfork gave YTG's debut album a scathing rating of 2.7, calling it "purposefully blank" and "a label's calculated effort to capture indie rock's sound and commercial momentum" while Amazon.com thought it was the third best album of 2011 and Morrissey said they were his new favorite band.
But that doesn't seem to faze guitarist Jacob Tilley, who put his marine biology studies on hold for YTG about two years ago, citing the "climate was right for the band." The Valley seems to agree, selling out two nights worth of shows at Phoenix's Crescent Ballroom.
Tilley chatted with College Times while stuck in L.A. traffic about Pitchfork, BBC, Morrissey and whether size really matters — venue size, that is.
College Times: Tell me about when Young the Giant was known as The Jakes…
Jacob Tilley: Yeah, we were kind of a joke band back in high school. [We] did it just to have fun and play shows. At that point, Orange County was very post hardcore and Thrice-esque and we kind of went in the opposite way in a very poppy, catchy melody kind of way.
You were the rebels.
I wouldn't go that far. We did play at Disneyland.
So, how did the transition from The Jakes to Young the Gianthappen?
The transition came around when we become disenfranchised with the name. Plus, our label [Roadrunner Records] was looking for something new. [Vocalist] Sameer [Gadhia] came up with it and we all just signed off on it. We came up with a couple songs with that kind of name in mind it just kept.
In addition to the internet, the radio had a pretty significant role in your band's success.
Yeah, our radio success was something I had never really thought about before. I never realized the influence radio still had on shows. I mean, this time last year we were setting out to the East Coast for our first headlining tour and playing small clubs and within a year we were playing huge radio festivals and selling out shows and it really, really changed everything.
So you didn't skip out on the dive bar scene?
No, we did that for a long time. I think that's a misconception people have of us sometimes. We've been playing shows since we were 17 years old and going in a van and trailer. It only was our last tour that we got on a bus.
When you first recorded your EP, did you realize the band was going to be this big?
We obviously take it more and more seriously with a goal of reaching some sort of level of success. We always just wanted to play nice halls. […] We've played bigger sets in arenas but I still like the hall setting.
The band has received a lot of mixed critiques. That has to be a blessing in disguise.
I think no press is bad press. We were joking around and said, you know, we should call our next album 2.7 just to rub it in Pitchfork's face. […] I read a review on BBC the other day and it pretty much nailed the record about the strong songs and the lackluster songs. It's exactly how I feel about [the album]. I feel like now we've progressed as a live band because we recorded that record without playing. We eventually got to touring and playing those songs on the road, which made a huge difference. In playing them we figured out our parts a little bit more and maybe where they should have been when we were recording […] two and a half years ago.
You were working with Joe Chiccarelli in Sunset Studios. That has to set the bar high for this next album.
Yeah. I feel like when we were recording it that was so intimidating in itself. I was working with a producer who had worked with everything on my whole college playlist. We learned a lot from Joe.
Morrissey loves you. Is the feeling mutual?
[laughs] The feeling's mutual. That wasn't something I can really get over. The guy's noted for being a little outlandish. For him to come out with a statement like that toward us is really nice. I'm really flattered and would like to meet the guy and pick his brain although I'll probably just listen to him talk because that's probably all that'd happen. Honestly, it helped us out a lot. [Unintelligible comment about Pitchfork]
Hated by Pitchfork and loved by Morrissey …
Yeah, it's kind of an oxymoron isn't it?
Young the Giant w/Walk the Moon, Crescent Ballroom, Feb. 16, 8 p.m., $15 adv, $17 dos
Young the Giant w/Ladylike, Crescent Ballroom, Feb. 17, 8:30 p.m., $15 adv, $17 dos