By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They made a splash with their California beach-inspired debut album. Now indie rock band Young the Giant are hoping the rest of America will be swept away by their carefree seaside sound.
With their first two singles, up-tempo tracks "My Body" and "Cough Syrup," garnering radio, television and film play, the band, all in their early 20s, are kicking off their first headlining tour on February8
"We're a little jittery in a good way, we're excited to do our first big headlining run in theaters. It's amazing to see people already buying tickets to these things. It takes a lot of weight off our shoulders as it's selling well," lead singer Sameer Gadhia told Reuters.
Formed in Irvine, California in 2004 as The Jakes, the band went through a few line-up changes before settling on Young The Giant, with Gadhia on vocals, Francois Comtois on drums, Payam Doostzadeh on bass and Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata on guitar.
The band recorded their self-titled first album, released in 2011, while still in their teens living together on the beach in Southern California. Songs like "Strings" and "12 Fingers" emote the feel of seaside living while Gadhia's distinctive voice showcased against up-tempo guitar riffs.
"We were living a carefree lifestyle, I guess a respite from all the previous responsibilities that we had all had, and we just lived on the beach for a year. We didn't really have much money but we were writing music sometimes, and we were out on the beach just having a good time," said Gadhia.
Their sound attracted the attention of fans across the world. British singer Morrissey sang their praises and MTV selected them as a "push" artist, which led to Young The Giant performing a raucous rendition of "My Body" at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
"As far as VMAs and MTV, specifically VMAs, that's really what I think helped everything push so quickly," said Comtois.
The "Young the Giant" album peaked at No. 42 on the Billboard 200 chart, with Spin Magazine's David Menconi calling the music "boldly earnest anthems in need of a cozy arena." Rolling Stone's Matthew Perpetua called the single "Apartment" beautiful, while Drowned in Sound's Alex Yau drew comparisons to Tennessee band Kings of Leon.
However, not all critics were won over by the songs. Pitchfork's Ian Cohen called the album "corporate indie," while Paul Mardles at British newspaper The Observer described the band "an anemic Coldplay," giving the album two stars out of five.
CHASING A DARKER SOUND
Not wasting any time between records, the band are already working on their follow-up album, and planning to preview some new material during their 40 plus date U.S. tour.
"Definitely the first record was a success but we were 18 or 19 years old when we wrote that material. Now we've experienced a lot together, we've grown together as individuals, musicians and as a group, we don't feel like that was the best we could have done," said Gadhia.
"I think we really feel like we're in our element now and it took all that time to get to where we are right now."
While the first record was an homage to the carefreee seaside life, the second will explore a more mature sound from the band.
"We've experienced a lot, we've travelled so much. I think there will be a little bit darker songs on this (second record), but we're not trying to completely betray what we do naturally together," said the lead singer.
Young The Giant, who Gadhia calls "an Internet band," are closely connected with their fans on social media platforms, and
hosted an online contest after fans sent them remixes of their songs.
"It's constantly surprising to me how far reaching our fan base is," said the lead singer. "They're the ones that are always keeping in touch with us online and it's awesome to see that because we're most definitely from the Internet generation of bands."
The band released a free EP of remixes through their Facebook page in response, including two fan-made remix tracks along with fellow indie rock bands such as Two Door Cinema Club, Ra Ra Riot and Tokyo Police Club adding an electro-dance sound to their songs. Gadhia also expressed an interest in working with Brooklyn-based rap group Das Racist.
While the band are adamant they won't stray too far from rock, they may see some cross-genre collaborations down the line.
"Our musical tastes have adapted to our surroundings so I think we want to be able to bring in elements of what we listen to now into the way that we understand what pop music is," said Comtois.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)