When the alternative rock group Young the Giant wrote its third album, it tackled lyrical themes of immigrant identity and its own multicultural roots. The collection’s theme is expressed through its title—“Home of the Strange.”
“‘Home of the Strange’ is sort of a reflection on how we feel about the place that we grew up,” says drummer François Comtois. “I think it’s important to note that when we say ‘strange,’ we don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way or anything like that. It’s just strange for the sake of being strange.”
This is a topic that means something to the band, as the musicians—which also include vocalist Sameer Gadhia, bassist Payam Doostzadeh and guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata—come from different heritages and ethnic backgrounds.
“When you take a step back and look at what it is that makes America ‘America,’ it’s just a diverse, strange mix of personalities and cultures, and that was something that we found really inspiring,” Comtois says.
The album, which debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, also marked a slight shift in sound for the group. It was new equipment, Comtois says, that led to this change as well as the creation of the album’s unexpectedly atmospheric and electronic lead single, “Amerika.”
“This time around we were in this studio called Seahorse in downtown Los Angeles, and it’s just this treasure trove of old drum machines and keyboards and vintage drums and amps and all sorts of stuff,” he says. “So, we had this great tool box of things to find different sounds with, and ‘Amerika’ was one of the early songs that kind of arose from those different sonic textures.”
“Amerika,” he explains, helped lead the writing process.
“‘Amerika’ in particular actually was pretty early on…there’s kind of always one song that sort of sets the tone for us. Last time around it was ‘Mind Over Matter.’ The time before that was ‘Cough Syrup.’ It just sort of set the pace for writing—just a basic aesthetic.”
In addition to working at Seahorse Sound Studios, Young the Giant was joined by producer Jeff Bhasker, who has worked with the likes of Kanye West, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.
“Having someone who has that type of experience is always a benefit,” Comtois says of Bhasker, who executive produced “Home of the Strange.”
Describing the album’s creation as “songwriting by committee,” Comtois also explains that full group involvement is natural.
“Anyone pretty much had a voice to say whatever they wanted to…which is kind of how we’ve always done it, but it’s sort of found its stride a little bit.”
Now, the California-based quintet is preparing to bring its “Home of the Strange” tour to the Marquee Theatre on Tuesday, February 7.
As for the new songs, Comtois cites “Amerika” and “Silvertongue” as some of his favorites to perform.
“It’s just been so fun seeing people react to it,” he says of the upbeat and catchy “Silvertongue.” “So, obviously, we’re hoping for good things out of that one, but it’s also just a lot of fun to play.”
While Comtois notes that constant touring can be tough, at the end of the day, the group is appreciative of their fans’ support.
“We really appreciate that people are taking time out of their day, their week, their month, and spending money on tickets and looking forward to these things. I think that really pushes us to make sure that anyone who comes to any show on any given night is going to feel like we gave 100% of our ability in that performance.”
“That can be tough sometimes when you’re calling on sort of this energy at the end of the tour, but it’s something that we feel like people deserve, and it’s sort of been our guiding light as far as touring goes.”
Young the Giant w/Lewis Del Mar, Marquee Theatre, 730 N. Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480.829.0607, luckymanonline.com, 8 p.m. Tuesday, February 7, $28.