Southern California rock band Young the Giant will return with their second album, Mind Over Matter, on January 21st. The eclectic collection is produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, M83, Tegan and Sara) and finds the quintet exploring a diverse set of sounds. Rolling Stone got a preview of some of the new material and sat down with frontman Sameer Gadhia and drummer Francois Comtois to talk about writing and recording the new album, the band’s diverse influences and letting go of the pressure of trying to follow a hit debut.
The lyrics feel very literary. Were you reading a lot during the writing of this record?
Gadhia: Yes I was, I love contemporary and old stuff. At the time a good portion of my time was spent reading Anna Karenina, I enjoy just being able to tell an objective story, almost through a camera lens. But then I also didn’t want to get too stuck in that because being a lyricist there’s something very stylized about lyrics, it’s more like poetry. I was getting into Thomas Pynchon and some of the South American writers as well, trying to get more of that style into there as well.
Is the lead single, “It’s About Time,” emblematic of the songs on the album?
Comtois: It’s pretty diverse in general. I would say that it’s certainly the most aggressive song on the album. But it kind of came from this realization we could do what we wanted to do and be honest about it.
When did you realize you didn’t have to do 12 more versions of [breakout single] “Cough Syrup”?
Gadhia: It was a very gradual thing. After getting off the road, when we started recording and writing again we were more omniscient of the fact that we had an audience, that we had a group of people that we’d already connected with from the last record. So there was this great amount of pressure that we’d created among ourselves as we’d continued to isolate ourselves and continue to get in our own heads, to connect and continue to connect.
What did you discover in the making of this record?
Comtois: Just trust your subconscious. I think usually it’s going to bring you in the right direction and then use that inspiration.
Was there a song that kicked off the writing process?
Gadhia: “Mind Over Matter” was that track for us. It was a great balance, because our influences range from Radiohead to D’Angelo, who for us, in terms of how they write and create, philosophically have two very different approaches. Radiohead take things very intense, very serious and D’Angelo is all about that experience and we wanted to be able to combine the two. “Mind Over Matter” was really that song for us, it came together in less than a day.
Were there moments on the record that were so personal you were afraid to share them?
Gadhia: Most definitely. When I finally got to “Mind Over Matter,” the whole subject matter of the record finally broke out of me. Collectively as a band the record does tell the story of us trying to hone in on ourselves as a band. But individually I think a lot of people can relate to the idea of being able to battle their own selves – their doubts, the obsessions that they have, the idiosyncrasies they have, the things that they do to run away or get away from. And sometimes those things can be positive forces and sometimes they can be negative forces. I think some of the subject matter is quite personal and a lot of us have struggled with our own personal doubt.