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Tough start made new album that much better for Young The Giant
The five members of Young The Giant exercised a bit of "Mind Over Matter" while making their sophomore album of that name.
The California modern rock group had gotten off to a promising start for the follow-up to 2010's buzz-making self-titled debut -- courtesy of Incubus' Mike Einziger, who lent the group his studio equipped him in Malibu for some writing. But subsequent sessions were not as productive, according to guitarist Jacob Tilley.
"We were jamming every day and trying to write and were jsut not really coming up with anything that had the weight of a song we'd want to put on our record," recalls Tilley, 24. "We were getting very frustrated with ourselves; we didn't know which direction we wanted to go in and we were obviously trying to decompress from being on the road for, like, three or four years, and we also wanted to have our personal lives.
"It was not severe writers' block, but it was definitely present, and it was hard to get everyone focused."
Tight personal relationships -- the musicians' friendships date back to high school in Irvine -- enabled YTG to work through the malaise without serious consequences, however, and Tilley says that "eventually that spell was broken." The moment of epiphany, in fact, came from keyboardist Francois Comtois and guitarist Eric Cannata and the "Mind Over Matter's" title track.
"Eric came in with a keyboard line that became the theme for 'Mind Over Matter," Tilley recalls, "and that day we all came into the studio at separate times and started layering tracks on the existing skeleton Eric and Francois had laid down. At the end of the day we had this awesome song.
"And from there everything kind of flowed. We found a new way of recording which was maybe not to all play at once but really take time to carve out the sonics of each song and find places for ourselves to play within the song. It gave us a really fresh way to make music and probably saved the album right there."
"Mind Over Matter" -- which came out Jan. 21 and debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 -- is certainly a different animal than its predecessor, notably more aggressive and kinetic in many spots. Tilley says that YTG's goal was "to evolve" -- then laughs as he notes "that's the most cliched thing anybody can say." But, he adds, it's the truth in YTG's case.
"There's two ways a sophomore record can play out," Tilley explains. "You can recreate or regurgitate the same thing that was successful the last time and hope it sticks, or you can go after what you want to be as a band -- which we felt we could do now that we had a little more leeway with the label.
"So I think what we really wanted to do was maybe represent ourselves as musicians and people and put forward the band we actually are. That was the major part of what we wanted to do."
YTG didn't waste time in signalling that to the world, either. The album's first single, "It's About Time," is in Tilley's estimation "extremely unorthodox" and a marked departure. "We were all very inspired by the aggression of it," the guitarist notes. "It veers on the edge of kind of Black Sabbath in points, and the whole construction was intriguing to us. We all felt very close it and felt like it was a good way to represent ourselves in a new light."
And, Tilley adds, he and his bandmates aren't really worried about sending YTG's tenuous, one-album fan base screaming for the exits with this kind of left turn.
"Yeah, there's moments where we read reviews and fan responses and they're like, 'Omigod! They went so different!," Tilley says. "But I also think there's a fan who's come out to our shows over the last couple of years and has seen how we represent the songs in such a different manner live than on our (first) record. They've seen that first evolution, so they should be ready for what's next.
"We really want to just push the envelope as much as we can and see where it ends up. Hopefully people will want to come along and we won't isolate them, 'cause that's the last thing I want to do. But I think at this point in time we're letting ourselves indulge and just be excited by that, and I don't think there's any shame in that."
Young The Giant and Vance Joy perform Saturday, March 8, at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$45. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.
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