By Shannon Carlin
For Young the Giant, Mind Over Matter is more than the title of their latest album, it’s what they told themselves to get over the pressure of making a second record. “We’ve done it once before,” lead singer Sameer Gadhia said in regards to their 2010 self-titled debut, which spawned the hit singles, “My Body” and “Cough Syrup.” “But it was a long time ago.”
After releasing their first album, the band spent two and a half years on the road. Guitarist Jacob Tilley told Radio.com that by the time they were done touring, they were all ready for a break and a chance to recharge their batteries.
“When we did the first record it was very blind faith that it was gonna work,” he said. “We were happy to be recording, taking time off school and having all this buzz around us. It was very exciting, but we toured for a long time and changed as musicians and as people. We wanted to have some time to really decompress with each other and really think about what we were as a band.”
They admit though that they were away longer than they would have liked, due to a bout of writers block that had them struggling to find their sound again. It was writing “It’s About Time” that helped the guys bounce back and ended up becoming the first single off Mind Over Matter, mostly because Gadhia couldn’t stop playing it. “There’s a level of frustration in the song that’s just from the music itself,” Gadhia explained.
Tilley admitted that they were looking to put out something more aggressive than they had before and “It’s About Time” fit the bill.
We wanted to make a statement right off the bat,” he said, noting that a lot of the songs they were hearing on rock radio were synth heavy, but that’s just not their style. “At the core of our band we’re a rock band with guitars and we wanted to put out the most blaring, guitar driven track.”
Gadhia feels like he found his voice as a songwriter with this album, noting that the band’s first outing — recorded when he was just 18 years old — was very earnest and honest. “It’s a cliché thing to say, but you know we had our whole lives to write the first record,” he explained. “The second really depends on what the band wants to do with it and for us, we wanted to do something a little different, but connect in a really strong way.”
To keep them focused on the task at hand, the guys stayed in their home state of California, recording in three different houses in the Los Angeles area, including one in East L.A. that may or may not have been haunted.
“The architect was on something, because it really didn’t make any sense,” Tilley said. “There was like a corridor to nowhere, it would just stop. And underneath the house, in the bowels of it, there were these giant chambers…with these 30 foot roofs and people had been squatting there at some point. The whole house was just very eerie. It was obviously built in the Seventies and one room looked like it belonged in a ’70s porn film, other ones looked like a demon had lived there.”
While working on the new album — due out January 21 on Fueled by Ramen — they were listening to a lot of the folk music they grew up on including Neil Young, The Walkmen and Wilco. You can hear this folkier influence on “Firelight,” a sparse lullaby that sounds like it could have found a good home on any one of Devendra Banhart’s records, an artist both Tilley and Gadhia say they really respect. “There’s peaks and valleys,” Gadhia said of the album. “It’s definitely a little bit more of an emotional roller coaster this record and it has a bit more shape and more sounds.” This includes the string arrangements on tracks like “Camera,” which were composed by Beck’s keyboardist, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.
When it came to writing the album’s lead track “Anagram,” all five guys decided to sit down together and watch silent, flashing scenes of Planet Earth-style nature videos on mute and then grab a pen. The end result? “It’s a little odd, but still has a good backbeat,” Gadhia explained.
But it’s “Arrows,” a song that went from a sparse surf jam to a more sculpted Bowie-esque dance track, that the band says they like the best. “It’s a nice breath on the record,” he said of the track, which they wrote in Malibu about experiencing summer. “You can move to it and there’s something enchanting about the lyrics.”
With their album release only a few weeks away, the guys say they’re excited to have people finally hear what they’ve been working on for the last two years. In total they wrote 30 songs and say they plan to head into the studio while they’re on the road this spring to record some of these leftovers. They hope it will make the next go ’round a little easier. So are they looking to release album No. 3 anytime soon? Like say, this year?
“We could put something out if we wanted to,” Gadhia said laughing. “But we’ll take our time.”