Naked Giants on Their Hook-Filled New Single & How They Exceeded Expectations on 'The Shadow'
Last week, the Seattle-based garage rock trio Naked Giants released the anticipated single "Regular Guy," a blistering cut they've been playing live for a few years now. We recently caught up with bassist and vocalist Gianni Aiello to talk about the new single and how they bounded their eclectic music tastes on last year's The Shadow.
After a couple EPs, a strong debut and also being part of Car Seat Headrest's seven-piece live band, Naked Giants are steadily building up their reputation as a tremendous rising band while also searching for a sense of maturity in their music. Last year, they released their shout-along sophomore effort The Shadow, an album that examines an aspect of the power trio's growth through a wide-range of sounds while they throw at you huge riffs and introspective lyricism.
Produced by Chris Funk of the Decemberists and mixed by Adam Lee (Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, Sleater-Kinney), the Seattle outfit undoubtedly wear their influences on their sleeve. The opener "Walk of Doom" is a blitz of post-punk riffing and tribal drumming, while "High School (Don't Like Them)" is a trippy and punchy slice of garage punk. The addictive "Take A Chance" mashes a funky rhythm with the trio's signature sing-along gang vocals and on "Turns Blue," they embrace a darker and more poignant sound with '80s-tinged dream pop. While The Shadow might be a more mature and sophisticated offering in comparison to their previous work, singer and guitarist Grant Mullen, singer and bassist Gianni Aiello and drummer Henry LaValle are still shredding an insanely catchy blast of rock 'n' roll scuzz.
The three-piece recently unveiled their anticipated single "Regular Guy," a track they've been performing live since 2018. Across the new track, the trio cruises through blistering and offbeat garage rock with a healthy dose of social commentary on the draining mundanity of the average suburban life. According to the band, the new single was recorded at the same time as The Shadow, but didn't quite make the cut due to the deeper themes explored on the album.
"This song has been a part of our live set since late 2018... feels like the past few years have just flown by in a wave of turbulence in every aspect of life," the band said in an emailed statement to Paperface Zine. "'Regular guy' is a fun garage-rocker which politely examines the meaning of an ordinary life in this strange system we perpetuate — waking up and going to work, sitting in traffic or standing in line, coming home and doing chores, scrolling, watching, waiting..."
We caught up with Aiello to discuss the trio's natural progression after being drafted to play in CSH's swaggering seven-piece lineup and the unrelenting DIY spirit in the Seattle music scene.
How did you all meet and form Naked Giants? You guys have always struck me as a very close-knit band.
Grant and Henry grew up together and I believe they even went to the same preschool... There's definitely got to be some kind of unique chemistry that comes from knowing someone your whole life. I met them when we were teenagers and very quickly started jamming with them on a regular basis. It's wild to actually think about we're going on seven years as a trio!
Where did the name come from? What’s the significance of it?
We've been changing the story every time someone asks, but you'll get the REAL DEAL: Henry's brother is a rather big man, 6'4" or so, and had a tendency to walk around the house wearing, as Henry puts it, "European style" underwear... whatever that means. So upon seeing his brother bounding down the stairs, Henry got the image of a Naked Giant, and found some meaning in the symbolism of a naked giant — someone who is comfortable in their vulnerability, powerful yet humble.
How would you describe the way each three of you shape the band’s sound? And do a lot of your songs get fleshed out from mostly jamming? Luckily I got to see a lot of that during your livestreams at the very beginning of the pandemic.
Yes, we jam a whole lot — the three of us write a lot of songs, and the only way we can really decide what will be a Naked Giants song is by seeing how it sounds when we jam on it until we forget who wrote it in the first place. Someone came up to us after a show and described us as "Gianni: the Mind, Henry: the Body, Grant: the Soul" and I feel like that is pretty accurate to what we each bring to the band!
How have you grown as musicians together since the fuzz-soaked debut single “Easy Eating”? Also, what led to getting signed to New West Records?
It's been a wild trip and we've grown so much... Not just as musicians but as people — the amount of growing people in general do between the ages of 18-24 is already astronomical! New West found us at SXSW in Austin — one of those times we played four shows in a day and it happened to pay off! They were going through a change from being a legacy-artist focused label to working with indie rock bands, and we were there at the right time alongside Ron Gallo, Caroline Rose, the Nude Party and others.
Describe the Seattle music scene. What excites you about the current scene and where do Naked Giants fit in?
There's definitely a lot going on and I think the pandemic reminded us of how important it is to practice community. There's always been support from the likes of KEXP, Artist Home, etc. but us musicians are really taking it into our own hands to support and uplift each other, which is great! Another element of the renewed sense of community is a recognition of how Black artists have shaped all forms of music without receiving due recognition — I think there's a conscious effort going on to make sure that today's Black artists are being seen for the greatness they're creating — bands and artists like the Black Tones, Shaina Shepherd, Mirrorgloss, Black Ends, Danny Denial/Darksmith, Enumclaw, are all making great work and really spearheading this movement to make our music community better.
You've shown tremendous progress since your 2018 debut LP SLUFF with your new album The Shadow, which goes in countless different directions all at once. Would you say this album was a leap forward for you?
Each album has really just been a mark of the times for us — SLUFF was written and recorded while we were going from playing house shows to going on our first tour, and captures that moment of transition and excitement. The Shadow was written and recorded in the midst of our bigger tours with Car Seat Headrest, playing theatres across the country (and beyond!) for the first time, and I think our music had to expand a little bit to fit the new stages.
What was the recording process like for this new album? What was it like working with Chris Funk of the Decembereists?
It was a lot of fun — we got to stay in a little apartment above the studio so it was really 100% music all the time, dawn to dusk (or midnight, usually). Chris is a funny guy, and has a really cute dog named Pengu who kept us good company. Chris brought out (and reigned in) the experimentation in us, encouraging us to play around with modular synths, cassette tape loops, and drum machines, but always brought it back into the context of our three-piece band quite nicely. Check out the Snake Dangit remix of "Take A Chance" to hear some of his drum machine wizardry in isolation!
“Turns Blue” is quite a standout and instantly reminded me of the first Stone Roses album. It's dreamy, sonically romantic and felt perfect for that summer of unprecedented distress and isolation. Take me through the making of this track.
Definitely has that vibe! I started writing it a long time ago, maybe in early 2018, just searching for some music that would give me that same hollow-romantic feeling that like The Cure gives me... I even stole the first line from "Lovesong" (but don't tell Robert Smith!) I recorded the first demo backstage at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago during our show there with Car Seat. I remember being inspired by the amount of breathing room available in the Car Seat set, just because of the longer set times than the usual 30-45 minutes we were used to, and trying to put some deeper breath into this song.
You also released some alternative mixes of the track back in June. What was it like experimenting with new sounds and different tones across the track?
It's so fun — usually, we get to let the songs evolve on tour to suit the stages and audiences, but this time around we obviously weren't able to do so, so we imagined how the songs might have evolved in alternate timelines. The latest of these reimaginations was our first collaboration with remixers — Anemone and Seattle's own DJ LBSTR de la HOYA (who is the DJ for Mirrorgloss) made some super funky mixes alongside our own remix under the guise Snake Dangit.
What did you most enjoy about touring and merging into a seven-piece in Car Seat Headrest? How did that even come about? Some bits of “The Ripper” and “Turns Blue” are a bit reminiscent of their last album, Making a Door Less Open.
It was a big whirlwind and a lot of work, but still a lot of fun. It grew naturally out of a tour we did with them in 2017, in which we all got on stage for an encore of some Talking Heads songs... later that year Will [Toledo] asked us if we'd like to do a whole tour in that configuration, and of course we love to play music so we said yes! It was amazing to be swooped up and all of a sudden play these big theatres and tour in Australia and Europe — we would have been a few years away from doing that if they hadn't absorbed us into their band, and we'll always be grateful for that booster!
I caught you guys playing the Bug Jar with Ron Gallo in late-2017 and to me personally, you guys are one of the top bands to see live. What makes you excited about playing shows again and possibly heading back on the road for a tour?
Wow that was quite a night!! I think we did a Stooges cover or two with Ron and his band as an encore... It'll be so nice to just see how the songs from The Shadow fare out in the world, it's bizarre to realize that the album has been out for over a year and we still haven't toured it! Are you hopeful for a renaissance for live music? What do you hope listeners take away from your music and live shows?
I'm hopeful but cautious — I still haven't been to a club show and I'm not quite comfortable with being in a packed sweaty room yet... Our next tour is lined up for next February/March ,but at this point I have let go of any anticipation for the future! If we tour, great, if not, we'll hunker down and keep making music on our own! Aside from the upcoming tour and new single, what’s next for Naked Giants?
We've been writing and demoing a whole lot — hopefully we'll record our next album sooner than later because we're really antsy to get some new stuff out there as soon as possible! Aside from that, we're opening up to collaborations and trying to practice that community I was talking about earlier — there's so much talent out there and now that we're in more of a "headliner" spot than an "opener" spot. It'll be so nice to bring up and support budding artists the same way we've been supported by fellow bands and our label and management.
Naked Giants 2022 Tour Dates:
Feb 18 - Boise, ID @ Neurolux*
Feb 19 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
Feb 20 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Feb 22 - Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
Feb 23 - San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Feb 24 - Los Angeles, CA @ Echo
Feb 26 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
Mar 3 - Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
Mar 4 - Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret*
Mar 5 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos
Mar 17 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry~
Mar 18 - Milwaukee, WI @ Backroom at Colectivo~
Mar 19 - Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle~
Mar 20 - Detroit, MI @ The Loving Touch~
Mar 22 - Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern~
Mar 23 - Albany, NY @ Empire Underground~
Mar 24 - Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall~
Mar 25 - Brooklyn, NY @ Market Hotel~
Mar 26 - Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA~
Mar 27 - Washington, DC @ Songbyrd~
Mar 29 - Raleigh, NC @ Cat's Cradle Back Room!
Mar 30 - Asheville, NC @ The Grey Eagle!
Mar 31 - Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade (Purgatory Stage)!
Apr 1 - Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge!
Apr 2 - St. Louis, MO @ Blueberry Hill!
Apr 3 - Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater!
Apr 5 - Denton, TX @ Andy's Bar!
Apr 6 - Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall!
Apr 7 - Austin, TX @ The Parish!
Apr 9 - Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad!
* Support from Enumclaw
~ Support from Ganser
! Support from Wombo