Neighborhood Jams: Young the Giant

While waking up for my Tuesday 8:00 a.m. class today I was hit with a reminder that we are in the middle of the semester.  Nights are a little bit longer in the library; mornings are cold and come too soon; and midterms are creeping up faster than finals.  All of this can only mean one thing – we need to take some time for ourselves and our wild sides.  We need good music for our souls, and I know just the band. This week I am featuring a band that is playing two nights in San Diego this week – YES, TWO NIGHTS THIS WEEK! So between all the page flipping and essay cramming, we can definitely take a break – in the name of rock ‘n roll of course.

Young the Giant is an alternative, indie rock band formed in Irvine, CA back in 2004.  Before they decided on their current name they were formerly known as The Jakes back in the day. The band consists of: Sameer Gadhia on lead vocals, Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata on guitar, Payam Doostzadeh on the bass, and lastly Francois Comtois on drums.  Together they have released three albums titled Young the Giant (2010), Mind Over Matter (2014), and Home of the Strange (2016).  In 2011 the band’s two singles “Cough Syrup” and “My Body” hit charts both reaching to the top five of America’s top alternative music. My personal favorite song is “Cough Syrup”  because when I first heard this five years ago, it was a sound that I was not familiar with.  They are happy and poppy without sounding like a cookie cutout of Top 40 pop.  Their lyrics are different yet meaningful.  For example, my favorite lines are:

“If I could find a way to see this straight
I’d run away
To some fortune that I, I should have found by now”

 

Two months ago Young the Giant released their latest album Home of the Strange on August 12th and have since been on tour selling out almost every single venue.  You guys can check them out tonight, October 18th, and tomorrow, October 19th, at the House of Blues downtown at 7:00 o’clock.  Tickets are sold out – but you are more than welcomed to stand on the corner and try to scalp some tickets with me tomorrow night.  Until then be sure to check out their Facebook page in order to stay up to date with tours, news, and all that jazz.

 

Photo Credit: Young the Giant

The Sounds of State-Kiana Malekzadeh, Renee Ramirez, and Kiersten Sukert

Hello and welcome to another week of The Sounds of State. This week, I interviewed a trio of new KCR DJ’s from our Indie Invasion block. I was late on Wednesday afternoon when we met in the studio and walked out to Campanile and sat right down on the grass in a circle for our discussion. Here’s how it all went down:

Cameron Satterlee: Okay, so I’m here with Kiana, Kiersten, and Renee. Alright so let’s start off with an easy question, so what is your radio show and do you have any DJ names?

Renee Ramirez: You want to start?

Kiersten Sukert: Okay our radio show is called KRK, it’s pretty simple, it just stands for Kiersten, Renee, and Kiana. And we have the title of Indie Invasion, we didn’t come up with that though, that was just given to us. But yeah we basically play genres of indie music, we kinda play EDM-based too.

Kiana Malekzadeh: Alternative, kind of.

KS: Yeah, it’s just very different music.

CS: Okay, and your show is when?

KS: It’s on Wednesdays at 4, so listen.

RR: 4 to 5.

CS: 4 to 5 alright, yeah yeah the Indie Invasion block I think is for everyone who has shows at that time of the week. So you said you play indie music but also a bit of EDM, do you all personally sort of have your own niches that you like to play?

RR: I don’t play that much EDM.

KS: That’s kinda my thing. I wouldn’t really categorize it as EDM though.

KM: It’s really hard to describe.

RR: EDM-indie, is that a thing?

KS: Yeah if I had to describe it in one way it would be EDM indie.

RR: Laid back but still upbeat I guess.

KS: Electronic based indie.

KM: Yeah. Also I feel that you like to put slower songs and then, me, I don’t know, I can be all over the place. I just know that you like the slower, more mellow stuff.

KS: Yeah.

CS: Alright, so I’ve been trying to get into this music, cause I’ve found it more interesting as I’ve been in college and I guess exposed to new things, so that’s a more recent interest for me. But what’s the back story for the three of you, how did you get into this sort of music?

RR: I just started to listen to it my senior year, that’s when I got into indie because I started going to more concerts. Because they were cheap tickets, they were fifteen dollars, twenty dollars, and my friends would be like “let’s go see it” and I don’t know who they are but okay. And then as I went to more shows, on Spotify, I put them in the radio section, I would type in Young the Giant and I would see all these related artists and new songs would come up and it kind of just filled my playlists. And that’s how I started liking it.

KM: For me, I guess I’ve just had an interest in bands my whole life, just from my parents too. And I remember in fourth grade I liked bands, that was my thing. But then as I got older, I’ve always been prone to trying to find new stuff to listen to, it’s just fun, cause I get sick of skipping songs and you want to find new stuff. So Spotify definitely helped me too, plus it’s updated now, you can go and discover and things like that. And me and my friends from back home have the same taste in music too and we’d go to shows as we got older and could drive. You’d end up liking the opening band and stuff like that. Yeah, it just grows and grows I guess, I would say.

KS: Am I doing this one too?

CS: Yeah, sure.

KS: Okay. I think it started when I found my parent’s vinyl collection. They had a lot of 80’s, so I started getting slowly into the 80’s, and I think I kind of just worked up the decades. And I kind of realized that when I met people who liked the same music as I did, we had the same or similar personality traits. And it’s kind of like its own culture within society. You know you meet cool people, you listen to the same music.

RR: That’s how we met.

KS: That’s how we met. Yeah and these girls are awesome.

CS: Great! That’s sort of a Segway to my next question, I’m interested how the three of you partnered up at KCR.

RR: It was very random.

KS: We were just talking about that.

RR: We all just went in solo, we just wanted to make friends, wanted to get involved in school, I’m a freshman and they’re both sophomores and so I was like “KCR, might as well get involved”. And they were like “yeah get involved now” and then I met Kiana first, the very first night they were signing up for what show you wanted to do and she actually thought I didn’t like her first. Because I was in a rush to go somewhere and she was trying to get to know me and I was like “yeah where’s the paper, where’s the pen, let’s sign up, let’s go”. And then, the next day, we meet Kiersten the next day randomly and she’s like “what kind of show are you guys doing” and we say indie and that’s how music brought us together because she was like “oh I listen to that too, we should all be cohosts together” and I was like “okay I guess three makes it easier if I had to back out on one day” (all laugh).

KS: (laughs) You were thinking about backing out?

RR: No I just was thinking if I couldn’t make it to a show (all laugh). But yeah it was fate.

KM: Yeah.

CS: Alright anyone can answer this question, would you say that you have good chemistry on the air.

KM: Yeah. I can stumble on my words but for the most part they make me feel more comfortable by talking as if I was talking to anyone else.

KS: We’ve got our own movement too, Kiana’s always usually on the laptop playing songs and she usually introduces them too. And Renee and I switch off controlling the laptop and talking. But we usually do the intro or closing. We have our own system going (“yeah”’s all around).

RR: “Kiana, what song’s next?” (laughs).

KM: And we try to talk about upcoming shows with artists who are playing and stuff like that.

KS: Right now our big thing is Coachella.

KM: Cause it’s in a month.

CS: Alright, so are there any songs or bands or albums that you really like to play on the air right now? What’s the new big deal for the three of you?

KS: I don’t know. We don’t have a specific person that we always play.

KM: We played a few alt-J songs, I’ve noticed. I’m the one that puts the songs on so I can remember more than you guys.

RR: Oh yeah.

KM: But definitely alt-J, I’m trying to think.

RR: San Cisco.

KS: I’ve seen a lot of Glass Animals.

KM: Oh yeah, definitely.

RR: But I guess with indie, there are so many indie bands that we don’t really stick to one artist.

CS: Alright, so last question, I always think it’s a fun one to end with, I want to know how your perfect show would go. Just if everything was awesome and you left the studio just thinking ah yeah we nailed it! How would that be?

KS: Honestly, we talk a lot while our music is playing.

KM: On accident.

KS: No I mean about our personal lives, and you can definitely tell we each have a different personality. And I feel if we put that personality on air that would be a perfect show. Just be comfortable in the studio and talk with each other like we normally do.

RR: Well we don’t really talk much on our show because it’s music so I don’t know if the audience really gets to see our personality. Cause we just kind of introduce a song and talk a little bit about the artist or their show, so I guess they don’t really know our personalities yet. And I don’t want to talk too much cause it’s a music show.

KS: We kind of established that in the beginning too, to not talk that much.

KM: But the perfect show would just be us not messing up. We get some technical difficulties sometimes.

KS: We’ll be giving away tickets and getting the people who call on the air is hard.

CS: Oh, we’ve all been there. Alright well, thanks, this has been a great interview.

All: Thanks.

Afterwards, I had to go do my own radio show so I stayed in the studio for that while the girls walked off, hopefully to reward themselves for a job well done. Kiana later messaged me a few songs to give you readers a sampling of what they play on their show, check them out:

Spoon-Do You

ODESZA-Say My Name

Blind Pilot-One Red Thread

Bahamas-All The Time

If you liked any of those songs, be sure to check out KRK, Wednesdays from 4-5 pm on KCR Radio, the Sound of State.

(Also maybe stick around till 6pm cause that’s when I’m on air!)

The Goldmine-Achtung Baby by U2

Welcome back from break everybody, this week the album I’ll profile is U2’s 1991 release Achtung Baby. A huge turning point in the band’s career, the album was vastly different, a complete reinvention, from their previous record Rattle and Hum. Achtung Baby drew inspiration from the industrial music and electronic dance music and projected the band into a much more alternative sphere than they had previously occupied. It was also the band’s move away from the very serious ‘going-to-save-the-world-with-rock-and-roll’ image that was fairly or unfairly bestowed upon them into a much more flippant and self-parodying band. This is also the first album in this series that comes from the 1990’s, U2 is also the first Irish band whose record I’m profiling, yay diversification! Let’s jump right in.

The band’s change in style is immediately apparent within the first few seconds of the first track, Zoo Station. The beat is very industrial and features much more heavily distorted guitar than U2 had been exploring. The song moves into a very melodic verse-chorus-verse that has singer Bono dueting with himself on multiple vocal tracks (even if he is somewhat unintelligible). Zoo Station song was written as a spin off from another song called Lady With the Spinning Head and some similarities between the two can be heard. The song takes inspiration from an urban legend of the zoo animals running loose around the streets of Berlin after an Allied bombing rain in World War II. On a conceptual level, the band was drawing influence from European music and culture instead of American music and culture like they had done since The Joshua Tree. This move coincided with a revival in pan-European sentiment due to the fall of Communism.

The next song is the concert favorite Even Better Than the Real Thing. One of the earliest songs demoed for the album, Even Better Than the Real Thing is built upon a repeating guitar chord by guitarist The Edge. It is sort of a revamped sounding ‘traditional’ song, which the band likened to The Rolling Stones.

The third track is one of U2’s most famous songs, the hit single One. The band was having a huge amount of trouble recording the Achtung Baby album and was coming close to breaking up due to the strain. Bono and The Edge were those advocating for a changing sound but bassist Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. wanted U2 to retain their established sound. Each member credits the recording of this song and the spontaneous nature it was created with keeping the band together. The song’s lyrics deal with relationships big and small, from intimate relationships between people to the healing of nations torn apart, and how everyone has only one life to live and they should try harder to come together.

The fourth song is another fan favorite, the mid-tempo Until the End of the World. The song is a retelling of the moments between Jesus Christ and the apostle Judas and his betrayal. The song was primarily written by Bono, as he composed the guitar riff and the lyrics. Adam Clayton also has a great turn on bass in this song, with wild and rollicking lines than surge through the song.

The next record is the uplifting yet self-conscious Who’s Going to Ride Your Wild Horses. The song could have been a huge concert his but it proved very difficult for the band to mimic the atmosphere the song enjoys in its studio recording. The band members themselves felt the song to be incomplete along with Steve Lillywhite, who helped to produce the song.

The sixth track is So Cruel, a slow and plodding song that blends genre in its five plus minutes on the record. The song owes its sound to a magnificent studio mixing job that transformed the song from its original acoustic state into a very sleek and polished beast. So Cruel drew inspiration from the separation that The Edge was undergoing with his wife during the recording of the album. Larry Mullen Jr’s percussion track on the song plays a huge role in the song as it builds up from a repeating piano riff to a murky emotional mess.

At the midpoint of the album we reach the unqualified rock masterpiece of the album, the ordinary yet so completely unordinary The Fly. If any song represented U2’s move into ‘alternate’ rock from the roots rock sound they utilized in their previous albums it was this once. The Fly showcases every member of the band at peak form, especially The Edge’s guitar-play, whose crunching distortion is the trademark for the song.

From The Fly we move on to the playful and lithe Mysterious Ways. The song has a very fun and danceable beat and is as straight up of a love song as you can find on this album, or much of anything the band wrote until the new millennium. The song was released as the second single off the album (after The Fly) and enjoyed considerable praise from both the public and critics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f4qmVMPXwU

The ninth song on the album is Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World. The song is another more straightforward piece that sees the band utilizing their new sound to build a fun and appealing record out of the successful dense and modern mix they developed.

The song Lady With the Spinning Head evolved three of the band’s best songs on Achtung Baby, including Zoo Station and The Fly. Ultra Violet (Light My Way) is the final one of this trio. The song has many pop merits, and became the band’s closing song for years. It sounds a bit more like their earlier records than most other songs, but the lyrics are much less serious than the heart-on-your-sleeve type the band wrote prior to this album. Maybe the most accessible song on the album, it is also one of the real highlights.

From the emotionally uplifting Ultra Violet we move to the paranoid Acrobat. The song is a bit bitterer than much of the optimistic work of the pro-Europe songs that the band was writing. Acrobat is also interesting for the band as is performed in 6/8 time which U2 and most rock bands rarely venture into.

The final song on the album is the brooding and simmering Love Is Blindness. The song is very similar to So Cruel in its structure and inspiration, but much angrier. A very slow piece that slowly surges into a subtle yet swirling mass of chaos by the end. It was originally written for the Rattle and Hum album but shelved until Achtung Baby. It closes what by comparison to U2’s previous work is a raw yet insanely polished set of alien sounding music.

Ambiguity and polarity are the key words for this album. As I mentioned with Love Is Blindness, the songs on this record have both very raw elements drawn from industrial rock but at the same time a clean and polished sound when they need to be. The tracks comprising the album are all about uncertainty, unresponsiveness, a yearning for connectivity and unity. The album reflects the feelings of many people at the dawn of the nineties. Europe was uncertain of its new future with Communism gone and many did not know where to go from there. U2’s album was both mirrored this uncertainty but offered a timid hope for better days for those who would put their toes in the water.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwEYm7X46Lo