To say that Young the Giant are growing up on their upcoming sophomore record, Mind Over Matter, seems a bit simplistic, if not cliché. But we can say — after checking out the hard-edged first single, "It's About Time," and talking with the guys about the album — they're definitely in the proverbial experimental phase.
" 'It's About Time' is probably the most aggressive track on the record, but in terms of the lyrics and thematically, I think it makes a lot of sense for the record," frontman Sameer Gadhia told MTV News this week. "Sonically, we wanted to take a really contemporary spin on maybe an older rock song. ... We just wanted to change things up a little bit and do something a little bit different."
And for those familiar with the band's self-titled 2010 debut record — with its velvety, anthemic hits "My Body" and "Cough Syrup" — something "a bit different" will ring true, indeed. From the very first notes, the crashing drums and equally aggressive guitars of "It's About Time" make it a rock song, pure and simple. Gadhia even trades in his signature soaring vocals (praised by the likes of Morrissey) for more sneering tones, singing, "It's about time/ Best to rewind/ You better blow," before whispering "pistols, pistols."
The song is harder than the band's previous work, bordering on metal even. It's a jam that would be wholly at home blaring from a car radio in the '90s. The accompanying video also has a kind of throwback vibe, reminiscent of something that might be put out by former YTG tourmates Incubus in their heyday. It's a stark black-and-white affair replete with superimposed images, a theme the guys say will continue throughout the record release.
"That song, in particular, I think is really a symbolic idea of how people use power," guitarist Eric Cannata said. "The album touches on a lot of these different themes about times when you can't block out this pressure that you're feeling inside and the times that you kind of break free from that pressure and are able to do limitless things and express yourself in limitless ways."
The album process, in a way, also reflects the themes therein. The band formed while still in high school in Irvine, California, from the ashes of previous act The Jakes, and their debut record was an undeniable hit. "My Body" went platinum, "Cough Syrup" went gold and their songs were covered everywhere from "The Voice" to "Glee." The guys even performed at the 2011 Video Music Awards. The pressure to impress on their sophomore release was inevitable.
"There was this pressure to keep the level of connection that we had with the audience that we created during the first record," Gadhia said, although he said it didn't manifest as a pressure to write hits, per se. "It actually eventually led us into this small level of writer's block where we were thinking too much about that connection and not really being able to just manifest it."
The guys were able to break through the roadblock, however, by doing what they did on the first record: getting in a room together — with some "Planet Earth" on in the background — and just hashing it out. "Ironically, those times when we were really connected with ourselves are the times that we can really connect with our fanbase," Gadhia said.
Gadhia counts the as-yet unheard title track as among the most organic tracks on the record, created in that previously mentioned familiar environment. "We thought we could go in further directions and not feel as limited by the stuff that we had done before," he said. "We still have a lot of the elements that make Young the Giant in this new record, but we're obviously evolving and aging."
"We're aging well, I think, pretty well," guitarist Jacob Tilley added.
If "It's About Time" is any indication of what's to come when Mind Over Matter drops on January 21, we'd tend to agree.