The title song (and recent top 20 alternative rock single) from Young The Giant’s latest album, Mind Over Matter, is perhaps the song that differs most from the expansive guitar pop/rock sound fans grew accustomed to hearing on the band’s 2010 self-titled debut album.
Interestingly enough, it took a song like that, which took the group out of its musical comfort zone, to get an album project that had stalled back on track.
As guitarist Eric Cannata explains in a recent phone interview, the group had become bogged down in the challenge of trying to follow up a debut album that made Young The Giant a major new name on the rock scene.
The self-titled album produced two alternative rock hits, “My Body” and “Cough Syrup.” The former song went top five and was the fifth most played alternative rock track in 2011. The latter song did even better, reaching number two on the alternative rock charts. That kind of success, obviously, creates significant anticipation for what the band will do next with its music, and Young the Giant felt the pressure as it convened to write for the second album.
“We got to a point where we felt stagnant,” Cannata says. “For about a month or month and a half, we felt like sitting ducks, [thinking] where do we go from here? I think that had to do with ourselves putting on this kind of… this expectation, this pressure on our heads of reconnecting with the people that came out for the shows from our first album and bought our first album and grew to love that album.”
It wasn’t until the five members of Young The Giant — Cannata, singer Sameer Ghadia, guitarist Jacob Tilley, drummer Francois Comtois and bassist Payam Doostzadeh — allowed themselves to remember the spirit that first drove them to make music as a band, that the song “Mind Over Matter” emerged. Then, the weight of expectations came off the group’s collective shoulders.
“We realized we should just have fun with it and not think too much about it and get out of our comfort zone, for example try to write a song on a synthesizer rather than how we usually were doing it, starting with a guitar lick or a vocal melody or something,” Cannata says.
“And after we wrote the song ‘Mind Over Matter,’ that’s when we realized, hey look, we can just go into the studio and have a great time together and get back to where we started from, which was in a garage, just playing music together for fun,” he says.
That anything-goes attitude toward songwriting carries over to several other songs on the new album, resulting in a richer and more diverse compilation than their self-titled release.
That doesn’t mean Young The Giant avoided the kinds of songs that defined the first album. “Anagram” may strike listeners as a friskier counterpart to “Apartment,” the lead track on their first album. “It’s About Time” (the first single from the new album) and “In My Home” are crunchy tunes that pack a similar guitar-based punch to the rocked up sections of “Cough Syrup” and “My Body.”
But the group made it a goal to produce a second album that would hold some musical surprises — an objective they achieved. The song “Mind Over Matter,” a silken ballad bathed in washes of synthesizer, and the gentle song, “Firelight,” which features little more than Ghadia’s vocals and guitar, are both unlike anything on the first album. The group, meanwhile, uses synthesizers and keyboards to add new levels of texture and fresh dimensions to songs like “Camera,” “Eros” and “Crystallized.”
“I think if we had made a record that was very, very similar to the first record, then I feel like we would feel stagnant and feel like we didn’t evolve and grow up in the way that we grew as people,” he says.
Young The Giant has definitely done some growing since 2009, when the group, which had started out in 2004 as the Jakes, evolved into its current lineup and renamed itself Young The Giant. And their self-titled album marked the first time the band recorded in a professional studio (Sunset Sound in Los Angeles).
“The first album was a little bit daunting, going into a major studio and being 18 or 19 years old,” Cannata says. “We were definitely a little bit nervous on that one.”
Now the growth of the band is continuing on tour. As Cannata says, Young The Giant has stepped up the visual production of its show and expanded its set list.
“I do think that we’ve been playing the best shows we’ve ever played because of the new songs,” Cannata says. “I really do think the new record has a lot more depth to it and a lot more versatility in the songs.”
ON THE BILL: Young The Giant. 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030. Tickets are $26 in advance, $30 day of the show.