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A breath of fresh air: Indie rock bands Young the Giant and Sure Sure to perform at Stepan Center

| Thursday, February 21, 2019

Lina Domenella | The Observer

It’s time to trade in your cowboy hat and boots for a pair of sunglasses and sandals.

So far, it has been the year of the cowboy for Notre Dame musical performances, with country legend Garth Brooks performing at Notre Dame Stadium and Tim McGraw slated to perform at Purcell Pavilion. However, this Friday, two indie rock bands — one well-established and the other up-and-coming — will play in Notre Dame’s Stepan Center. Veteran California band Young the Giant is set to headline the Student Union Board’s (SUB) Spring Concert, with industry newcomers Sure Sure serving as their opener. A far cry from the stylistic tendencies of Brooks and McGraw, both bands are known for their fun, upbeat indie rock style and California vibes.

Young the Giant formed in the mid-00’s under the name The Jakes. After a few personnel changes, the band officially settled on the name Young the Giant with five members: Sameer Gadhia (lead vocals), Jacob Tilley (guitar), Eric Cannata (guitar and vocals), Payam Doostzadeh (bass guitar) and Francois Comtois (drums).

“I think that there is some metaphor to the band name, not that there’s some super deep meaning. But when we were young and changed our band name to Young the Giant, it had to do with keeping our youthfulness and our youthful outlook on life,” guitarist Eric Cannata said in a phone interview. “When we’re making music we try to chase that feeling of being young.”

Young the Giant broke out in early 2011 with the release of their eponymous debut album. With the help of producer Joe Chiccarelli, known for his work with rock bands The Shins and The Strokes, the young band captured a West-coast, indie rock sound that mixed upbeat melodies with prosaic lyrics. Two songs on that album defined Young the Giant’s early years — “Cough Syrup,” a catchy jam with spectacular drums, and “My Body,” an upbeat, gripping rock song. Both tracks attained wild popularity and remain fan favorites to this day.

“We wrote [‘Cough Syrup’] when we were 17 or 16 years old, so it’s been over 10 years,” Cannata said, reflecting on the early hit. “There may have been a year or a few years in our early 20s when we were playing the song every night, and we started thinking it was a little bit childish or silly.

“Now the perspective is that the song has become such a bigger thing than we ever thought it would be. It’s really magic when we play it now, and it’s one of the highlights of the show.” 

Following “Young the Giant” came “Mind Over Matter” in 2014 and “Home of the Strange” in 2016. With the creation of new music, the band evolved and explored.

“A lot has changed [since 2011], but musically I think we are a lot more comfortable in the studio with recording and performing,” Cannata said. “I think when we were younger, we were more so pawns in the system, if you will. We were young, we got signed to a record label, and we recorded an album with a really amazing producer but we didn’t have a good experience. I think we were being guided in a way, and now we are kind of guiding. It’s exciting to be guiding the ship now.”

On “Mirror Master,” the band’s latest album released in late 2018, they embraced a collaborative production process, and the results show.

In order to create a sonically interesting album, and vary the feel of the final product, Cannata said that the band recorded an upwards of 10 different studio spaces.

“So with three or four different producers and a few different songwriters, stylistically, we were open to whatever happened naturally in those collaborations,” Cannata said.

Opening track “Superposition,” the most notable song on the album, is “one of the best songs we’ve ever written,” Cannata said. “It’s definitely one of the more forward-moving songs in terms of when I listen to that, I feel like I haven’t heard anything like it before.”

The track, which recently reached the top spot on Mediabase’s alternative radio chart, combines plucky strings and rapid drums to create a pulsating beat and features lead singer Sameer Gadhia’s trademark vocals.

“Tightrope,” another energy-charged tune from “Mirror Master,” tends to be a fan favorite at concerts, because “it gets people moving the most; it’s our most dance-y track,” Cannata said. The track’s lyrics almost call for dancing, as Ghadia repeats “I’m dancing on a tightrope / No time to mess around / Just trying to let my mind go / I’m never coming down.”

Sure Sure, a rising indie rock band also from California, joins Young the Giant on their “Mirror Master” tour, which will run from October to March across the United States. Composed of Chris Beachy (keyboardist, singer), Charlie Glick (guitarist, singer), Kevin Farzad (drums, percussion) and Michael Coleman (producer), the band shares Young the Giant’s light-hearted, youthful sound.

The band’s debut album, also eponymously named, included songs such as the melodic “This Must Be The Place” and the playful “Friends.” In their introduction to the band, SUB described Sure Sure as “an up-and-coming alternative band” — yet Sure Sure’s music is far from alternative, appealing to a mainstream indie rock audience.

Sure Sure has their new EP “What’s It Like” slated for release in May and dropped the lead single, “Warm Animal,” in January — a smooth track with sublime instrumentation. The band’s cheerful percussion and West Coast vibe perfectly complement Young the Giant and their performance promises to be a good counterpart to the big-name headliner.

In Young the Giant and Sure Sure, SUB has found two bands that will bring a ray of sunshine to cloudy Notre Dame, and some such much needed musical diversity and youthful energy to this year’s concert schedule.

The bands will play at the Stepan Center on Friday, Feb. 22. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., with Sure Sure starting the show at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are free with a ND/SMC/HCC student ID, but you must have a ticket to enter the concert. Any tickets that are still available on the day of the show will be available at the Stepan Box Office before the concert.

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