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Bigger, faster, stranger

Young the Giant charts an increasingly curious course



Young the Giant frontman Sameer Gadhia says his alt-rock outfit's unusual moniker evolved from a process that was becoming more involved than it probably should have. Eager to come up with something a little more interesting than his old SoCal combo's name, the Jakes, Gadhia swore off the idea of any more 'The' groups.

"So why not just put 'The' in the middle somewhere?" he remembers thinking. "And we knew we wanted something with 'Young,' just because we were young at the time."

It was around that point, Gadhia recalls, that "we realized that we'd started overthinking it too much. And then we realized how superficial a name can be. So we just finally decided 'We're just fucking over it — let's get this shit done with, because people are hopefully gonna like us for our music.'"

And, as the band's alt-rock chart success has demonstrated, many did. Young the Giant hit an aesthetic home run with its recent eponymous debut, and U2-anthemic hits like "Apartment," "My Body" and "Cough Syrup," all held together by Gadhia's warm, personable rasp.

The Indian-American singer's backstory is also pretty unusual, beginning with the fact that his free-thinking parents — who moved from their country to Ann Arbor, Mich., right before he was born — fell in love in high school, sans traditional arranged marriage. "Which gave me a totally different perspective on India," he says, "a more liberal idea of what it can be."

Even so, Gadhia was brought up with fairly traditional homeland values. "I've been to India six times and experienced it first-hand," he says. "So from a very young age, I was parsing the differences between a Western and an Eastern upbringing. Which was very interesting, especially in Michigan, where there weren't too many Indian people around."

Eventually, the family moved to California. Gadhia's father turned him on to Queen, Pink Floyd and the Beatles; meanwhile, his mother, sister and grandmother introduced him to classical Indian music. "Because I never classically learned them," he explains, "I have this strange objective fascination with how the Indian scales work." Other early musical fascinations ranged from '50s Brazilian pop to American crooners like Frank Sinatra.

By age 12 he'd picked up his first guitar, and eventually began writing songs. One of his earliest lyrical endeavors after meeting up with his bandmates was "Cough Syrup." It was written, he says, "when we were all living in suburbia. So it's really about the struggle of getting out of there."

And they did escape, albeit to a decidedly odder situation. Young the Giant's members wound up cohabiting, an atypical band arrangement that's been going on for several years now. "We just got our third house together, in the hills of East L.A.," he reports. "We're all living there, in this crazy, weird dilapidated '70s mansion that we found for super-cheap. There's a huge jam space on the bottom floor, and we've written tons of ideas for our second album already.

"It's an absolutely ridiculous place," he adds, noting that it also appears to be haunted.

"We've dealt with a couple of weird spirits every now and then," says the musician, who continues to take it all in stride. "So far, the house has been very good to us."

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