Naked Giants: the name of a band you won’t forget, but probably shouldn’t Google image search. In a sea of constantly emerging bands, the Naked Giants trio – all under 21 – have developed a unique music profile that makes them stand out amongst the crowd. The band, born and raised in Seattle, defy the punk norm, incorporating psychedelic-soul with garage rock to create a pretty timeless sound.
Drawing inspiration from the band’s eclectic music taste, which ranges from Hendrix to gospel, to Ty Segall, the trio have garnered a style that allows them to have fun, but still “hit hard.” While dozens of iconic artists have come up from the inclement city, the new band is determined to leave a mark in Seattle.
In a few weeks, the group will embark on their first tour, where they will be co-headlining with fellow Seattle band, Dude York. Before they take off for their SXSW tour, amadeus had the chance to catch up with Naked Giants drummer, Henry LaVallee, to talk about preparing for life on the road, their first single “Easy Eating,” and putting the soul back into rock n’ roll.
How did the three of you come together to form naked giants and where did the unique name come from?
I’m the drummer. The guitarist and I went to preschool together. We have pictures of us when we were like 4. At one of the first shows the guitarist, Grant, and I played together, Gianni was playing in a different band. We were like “hey, you’re a really good bassist. You should play for us.” We all liked the same music and can appreciate different kinds so it just naturally formed really well. The band name, Naked Giants, was made up last year. I was sitting at my kitchen table and my big brother, who’s 6’4, big dude, came bounding down the stairs in this little pair of European underwear and I was like “oh, you’re like a naked giant.” The band name is kind of stupid and funny. We thought hey, we could work with this.
You guys are embarking on your first tour in a couple of weeks, how’re you preparing yourselves for life on the road?
That is a great question. We’re dialing in the live set so that playing the music isn’t even an issue. It’s just like second nature. Which should be a part of any show really. We’re getting our gear set up so that nothing breaks while we’re on tour. We’re making sure everything is tuned well, drum-wise. It’s the first tour so it’s kind of hard to prepare because none of has had really been on the road. We’ve played in Portland before but not really like this. We’re getting our website up too. We just filmed an in-studio performance at Western Washington University. We’re working on having material so that the audience if they care about us after they see us, can go to online and search it and see that somethings actually there.
Is there any venue that you’re most excited to play?
I really like festivals, so we’re really excited to play the Treefort Festival in Boise. I’ve heard a lot of good things about that. I’m excited to play the Satellite in Los Angeles. I mean I’ve been to Disneyland but I’ve never really been to LA and I don’t really know a ton about it, so it’ll be a very different experience. I mean, it’s a pretty good way to spend your first time in LA.
There are so many iconic bands and artists that come from Seattle, like Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Heart, and that’s just to name a few. Did growing up in Seattle spark your wanting to be in a band?
Yes. Totally. Ok, so when you’re in a band, you have the opportunity to play in the same spot Nirvana played in and all that stuff. Also, the whole Hendrix story is super inspiring to us. The way he kind of redefined everything and did it his own way. He really brought the soul into rock and roll or reminded people that rock and roll is about the soul; about that feeling. We emulate the shit out of that. Mitch Mitchell is a really great drummer, Hendrix picked him up when he was in England but basically we really try to emulate Hendrix and The Who. Those are some fat inspirations for us. It’s just a cool city. When we started, the Seahawks had won the Superbowl and Seattle was getting back into the swing of things, a hip city. It was cool and we wanted to ride that wave and bring another great name to the list of Seattle bands.
Do you feel like living in such iconic music city like Seattle, has put a particular type of pressure on you as a band?
I don’t really think it puts pressure on us because it is such a supportive community. The other local bands that you play with are like “you guys are rad.” Everyone is really supportive, so there isn’t a lot of pressure, but there is a lot of the need to work hard so we stick out amongst all of the other rad bands. It’s not so much pressure as it is empowerment, which sounds corny. Or maybe diligence.
I was actually going to ask about community because I feel it’s probably similar to LA. LA has labels like Burger Records and Lollipop, and I feel like, within that scene, everyone is really tight. Is it similar in that sense? Does everyone go to each other’s shows?
We definitely go to a lot of shows. However, we are all under the age of 21 and Seattle does not have a super hip under 21 scene. So, we usually find ourselves sneaking into shows through the backstage doors, and we try to go to as many all-ages shows as we can. When we play 21+ shows we don’t really get to mingle outside of the backstage area, but we do get to talk to all of the other bands.
How do you separate yourselves from the plethora of other garage punk bands?
First of all, our guitarist loves Ty Segall. That’s probably the most contemporary influence for a guitarist. It’s like Hendrix, Jack White, Ty Segall. Totally natural progression right? The thing is my drumming is more inspired by hip-hop and/or gospel. I’m listening to a lot of gospel drummers right now because they’re amazing. I try to keep my drum chops at a more entertaining fun level than just like *insert punk drum imitation here* like super punk because that’s boring to me. The attitude of Naked Giants is that we really don’t take ourselves seriously but we’ll still rock your grandad’s socks off. We’ll dance around onstage and we enjoy when people get funky and get down. We also hit harder than… I can’t think of an analogy right now. We try to have as much fun as possible while still sounding super tight. If you’re not having fun than you’re doing it wrong.
Why did you decide to release “Easy Eating” as your first single from your forthcoming EP?
We had a really good response when it first came out, which was last January 2015. We recorded a demo in our basement and we sent to the local radio station KEXG. It’s like an indie, Seattle artist radio. We met one of the DJs so we sent it to her and she played it. Our friend texted us like “holy shit guys” and we were freaking out. We started freaking out like Beatles fans or something. It does capture the essence of we like to have fun and rock hard. The only lyrics in the song are “livings been pretty easy. I got something to eat and I want more.” It’s super fun to play live. We like the recording of it, but we have an EP out soon.
What is your recording process like?
We lay down all the drum tracks first to make sure they sound good. We track bass, we track guitar, and record vocals. It’s all really fun. The best part is working with a producer who really understands you and also he doesn’t want to change you either; he doesn’t micromanage the band. We want someone who works with us. Talks with us. Someone who’s just really comfortable and meets us where we’re at. That’s key part of the recording process. Grant, the guitarist, really likes getting the perfect sound with his guitar pedal, with his amp and all of that. So a lot of the time, he and the bassist will be working on the actual sound of the guitar and bass making sure they’re ripe like no one’s ever heard before. It’s really fun to record. We have some songs that are like 5 to 7 minutes. You know like The Who, or Led Zeppelin, they’ll just do these epic songs that are 9.5 minutes. So we have a couple that are kind of like that, that we recorded with a different dude.
Do you have a lot of shorter songs as well because Easy Eating is like 2.5 minutes right?
Yeah! The EP we recorded, there are 6 songs, I don’t think any of them maxed out at like 4.5 minutes. We were kind of like let’s just get a bunch of tracks that we can send out to record labels and see if they can pick up anything. Even with a 2.5/3 minute song, we try to do more than just verse chorus, verse chorus over. It’s fun to write a song because it can be anything you want it to be so the more unique and interesting it gets, the more you get to redefine what rock and roll can be while still marching to the same drum.
One of the stops on your tour is at the Treefort Fest. Do you have any expectations for the 5-day festival?
Just meeting other musicians and meeting anybody. I love meeting people and talking about music with people like everybody in the band loves to do that. You never know who you’re going to see, or who you’re going to be moved by. What’s fun at festivals is that you get to see this really great part of a band, you get to see these great moments for a group of musicians playing at a festival. Never been to Boise, so I’m excited to go to Boise. That’ll be at the very end of the tour, it’s the last date so I’m sure we’ll all be tired and worn out.
When people see you for the first time at a festival, what is the one thing you want them to take from your set?
That rock and roll is not dead. It sounds super corny, but then again so is rock and roll. Mostly we want people to walk away and be like “whoa those dudes can’t even legally drink and they just played the most bad ass set.” Were kind charming and charismatic so when we go onstage at an all-ages show, there’ll be 15-year-old girls screaming, but then a 40-year-old security guard will be like “those dudes hit hard.” There was one bodyguard who said we sounded like Prince mixed with the Rolling Stones. That was the best compliment we’ve ever gotten.
Have you guys developed any pre-show rituals yet?
Well, we tell each other we love each other. We did a recording session the other day and we grabbed some jambalaya, gumbo, and cornbread at this nice little place afterward. It was not so much a pre-show thing but a post-show thing. To just grab some dank snacks. We all like eating a lot. Pre-show though? No, not yet. I’m sure once we start the tour though we’ll start saying like let’s start having fun or else very night will become the same. I think running is really good, especially as a drummer because I move around way too much. Having good cardio is good for that. I read a Kendrick Lamar interview and he said he ran a lot for shows and I appreciate that because if you’re up there and out of breath what do you expect the audience to feel? You got to bring the energy.
So many great bands playing at Treefort this year. Are there any particular bands that you’re excited to see?
Let see. I believe The Oh Sees are playing. Diarrhea Planet is rad, I would love to connect with them because they know what’s up with having fun. I’ll try to connect with them. They also have a great band name.
I hope to come see you guys at the Satellite.
Yeah! Come see us. Say hi, I’m the drummer. You’ve got a friend already!
For more from Naked Giants head to Bandcamp.