Words/Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane – The Colourful Writer
Seattle Grunge/Psych Rockers, Naked Giants have just released their second album, ‘The Shadow’ and it has instantly become one of my favourite albums of the year. With eleven absolute banger tracks all delivered in one grungy parcel of goodness. They first caught my eye, ears and heart when they released their single, Take A Chance, along with a music video that brought a huge smile to my face on a day when I felt pretty flat. What the world needs now is music, sweet music and bands like Naked Giants have delivered.
I sent off some questions to vocalist and bass player, Gianni Aiello recently and his responses are clearly well thought out and also a really great read.
Read on here to find out more about this talented and awesome band:
So by the time you answer these questions, your new album – ‘The Shadow’ will be released! Congratulations on the new release! Tell me all about the album!? Where did you record it, how long has it been in the making? How do you feel about it being released into the world?
We recorded the album in Portland last November, but it’s really been years in the making. Some of the songs were written for our first album ‘SLUFF’ and didn’t quite make the cut – those songs ended up sticking around and getting tinkered with over years on the road and found their way onto this album. It’s a bit surreal to have the album finally out now, because so many people are getting really excited hearing it for the first time while it’s kind of old news to us! Lately we’ve had fun re-working the songs for livestream concerts, and that has poured some new life into our love of the album. Something great about these songs is that they haven’t stopped evolving, and as we continue to play them I’m sure they’ll morph even more.
You guys first came onto my radar when I got a press release about your single – Take A Chance – and the super fun music video to go along with it. I just love it so much. The day I got it, I was not in the best mood and it lifted my spirits so much, so thank you! Tell me about this song and the music video?
That music video was made right at the beginning of the pandemic in the US. We were all quarantined from each other, and just trying to wrap our heads around how to promote the album without physically working together, and we just decided that a tik tok style dance video would be a great way to lift people’s spirits and get them dancing in a strange and uncertain time. We ended up delaying the release because the nationwide protests against police brutality started right around the scheduled release time – we figured it was not an appropriate time for such a lighthearted video while a much bigger and necessary national movement was sparking up. That’s still something we’re working on, keeping people fueled and informed to fight injustice in the US while also trying to stay afloat as a band, and oddly enough the song Take A Chance touches on that pretty well. It’s about acknowledging your privilege and all the ways it’s easy to stay silent or immobile – and taking a chance on change and involvement. That’s a message we hope comes across to people, especially white men like us – it’s not the time to sit around staying in our comfortable bubbles!
I really dig your sound and vibe as a band. Where do you think your sound comes from? Who are some of your biggest influences and what/who inspires you with your music?
We’ve been jamming together throughout some hugely formative parts of our life – I think the growing we’ve done from 19 to 24 years old is immense, and we’ve been together throughout all of it. From that growth we’ve just gotten really in tune with each other musically, and a big part of the music is this sort of telepathy that goes on when we’re all locked in the groove. Our influences have changed and diverged over the years, and I think that also plays a big part as our individual tastes kind of pull at the music from different directions, and it’s this consistent togetherness that always brings it back. In the early days it was a lot of garage, blues and classic rock, but these days we’ve gotten into electronic music by way of Robert Hood, Larry Heard and others, avant-pop and indie by way of Stereolab, Broadcast and Lush, and some of our contemporaries like our friends The Black Tones as well as Sasami, Sneaks, Automatic and others.
How long have Naked Giants been a band? When did you first form and how did you find each other?
Grant and Henry got together as a two-piece when they were in high school and set up the blues-garage foundations of the band. I (Gianni) was playing bass in a synth-pop band at the time, and I met the other two at an 80’s themed concert we played together. They asked me to come jam with them and the rest, as they say, is rock history.
Where did the band name come from?
We were camping in the redwood forest and had a collective dream where the trees around us grew and grew and turned into these giants who wore no clothes and they instructed us to spread rock and positivity wherever we go…
So you guys are based in Seattle. What’s the music scene like there? For me, I have always known it as the ‘home of Grunge music’ – which I absolutely love.
It’s a special place. I think I gained more appreciation for our music scene after travelling across the country – it made me realize that there aren’t many places that have such built in support for the music community, and that support spills out into the musicians who are for the most part very supportive themselves. We have these amazing institutions like KEXP, the Vera Project, Artist Home, MoPOP and others who have their roots in everything new and local – we owe every bit of success we have to these places. They make it their goal to uplift young artists and artists who are making great music but haven’t found their audience yet. Sometimes the scene can get divided along genre lines (which are all rooted in racial lines) but in recent years there’s been more of a togetherness – we’ve played shows with so many amazing artists of all disciplines and it’s been awesome to see those collaborations turn into friendships over the years.
Your debut album, ‘SLUFF’ was released in 2018. How do you feel about your progression with your music moving onto your next release, ‘The Shadow’?
We’ve come a long way! With ‘SLUFF’ we were basically just kids in a candy store – it was our first record, we were new to touring, record labels, being in a studio, everything! So we just kind of came in and threw everything we had at it, which ended up capturing that sound of a somewhat naive juvenile band who likes to go wild. Now, though we’re only a few years older, we’ve had so much touring experience and gotten more of a sense of what it means to be a professional musician. Not only is it rocking out and having a good time, it’s also nurturing relationships within the band and within the team, from management to venue staff to the audience. And we’re a bit more aware of the world and how we fit into it – I think that’s made its way into the music of this last album by just being more truthful and recognizing the responsibility of having the privilege of making and sharing our music.
‘The Shadow’ has eleven brilliant songs. There’s a real mix of sounds going on from track to track, some more upbeat and bouncy others more chill and flowing. I love that. One that really stood out for me is, Turns Blue, absolutely love it. Can you tell me about that track? And do you all have a favourite track – a stand out track from the album?
Turns Blue came from a few different places at once. We noticed how much people respond to contrast in the live set – most of our songs are these party-rock nuggets that are at 100% from start to finish, and while that worked well for the short opening sets we did in the early days of our band, it didn’t translate as well to the headlining sets where people want a bit more depth. This realization really kicked in while touring with the band Car Seat Headrest, where we would play our own set and then join them as a backing band. With two sets each night, it became apparent that we needed that break just as much as the audience! And finally, we capped it off with some nods to our favorite 80’s bands like U2 and The Cure, and tried to access that same pure emotional catharsis that they achieved so well. It’s a big introspective somber song about relationships and the constant inner work that goes into them, which is also a step away from the songwriting themes we’re used to, and I think it serves as a nice foil for the rest of the album.
What is your creative writing process like when it comes to your music and lyrics? Is it all organic or do you have a set process?
There are a couple different ways we write songs. The more jam/groove oriented songs come very organically – one of us will start a riff and we’ll just keep jamming until we have that moment when we all look up at each other with that face that says, “This is good, we should remember this!” Aside from that, we each write songs on our own – a lot of them are unfit for the three-piece rock band and get discarded, but sometimes one of us will come to the band with a fully written piece, like Song For When You Sleep by Henry or Turns Blue by me. From there, it’s up to the other two to interpret and uphold the vision of the song, while the original writer has to let go a bit of control in order for it to turn from a solo venture to a true Naked Giants jam. As for the lyrics, I think we all have different processes. We don’t often write the lyrics together, and sometimes it’s not until years down the road that we look back and ask “What is that song about?” There’s a certain magic that comes from each of us interpreting the lyrics of the others without fully knowing the original intent – I think it adds a bit of depth to the music that the audience can latch onto and find themselves in.
Who is your favourite Australian band?
Use No Hooks!
Are there plans to tour the album when it’s safe to do so and restrictions are lifted? Any plans to come to Australia one day? We’d love to have you!
We’re keeping our fingers crossed! We definitely don’t want to jump the gun so to speak – the last thing we want to do is put people at risk. I think it will be quite a while until we are safe to tour again, but when we do we will have one heck of a show planned!
Listen to/Purchase ‘The Shadow’ HERE
Purchase on CD/Vinyl + Merch HERE
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With thanks to Beehive PR