Getting the Nude Truth with Naked Giants

North Country hippie-chicks head banging to a new lo-fi track called “Pyramids” in a sweat-stained college house with three fur-coat-wearing “deejays” running tunes is the exact image I decided...
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North Country hippie-chicks head banging to a new lo-fi track called “Pyramids” in a sweat-stained college house with three fur-coat-wearing “deejays” running tunes is the exact image I decided to share with Naked Giants, originators of said song, to kick off our interview last Saturday afternoon. I was in fact one of these deejays – someone who could press the play button on a laptop and nothing more – who had heard the band all the way across this great nation of ours in Canton, NY, a tiny farm town bordering Canada. “People really responded to your music that night,” is what I told Henry Lavallee, Grant Mullen, and Gianni Aiello of Naked Giants, a brand new three-piece rock group based out of Seattle, Washington. To this, they were stoked and surprised due to the fact that two of them have never even visited the East Coast. But “Pyramids” is just that type of song. One that revs the engine, per say; a tune that you can’t deny. With a big indie-sound build up comes Grant’s sudden scream. It reverberates through your bones, involuntarily lifting your heels from off the floor, sending your hair up and down like a crashing wave.

But why the “Naked Giants?” Why not the “Stripped Hulks” or the “Unclothed Colossi?” Well, drummer and co-founder of the band, Henry Lavallee, informed me that he based the name off of his older brother who is a “giant fellow,” as he stated; standing at about six feet and three inches.
“You know how people are always saying, ‘I can’t wait to be home alone and just walk around naked?’ Well that’s what my brother did when I was younger.” I was glad to quickly uncover the original naked giant before furthering our discussion.
The four of us talked on the phone for over an hour as I paced around trying to make out exactly which nude titan I was talking with. For this was my first ever band-interview. I had no recording equipment and no internet; just a pen, paper and a half-broken iPhone. But these supplies deemed plentiful due to the fact that we strangers got along well.

“So what do you guys have coming up in the next year for shows?” I asked through the muffled speaker. They informed me that Naked Giants will be going on their second-ever tour down the West Coast and throughout the Mid-West from Oklahoma to San-Diego. Unlike on their first tour, where they were one out of a three-to-five band bill at most shows, they are excited to play bigger venues, opening for modern indie-rock heroes, Car Seat Headrest. While taking some time off from college, these three amigos are kicking off their tour at The Crocodile, a swanky Seattle club, on October 16 to release their debut E.P. titled, R.I.P. Most of these tracks are online right now and are definitely worth a listen. There is a raw energy that’s captured beautifully within their three-piece connection: surf-blues guitar licks, pounding bass lines, and some machine-gun drumming.

While spending the previous morning grazing through YouTube videos of Naked Giants playing in the studio, or live at EMP’s Sound Off! battle of the bands in 2015, I noticed that they move and dance on stage more passionately than most indie bands. “Did this come naturally to you guys?” I asked them, “Has it always been this way when you are performing?”

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(Naked Giants at Bumbershoot 2016. aestheticmagazinetoronto.com)

“It’s a performance,” they informed me. “It started out because we were really into our music and we wanted to have a good time. But we quickly realized while playing shows, that people really tune into that. It came naturally, but now we will kick our leg a little higher and dance a little harder when we play live.”
I believe this energy and observation is going to be why Naked Giants will become one of the top rock acts to see in the upcoming year. You can watch for yourselves in the videos posted below. While talking to Henry, Grant, and Gianni, it became clear that inter-band and band-to-audience connections are their main priority with their music. As we kept chatting, Naked Giants informed me that Jimi Hendrix and the Experience have had the biggest impact on their stage presence.
“Jimi’s got the best style…He just gives this orgasmic performance that is almost hard to understand in a way. He brings weirdness and gimmicks to his performance.” Naked Giants believe that “weirdness” breeds originality and think that bands shouldn’t take themselves so seriously that they can’t laugh at a gimmick. Ultimately, the band is responding to the communal power Jimi, Mitch and Noel created on stage in the mid-60s: “We are trying to capture that crazy vibe.”

And the communal power concept is not a joke. Gianni told me that while playing a show on their first tour last year, there was an eerie moment where the connection spontaneously broke down between them, metaphorically causing some serious consequences. Grant stood watching as Henry soloed on the drum kit and Gianni’s bass broke, sending him backstage to find another. With this split in sonic energy, Grant experienced his first and only seizure, dropping to the ground in front of the crowd.
“It was the only moment we were all separated during a show…very surreal,” Gianni openly reflected before we moved on to more odd first-time-tour stories like their opening set for Brent Amaker and The Rodeo, a band comprised of five cowboy-clad men with black boots and black hats. Slightly confused at why they were playing in the middle of Washington for a group of good-ole-boys, the Giants were greeted by Amaker and his Rodeo who told them to “Get down. We’re gonna baptize ya’ll with whiskey!”

Despite the free booze, I asked Henry, Grant, and Gianni what other bands they would like to play with in the future. Right off, they responded with The Oh Sees, a monumental forerunner for lo-fi garage rock in the last decade. Other bands included La Luz, and Shannon and the Clams, artists that they feel share a similar snarly musical energy. In terms of new original tunes, Naked Giants told me that they are working with a lot of demo songs and are currently recording “a top-secret twenty-minute-long mega song;” a move that I feel could showcase a side of the band’s inner-vision that we haven’t yet discovered.

On the side of writing a potential masterpiece, the Giants are focused on touring and attracting label attention. Last year, the band placed second at EMP’s Sound Off! an under-twenty-one battle of the bands in Seattle. There are some high-quality recordings posted below in which you can see how much natural energy Naked Giants emits over a crowd – and at just nineteen years old! According to the band, this show “really got the ball rolling” for them: “It got us a manager and booking agent and a new Seattle fan base.”
“So now your garage band has a marketing team and a label (Miscreant Records); how does this business oriented side of music affect you guys?” I asked, wondering how well they are adapting to this next step.
“We used to just jam in Grant’s basement, but now it’s going to be actual work,” responded Henry. “It’s kind of scary, but we’re excited about everything that’s happening.”
And they definitely should be. They have a killer debut E.P. coming out in the next couple of weeks, they have a strong inner-band-bond, and with that they also have an early epic rock-and-roll story involving a seizure during an original track called “Green Fuzz.” However, toward the end of our conversation, we did decide that Naked Giants needs one more thing: a killer music video.

“Woah! Maybe that should be our music video,” they said, laughing, after I told them about the college party I played their single, “Pyramids” at this past Spring. I couldn’t have been more excited. For now, though, they are planning to film two different videos in the next two weeks, one involving a Beach-Western scene. This sounds rad, but I can’t help but think that they might have more in common with Brent Amaker and The Rodeo than they originally thought.

Naked Giants @ EMP’s Sound Off!:

Naked Giants live in studio:

Why not…Brent Amaker and the Rodeo:

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