Seeds.: You guys have mentioned landing on the Roadrunner record label, which is a traditionally harder rock-oriented label, so how do you guys find touring partners like Walk the Moon or GROUPLOVE?
EC: Most times the bands that you tour with aren’t going to be bands that you and your team choose that you think are good or bands that you’re friends with or that match your sound or energy well. The label hasn’t really helped in many, many ways but we’re the ones that pick and choose who we want to tour with. Walk the Moon we met over a year ago now in Cincinnati, their hometown, while we were on tour with this great band called Pomegranates, and we played a show with all three bands and Walk the Moon were great so when the time came to pick and choose who we wanted to open for us for this bigger national tour [who could] draw some people out and had a good energy to open up the set… When it came down to it, it not about the fact that Roadrunner has Nickelback or Slipknot, everyone down to the guys at Roadrunner and our management with [those guys.] It’s just not our thing It’s obvious… Hopefully it gets to a level where we can say that we have friend bands that are struggling and don’t get the recognition that they deserve. It’s hard to tour, so hopefully one day well have the ability to say ‘Look, we’re taking these guys on the road with us and that’s how it’s gonna be.
Seeds.: Your record has caught on pretty well, but do you remember being in the situation where, say, Walk the Moon or GROUPLOVE is now. Did you guys have a band that came down and extended that hand and helped you a little initially?
Eric Cannata: Yeah, we started out touring California early on and in between recording our record in Los Angeles we went out on a US run with Minus The Bear, we didn’t know anything about touring, and [MtB] and the band was right after us called Everest. They took us under their wing and taught us about touring, they were super sweet dudes. Taught us how to do the trailer how to tour better, with every tour. Every single tour you learn so much… luckily the guys from Minus the Bear, Everest and all the crew were super sweet people and kinda helped guide us along the way. I think we only missed one show on that tour, which is pretty good for a band that never really toured the U.S. before.
Besides that we’ve opened up for a ton of bands in the last two and a half years that we’ve been touring the States, Europe, UK, Indonesia, Australia, Canada. We’ve played with Neon Trees, Marina and the Diamonds, The Futureheads, Steel Train. A bunch of bands at this point. We did a tour with Incubus which was great.
Seeds.: Do you remember the first time thinking the album was going to be bigger than you’d ever thought it’d be, or maybe even a hit?
EC: It’s funny because everyone working on the record were convinced ‘this is gonna be a huge record.’ We were all really young, we’re still young, and just excited to be able to do this. We were all going to school at different colleges in California. This was something that we’ve always dreamed of doing - music full time. Now that we have the opportunity, it’s just a blessing, the record came out and we really didn’t realize the full effect of having a label and a team, the radio push and heavy touring opening for bands. Just trying to get our live show to a place where we’re really comfortable with the show and know that you just come to the show and you’ll hear something better than the records. That was really our thing. The record is doing very well and we’re very blessed people to be able to do this as a living, it’s really our dream.
Seeds.: Having a live performance sound anything like what’s on a record is definitely a virtue, like you said you’ll see these bands who have a hit and the first time they do a live performance they just can’t match it. Is there something that set your live shows that gives it that little special twinge to it?
EC: Recording our record live with our producer Joe Chicarelli, is just a really experienced dude. We didn’t realize until our first day of preproduction that we were going to record the record live. Which means we were in a room and we did all the instrumental tracking, drums, bass, both guitars together in the same room. The amps were all in isolated rooms, but we were all playing together to try and get that live vibe. Sameer would sing the scratch vocal and we would play one song over and over until we felt that we got a good take. And that [in itself] made our rhythm section play together way, way tighter. Then something else that sets us apart live is our energy. We’re all happy to be onstage, we don’t look like we’re bored, we smile and look at each other and bob our heads. We’re happy to be doing what we’re doing.
Seeds.: The record has been out for a while now and as you’ve said [Young the Giant] has been doing lots of heavy touring with some big opprotunites for you guys to play. You have probably played these songs thousands of times. How do you keep the tunes fresh every night?
EC: We change it up a bit. Actually after the record was done and we started touring we changed the songs a little bit… atmospherically? It’s not like we went in like ‘oh, I don’t like any of these songs, let’s not play any of them.’ Because when you come to a show you’ll hear pretty much exactly the record, but the changes that we’ve made are things to keep ourselves interested. Average listeners might not notice, but if someone really knows music, listens to the record - they’ll pick up on things hear or there. Different drum or guitar parts, just a slight variation to keep it interesting for us. I mean atmospherically because when I’m on guitar and I add a delay effect where there [wasn’t.] Or when Francois [Comtois] our drummer would add some interesting rack tom rhythm. Also what keeps us most interested is new music, it’s hard to get full songs done while we’re touring so heavily we just weren’t in any groove, and finally we got in some time off in the last three months before this tour started. We wrote a good amount of ideas and we’re actually touring and playing two new songs live. That’s really what keep the energy going. You gotta keep moving forward and keep having new ideas.
Seeds.: You guys have had a few singles make their way out on their own, like ‘My Body” and now “Cough Syrup” is gaining a lot of momentum of its own. What do you think people get when they come to your full album off those singles?
EC: I think the few singles that are out are good songs, they’re not my favorite as one of the writers. We all write together. Cough Syrup’s an older song. My Body not too much like every other song on the record. I think the cool thing about our record is it’s not just “My Body” and “Cough Syrup” that people seem to dig, everybody I talk to has a different favorite song, which I think is a sign that all the way through people are liking the record. It’s not like “Oh my god ‘My Body’ or ‘Cough Syrup’ is it” lots of people love those songs but they’re the songs that people hear on the radio… The good thing being that I see people singing along to every song, and when we start playing, one of slower songs ‘Islands’ which is really the only place that opens up on the record. Kind of gives it a little bit more room, it’s not so in your face with every single instrument being played the entire song through. That’s one of my personal favorites, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air on the record. I feel like there’s a couple points on the record that drop.
Most of our stuff is a lot more mellow than “My Body” and if you ask anybody in the band if we listen to I guess what “My Body” would be considered… none of us really listen to hard rock, we’re not hating on it, it’s just not our favorite type of music. I’m not too into bands with super heavy distorted guitars or super intense drums and stuff. I can say I think “My Body” is a good song, but it’s one of those things where I think there’s way better on the record, way more interesting songs [than “My Body.”] I think if I were to talk to people who had only listened to [those two songs] I would definitely tell them to come out to a show from before the Young the Giant record, songs from Shake My Hand we play. All the Young the Giant stuff and then you also hear some new stuff, the next record that we’re gonna put out. You kinda get a full little circle there.
Seeds.: Young the Giant writes within pretty common themes (i.e., relationships) but the flavor of the album as a whole is different from some of their contemporaries or if there’s something about your writing process that you think is unique to you guys.
EC: I think every band has their thing. All I know is that I’m really happy the way we do it just because we write together a lot of bands will have the one guy who writes everything and there’s other bands like us where it doesn’t matter if it’s a drum part, bass line, vocal melody or lyric, but something will inspire us to write a song and we’ll go from there. It used to be a lot more “A.D.D.” when we were younger then we matured a little bit, we did our first record. Kind of settled down and found each of our own places in the band. It’s really nice to be able to write with four other creative minds. It really connects us, a lot of bands don’t have that camaraderie of knowing we all did this together.
Seeds.: I think it was Sameer who said you all had this shared vision of the album while you were making it. What was the vision beforehand and how has it changed since then?
EC: The vision for the record was based on youthfulness and even the idea of summer. We’re from California and people have been saying the album has that summer-y feel.
We were all very young, I was only 18 or 19 when we recorded the record and we got to live right on the beach in West Hollywood. This life was given to us where we were told “You’re in a band and don’t have a normal schedule and can do whatever you want.” We kind of took that idea and hung the album on that.
Seeds.: Glee did a cover of “Cough Syrup” that was pretty true to the original and Sameer even did an anti-bullying video. I was just wondering your guys’ thoughts on how Glee used it and how that opportunity came about.
EC: That came pretty recently and we a really good opportunity. none of us watch Glee, but I know a lot of people that really like that show. It is great publicity for [the band.] I didn’t realize it would be that intense, some people online [had negative reactions] but so many more people thought it was great. There’s always going to be people that un-band’s gaining success or what would be considered selling out. I’m really young but to me that term ‘selling out’ doesn’t hold true to anything anymore. If ‘selling out’ means that the artist who’s writing these songs can make a living and continue writing these songs, because they have the ability and the money to, then more power to bands that are on commercial.
Nowadays, it’s not like records are selling like hotcakes. Bands need to find ways to stay with their heads over the water and one of the biggest ways is getting these things or commercials to make a living. Whatever you want to call it, it was a great opportunity, it got our name out there even more than it is right now. And it’s gonna help us get to where we want to be.
Seeds.: It was a great moment in the show, and they stuck pretty true to what you guys wrote. They chose a great way to include it in the show and for you guys to be the benefactor of that is a great opportunity.
EC: They did a great job recreating that song. It was weird listening to it. There were a lot of things that were spot on, there were little things we could tell, but they did a good job. That initial response chart-wise, the Glee version charted higher than our version, but it’s not a bad thing to get that publicity out there.
Seeds.: As a younger band, I think it’s important to get the perspective of somebody who has grown up with internet piracy and the downfall of the full-length CD… Does the band have any opinion on that? Do you think you would have been the same band if you had done it at a different time?
EC: If we were in a different time who knows if people would be into the music we’re making now. I think bands come at the time and get successful that [the music] happens.
About online piracy, we grew up with that was the norm. Which is really messed up. It’s not right, but when you grow up with it it seems normal. You know, “if everyone’s smoking pot, maybe I should smoke? If everyone is downloading the new Flaming Lips album for free, why am I going to go out and pay $12 to buy it? I’m broke anyway.” You know what I mean? If download our recorded illegally, but then we come around your city and you come out to a show and buy a vinyl or a shirt or even buy a ticket to the show - that’s the payoff. I can’t be like “Oh, you’re an a**hole, you downloaded our album.” I’m not gonna lie I’ve downloaded illegally before. It’s a messed up thing, but it was so normal growing up. Everyone would be downloading records, everyone still does. People my age, people old, even little kids. It’s weird, it’s kind of like we were thrown into this industry when the industry doesn’t even know what the hell to do.
It used to be like, you’re at a major record label and you’re good to go, now it’s like, you’re at a major record label and [the label] is so scared that they’re not going to make money from you anymore because records don’t sell [that they take] money from not only records, but this and that, this and that. It has been a good experience for us… but heads of the labels are like “These records 10 years ago, could be going platinum but instead they’re selling 100,000 records. If that’s the case we need to take money from touring, merchandise, from every single facet of where the band makes money.”
So for us, look, if you download our record, come out to a show and buy a $20 or a sweatshirt for your kid. We worked with [Grammy award winning producer] Joe Chicarelli and he put it in perspective for me when I was talking about online piracy. His report on it, and he’s an older guy… you’re blind to the fact that it messes with these artists and how it messes with their lives and their livelihoods, but then when you go back to when you were 13 years old and your friends or cousin or whatever says “Look at this there’s this website you can press a button and you get a CD for free!” Of course you’re going to do that, your first instinct is to fill up your 10 Gb iPod. Someone told me the other day if you fill up one of the big iPods 120 Gb, 60 Gb whatever. If you fill one of the up the cost of those in CDs is like $50,000… All that music you got for free.
Now we have Spotify, Pandora. All those different ways of finding new music. You can have them on your phone, press a button and you’ve got all this new music. Those are definitely good things.
Seeds.: What can people expect from this tour?
EC: Yeah, people coming out to this tour can expect a little weirdness, we play the remix to Ignition by R. Kelly last night in Chicago. In fur coats. It was pretty epic.
Seeds.: You guys have a lot of sold out dates on the upcoming tour…
EC: We went on our first headlining run in 2011 and all those shows were sold out as well, but that was playing to 150 to at most 500 person rooms. And now I think every show on the tour is sold out and we’re playing to 1,000 to 2,5000 people. It’s a dream tour. I guess as we’re more tour-wise, you realize it could all still be better. You could always be better. Whether its your guitar tone to how the tours get ran, little things… We’re very very lucky to be able to do this. I get up on stage and I just smile, “Where the hell am I? How the hell did we get here?”
Q&A by Mitch McCann