Young The Giant’s Sameer Gadhia
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Many music fans think of Young The Giant as an overnight sensation: A few months after its debut album hit stores, the band scored a massive radio hit with “My Body.” That impression couldn’t be further from the truth: While a recent name change—the act originally called itself The Jakes—clouds some of its history, the band’s been in the trenches in one form or another since 2004, when its members were high school students. The A.V. Club chatted with frontman Sameer Gadhia ahead of the band’s show Tuesday, Feb. 21 at The Rave, to talk about its history, the band members’ close friendships, and barometers of success.
The A.V. Club: There are some people who think you haven’t paid your dues because you went from releasing an EP to getting major radio play. How do you feel about that image of your band?
Sameer Gadhia: It’s a misconception. We’ve paid a lot of dues. On the other side of the coin, I think a lot of those press darlings that have just kind of risen to notoriety because of how poignant their music is; I don’t think they are really ready for the position they are thrust into. I think we’ve been prepared for a long time. We’ve played over 160 shows last year. We’ve been touring our asses off. People are going to say what they’re going to say, but we know that we’re ready, you know?
AVC: In this day and age, the music industry seems to be embrace those press darlings that come out of nowhere and get really big in the blogs and indie press. Why do you think that is?
SG: I think it’s the fickleness of the Internet world. If you’re an Internet fan, you’re not a real fan. You kind of follow what the press is saying. Even we’re victims of that. We love going online and researching bands and new acts and stuff like that. It’s not the same thing as building an organic fan base. It’s not the same thing as being a real band that tours and gets that fan base from convincing people, from changing people’s minds on the road from a 45-minute performance that means something to them rather than whatever the online storm is saying.
AVC: Aren’t a lot of bands using the amount of press they receive in the blogosphere as a barometer of their success?
SG: Exactly. I think that really does set you up for doom. A lot of indie darlings aren’t really selling well, and maybe they hate touring. If you’re going to be fickle about it and everyone else is going to be fickle about it—if you appeal to a very, very specific small niche of people, it turns out that those people are probably going to change their mind the next time around. You can’t discriminate. You have to be open [to listeners], not necessarily with how you write your music. You just have to be open to allowing other people to listen to it. Being on the radio, there’s not a bad thing about that.
AVC: The indie music underground is still a really small community. While a site like Pitchfork seems like an enormous institution to hardcore music fans, the average person on the street doesn’t even know what it is.
SG: I think as musicians and as people, we’re constantly inspired and in awe of those normal people. I think it’s a true testament to try to make an impact in those people’s lives. We really love real people. You get caught in the whole storm of the indie-rock scene. You play festivals and you do junkets. It’s just such a small, mini-bubble world of who’s cool and who’s not, and it’s dependent upon how they treat you. I think going through our travels and us trying to be normal, down-to-earth, willing-to-do-anything people, be it watch a football game or whatever. There’s so much snobbery, and that might put us under fire sometimes. It’s who we are. I don’t come from two generations of musicians. My parents are normal. I’m a first-generation American. They’re from India. It’s a completely different thing. I was just raised to try to be a good person. That’s what our goal is. At the end of this, if we can be good people, I think we’ve succeeded.
AVC: Don’t you think that’s a very different goal than many bands have?
SG: Most definitely. That’s their own prerogative, and they can do whatever they want to do. They can have their own opinions about the world. We’re friends with a lot of musicians who happen to be nice to us for some reason, they validate our music or they like it or something, and after a show we’ll pick each other’s brains. The fundamental philosophy of life is different. There’s nothing you can do about that. That’s how people think.
AVC: Does being a first-generation American give you a different outlook on life than many of your peers?
SG: Most definitely. I’m a first-generation American citizen. I’m an Indian American. I have a lot of old-world traditions. I’ve been to India five or six times. At the same time, I see America here. My parents aren’t that way. They’re Indian. For me, I appreciate this lifestyle, this individual power and prowess in the States that isn’t really allowed in other places. I think it’s beautiful. At the same time, it makes me very aware of how different people can be depending upon where they’re from. I think me being able to be from two completely different places has allowed me to see things more objectively about where people come from and how that affects their normal day and what they believe in. It’s just fascinating to me.
AVC: You guys started your band when you were in high school. Does growing up together strengthen the bonds between you?
SG: We still have such a naïve, dreamlike perspective of what a band should be. We met when we were in high school. This is the first and pretty much only band I’ve ever been with. I’ve had one side project. I’ve been in this band since I was 16. We’ve been through everything together. We’re best friends. We’re business partners. We’re bandmates. We’re roommates. We’ve been living together with each other in different houses for the last four years, all as roommates. We spend 24 hours a day with each other, seven days a week. The longest time we’ve been without each other is two weeks in the last two years. After that two weeks, we immediately started calling each other and hanging out again. That’s just the way we do it. We’re friends when we’re not together on the road. We just know how to live with each other. We fight like brothers. We know we’re meant to be with each other.
AVC: A lot of people have the impression that’s how bands work, although it’s almost never like that.
SG: It’s funny; when we first started we thought all bands were like that, too. We were on our first tour with Minus The Bear and Everest. We were in Michigan and we all drove up together. The first thing we asked the other guys was, “You guys live together, right?” We just assumed they’d say yes. Both bands just started laughing at us. They couldn’t stop laughing. The whole night, they were like, “Us living together? We’d kill each other!” It just kind of blew our minds.