TAP Firefly Festival Interview: Young the Giant

By Matt Arena

Just prior to their set at the main stage at Firefly Festival, we were able to sit down with bassist Payam Doostzadeh from Young the Giant to talk about touring, plans for the second album, and how their experience changes with growing popularity.

You guys have had a really big year, is there one point in specific that you think was a really big jumping off point?

Yeah, everyone points to the VMAs as our big break and in a way it is because that brought us into the mainstream and an audience we would never really appeal to otherwise. So that definitely jump-started everything. But had it not been for the relentless touring and playing to no one for years we wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity. There were other bands bigger than us they were considering for that show and they went with us, I don’t know why, but we kept going and kept playing more shows so it was definitely more gradual.

Right around then you had the tour with Incubus too, do you think that helped?

Yeah, I don’t know if that expanded our fan base as much as the VMAs did or radio support we’ve had, but definitely opened us to a different crowd as people who listen to Incubus might not have heard of us, most of them never heard of us. It was cool, those guys are so great and for the last month we’ve been living at the guitarist’s place in Malibu while he’s on tour in Europe. He’s got a home studio and we’ve been writing a bunch of new songs. We’re not there anymore but he was nice enough to have us there.

You guys are really close with a bunch of other bands, Grouplove, Cage the Elephant, Walk the Moon, Sleeper Agent, how’d that come about?

Just from playing shows I guess. We played a couple festivals with Cage and Grouplove and just ended up becoming really good friends. We brought Grouplove on tour with us and we actually just saw them on the other stage, we were all having lunch and caught up again. Festivals are so much fun because it’s like summer camp but a one-day thing so everyone gets to be reunited and there’s food; it’s fun.

Have there been any plans for album 2?

Yeah it’s probably half done right now, we have maybe another two months of writing and recording at the end of the year. We’re gonna try to get it out by next Spring/Summer.

Now that you’re a lot bigger than when you put out the first album, have the expectations or experiences of being a bigger band influenced the writing?

I don’t think the fact that we’re a bigger band has influenced it, I think our travels have. It’s very cliché that people say the sophomore albums influenced by travels but it’s true. If your first album does well and you have a chance to do your second album, you’re going to be writing about the road because that’s what inspires you. The fact that we have a larger audience now is an important factor and we’re trying to expand our musical palette. We’re trying to bring it out and have different types of tracks, like seven-minute tracks, two and a half minute tracks, and just different styles. That’s really important to us, showing people that we’re not just a radio band that has ‘Cough Syrup’ and ‘My Body’ on the radio. We have other songs and that’s not just what we’re about so it’s gonna be our chance to prove to the world that this is what we’re about.

What’s it like going from playing tiny rooms to now huge clubs?

It’s incredible, man. To sell out these theaters, do two nights at large venues is a dream come true. We’ve so fortunate and appreciative of the opportunity. And glad that we’ve all been able to stick through it and stay together, they’re like my brothers. We all get along and we’re all at the same stage in our life, we all have long-time girlfriends and a lot of things are very similar so it helps.

Has there been any adaptation of your playing style now that you’re in such bigger venues?

As far as where the amps and everything are dialed in, like how hard I’m hitting the strings, it’s all the same. It just comes down to your front-of-house sound guy to amplify everything and make it fill that room. Whether you’re playing an amphitheater or you’re playing a hundred person club, you just do whatever you do and then they make it loud.

Which do you prefer, bigger or smaller shows?

Both sizes have their perks, playing in a small, two hundred person, sweaty club is intimate and hot. It’s uncomfortable but it’s awesome to feel that energy. As opposed to when you’re playing in front of ten thousand people, especially if it’s not your own crowd like when we were opening for Incubus, people are walking around like they don’t really care so you have to play even harder to win their attention. Whereas like in a club that’s sold out, they can’t not notice the band playing. It’s a little different, but we still go at it one hundred and ten percent no matter where we’re playing.

This summer you’ve hit up almost all the major festival stops, what about the environment of a festival appeals to you?

Festival environment is definitely the most fun. It’s a break from the normal routine of playing a headlining or support tour where you see the same people everyday and play the same songs everyday, everything is more or less the same. But when you go to a festival different bands are playing and you get to see and meet other bands, you can go into the crowd and just wander. It’s more of a real musical experience because you never know what’s gonna happen, who’s gonna stop by. It’s not as planned as a normal show.

You plan on hanging around to catch any other bands?

Definitely. Gonna try to catch Lupe, and we’ve seen Grouplove a million times but I want to catch their set. I’ve never seen The Killers live and I listened to them a lot in high school so I’m definitely going to watch them and maybe catch Modest Mouse.

One last question, what’s the best and worst thing about being on tour?

Best thing about being on tour is meeting people and seeing the world. I’ve been to every state in the country except for Alaska so it’s good to have that experience. No matter what I had done in my previous life, I would never have been able to travel and understand people from different cultures. That’s definitely a huge highlight. The worst thing about being on tour is being away from home; I miss my girlfriend, I miss my dog, I miss my family, I miss the beach, and that’s really hard but it’s part of the job.

Pick up Young the Giant’s self-titled album on on iTunes, Amazon MP3, CD, Vinyl

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