One of the current indie rock bands who is enjoying the spotlight is the international amalgam Young the Giant. The band’s first single “My Body” has been featured on American Idol and Jimmy Kimmel Live and reached a top five listing on the US Alternative Songs chart. In just two years, the band went from playing small venues to performing at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards and festivals like Austin City Limits. We spoke to guitarist Jacob Tilley about the band’s recent success, their influences, and what is like to play with such a diverse group of musicians.
How did you all meet each other and start playing?
We’ve had the band since we were 15, but this lineup became solid about five years ago and we all decided to pursue music.
You used to perform under the name, The Jakes. Where does your current name come from?
It doesn’t really come from anything premeditated. We were in the process of finding a new band name and for some reason we all really liked the way that it rang together. We were inspired by the name, ended up writing a couple tracks off the album that the name inspired. We just kept it. It’s nothing like premeditated or has any deep meaning but we kept it and I like it.
How do you and Eric Cannata, the other guitarist in YTG, coordinate the parts that you play?
We both kind of bring riffs and work on those together. We actually work really well as a unit, we play all the time together. It’s fun- Eric will come up with something and I’ll say, “Oh I’ve got this idea that kind of works well with that” and we move all of the guitar pieces together and make sure that it’s not too overbearing. We are a guitar band and there is a danger of becoming too guitar heavy so we are aware of that.
How do the diverse backgrounds of your band members influence your songwriting?
I don’t think its a conscious thing like- “Oh we should take something from the Kinks because they’re English”. Because we do come from different backgrounds, we’ve been exposed to not just one type of music. I grew up and played classical guitar. I don’t know if it’s anything super that we try and incorporate that much, it’s just something that is embedded in us more than anything. We get asked that a lot and it’s not like, “Oh, we should have a sitar in this song”- it’s nothing like that.
What was the most surreal moment you have had with all of your recent success?
I guess playing with Billie May, he was my childhood idol, the guitarist for Queen, that was very surreal. I just loved playing guitar with him. I got to play a show with him and that was awesome, very, very special- something I will never forget. We played with him at the VMA’s.
Any plans to record another studio album?
Yeah, we’re actually working right now just writing and getting our songs together. We’re going to be recording by the end of the year and the very beginning of next year.
Why do you think people respond so intensely to “My Body”?
It’s a great song and it’s very simple and the lyrics are straightforward and people can relate to it. I think it’s done really well in the sports market with the determination and pushing yourself. I think that’s why- it’s just a simple song and people can relate to it.
Your songs have mixture of pop aesthetics with powerful guitar and polyrhythms. How do you balance these sounds?
We’ve had a lot of saturation and a lot of stuff going on. We’re all very conscious of the song writing process and trying to learn how to use space a little bit more. What we’re good at is our sound, but now we’re using it more sparsely and not beating a dead horse.
Who are the musicians who most influence your songwriting and playing?
I’m a huge fan of Brian Eno who is obviously a huge studio guru kind of guy. I just love how many sounds he get going and I think he is great.