Young the Giant has been to Cleveland several times, and drummer Francois Comtois has soaked up the magic of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame every time.
“There’s always something about being around those artifacts of rock n’ roll history that’s pretty inspiring.”
The band won’t be eligible for induction for years, but it’s gotten off to a good start. Its 2010 self-titled debut album featured the RIAA-gold certified hits “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” and 2014’s Mind Over Matter
was both a commercial and critical success. Things continue to escalate for the indie/alt-rock band too. Its new record, Mirror Master
, already hit No. 8 on Billboard’s Top Rock Albums last week, and the band has enjoyed a successful start to its tour, which will include a sold-out House of Blues
show on Tuesday.
Comtois also finds playing for the band’s increasingly large crowds, a key point of inspiration, and a vital part of the music trade.
“If you’re not able to have your songs translate live, you’re already at a huge disadvantage,” he says.
He advises young musicians to never turn their nose up at a gig.
“You never know who’s going to be there, and you never know how it’s going to impact the rest of your career,” he says.
As for Young the Giant’s own career launch, Comtois admits that luck played a role in getting the band to its current position.
“We started to do pretty well at a time where alternative music was still doing great on radio,” Comtois says, “Getting the first two singles off the first album got our foot in the door, and it allowed us this position where we could kind of do whatever we wanted.”
So what is it, that the five-piece indie band who met at an Orange County high school wanted to accomplish with its latest full-length?
They wanted to create a thematically sound, cohesive record, a rare feat in the streaming age.
“That’s the way that we listen to music, and we want to emulate the artists we love,” says Comtois. “And maybe there’s a song that wouldn’t have been a single, but it connects with someone in a way that’s really important to their lives.”
Young the Giant initially wrote 50 songs for Mirror Masters
. From there, they had to narrow it down to 12. Of those 12, only one of them could be the title track.
The band was stuck between “Superposition and “Mirror Master.”
“Those two tracks seemed like the cornerstones, thematically, of the record, and it just came down to ‘Mirror Master’ feeling so much more visually appealing,” Comtois says, “The first song is ‘Superposition,’ and the last song is ‘Mirror Master,’ so between those two, I feel like you get a general understanding of what the record’s about.”
“Superposition” was the second single, following “Simplify.”
“Simplify” is an up-beat, radio-ready track that sounds a bit more like Imagine Dragons than it does Young the Giant, but then again, the band has never stuck to just one sound.
“The message is very direct. We wanted it to be something that just sort of hits you on the first listen,” Comtois says, “That one, sort of paves the way for ‘Superposition,’ which is more of a slow burn…That was the idea: to get the one-two punch out of them.”
The most surprising track on the album, “Tightrope,” a dance-infused, '80s pop meets Maroon 5 falsetto endeavor, found the band spending weeks in the studio trying to get the production just right.
“We had a hard time packaging it,” Comtois says, “We didn’t want it to be too straight-forward; we wanted it to have this weird edge.”
The song is about dealing with the expectations of others. The tightrope is a metaphor for the thin line between your reality and the reality others see.
Comtois says that constantly changing the band's musical approach prevents members from getting bored.
“We have stylistic ADD," he says. "We have a really hard time picking one genre or style. And I think we’re afforded that because, with Sameer [Gadhia], we have such a strong vocalist and he has such a distinct color to his voice. So, it gives us the opportunity to explore other things, but it still always feels like a Young the Giant song.”
Comtois and his bandmates all live within a mile of each other in West L.A., and while it is easier to write alone, Comtois says that working on songs with his bandmates/best friends, along with a revolving door of studio musicians, writers and producers, elevates his work to the next level.
“There is something really important about having different perspectives when you’re writing a song. You can hear on an album when there’s a single songwriter, and it doesn’t get past a certain point. If you’re able to have people help you push past that, then I think you can end up with something really special.”