Indie rock band Young the Giant is made up of five first-generation Americans from Irvine, California. Their third album, Home of the Strange, weaves their diverse backgrounds together to tell a story of the exploration and misconceptions of a new place.
“It is the land of the free in a lot of ways, but it is also such a bizarre amalgamation of people and cultures—and it is strange,” says drummer François Comtois.
The band is a sample size of America’s own melting pot. Lead singer Sameer Gadhia comes from a family of Indian immigrants, bassist Payam Doostzadeh is Persian-American, Comtois is originally from Montreal and guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata are British and Italian, respectively.
“Everyone has an individual story but it plays into a greater narrative,” Comtois says of the 11-song album. He spoke to Vegas Seven about how the band members evolved musically, the album’s unexpected timeliness and our digital facades.
You have described Home of the Strange as this coming-of-age story. Why do you say that is?
It works as a two-way coming-of-age story. There are these nebulous characters within the album who are coming of age in their own lives and within their own understanding of the world that they live in. That parallels our story as musicians, songwriters and people.
The song “Amerika” was inspired by Franz Kafka’s unfinished novel of the same name. The book describes the bizarre wanderings of a 16-year-old European immigrant. Coming from immigrant families, how do you relate to that narrative?
The thing that spoke to us is, you can have expectations of a place and think you know what you’re getting yourself into. At the end of the day, you really have no idea how it’s going to go.
In the novel, it’s taking that idea to the nth degree. Every situation [the main character] finds himself in is just so absurd. That actually does happen in a lot of cases. You come to a place expecting something and you end up experiencing something completely different.
How do you work together to express your own personal experiences as first-generation Americans through songwriting?
If you look in general how those stories shake out for the rest of the country, everyone has an individual story but it plays into a greater narrative. People are coming to this place to accomplish something, to find something for themselves or their families. A lot of times you have very similar themes, and that’s the case for all of our families and all our lives. We came from different places. We went through different places to get here. But a lot of the reasons why we’re here are the same.
There’s a lot of focus on immigration in America right now. Did you write the album in response to the current political climate?
Well, it’s hard to say. These things have been going on for a really long time and there’s been sort of a turbocharge recently.
When we were writing, we surely didn’t expect that Donald Trump was going to happen. We didn’t expect all this vitriol that was going to come out of the woodwork. But we knew it was there. We’ve had the chance to explore the country and experience different people’s points of view, and the things different people had experienced, so we knew there was that sea of regression. But 2016 happened and all of a sudden it puts the whole album into a new context.
Now the album is more relevant.
Yeah. You see it at the shows. People connect with the album in a way that wouldn’t have been the case if Hillary [Clinton] had been elected, to be honest with you.
“Mr. Know-It-All” is one of my favorites on the album. It comments on facades that people put on and then the realization that you do the same yourself. In what ways is this based on personal experience?
That song is 100 percent based on personal experience for us because most of the time four of the guys will be on their phones doing whatever, and then one guy will be like, “Oh, you guys are always on your phones.” Then, the next day it’s that guy is on his phone, too.
[It’s] that realization that [cell phone use] is a little bit of a toxic habit. It’s a shame that we’re shying away from personal contact and creating relationships in the real world. We have to realize that we’re part of the problem. We’re just as responsible for it.
A lot of the songs on the album, and even your band name, touch on the subject of youth. As you have grown, why does this concept still remain important to you?
There are a lot of things about youth that are incredibly powerful, and unfortunately, you don’t [always] have the weapons to put those things into action. You don’t have that toolbox yet. There’s that naive hope that you can make a difference and all these things. But, maybe you don’t have the clout, or the patience or the maturity. …
If you hang on to those things as you do develop as a person, then you will be able to accomplish a lot. Unfortunately, the reality is that the world makes that very difficult for a lot of people.
Young the Giant
August 18, 7 p.m., tickets start at $30, Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort, palms.com