From a band whose beginnings came from evacuating the path of a hurricane, I found it a little ironic that GIVERS’ latest album, New Kingdom, carries the drama of an impending storm. Moody and synth-heavy, this second effort from the Louisiana indie pop outfit is a stark departure from 2011’s In Light.
While the band circulated from festival to festival this year, I caught a few minutes at Eaux Claires in Jul speak to Tiffany Lamson (percussion, vocals), Taylor Guarsico (guitar, vocals) and Josh LeBlanc (bass) a little bit about New Kingdom.
(Note: At the time of the interview, Lamson was on vocal rest and, for the beginning of the interview, communicated mostly through shaking her head in agreement or disagreement with Campbell and Guarsico.)
The Key: So I read that you guys started playing together in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – did that play into songwriting at all or was it just a way to bring the band members together?
Josh LeBlanc: That was an accident, I think, because of that – that was the butterfly effect that made this happen. They [Lamson and Guarsico] went to college …after Katrina, when they moved, that’s when we really happened, but that’s more of a coincidental thing.
TK: How did the rest of you get together when it was just the two of you?
Taylor Guarsico: We’ve all known each other from either high school or college, and playing music – Lafayette is kind of a smaller town, so you get to know everybody on your scene, and get a sense of the vibes. It put us all in this place to play in these little outfits together, and when I worked in this little combination it just felt special, and that’s why we chased it…chased the dragon of this dream. It put us in this place where we were up in the air because our college careers were put on pause for a minute. It was the first semester, [and the school’s telling you] you guys have off because the school is flooded with water, so it was a big, “what do we do?”
TK: Speaking of things being up in the air, after all the buzz with “Up Up Up,” did you change your approach to songwriting from that?
TG: Well, afterwards, we were really particular about songwriting at the time and making it come out in an honest way, coming from this place where we’re not leaning on that one song that defines us. I don’t think any band really wants to be defined by one thing. But how we ran into this next chapter was just…not thinking about anything before, and really nothing about how it’s going to come out after – just being in the moment and trying to embrace the process. If you can enjoy the process, then you can enjoy everything because it’s easy to enjoy the outcome of what’s done, but trying to enjoy the tedious process…if you can figure that out, you’re in a better place.
JL: This record was a lot different than the last one because we got off the road after like fucking three years of touring. We started getting things going, getting a rehearsal room and jamming out and going to rent cabins in like North Carolina or something and just jamming, seeing what happened. It was a lot different from the last record in the way we approached it, because we were just like ‘all right, let’s go rent the house, put our equipment in it and see what we come up with.’ And a lot of this shit is still standing from like jams that we did in the house and even at the Bon Iver studio, or Justin’s studio, April Base. We have a lot of stuff saved from that process, too. [With] the last one, we just went into the studio before and tried to record the songs we’d been playing live, but this one was just like….if we recorded it that day and it sounded cool and it was a cool moment that we never could recreate — it was just there forever, you know? So we have a lot of those moments on this one.
TK: Are we going to hear songs from the new album today?
Tiffany Lamson: Yeah, a couple of them.
TG: More than half the set is new songs.
(Side note: GIVERS’ set at Eaux Claires, performed about two hours after this interview, was totally awesome.]
TK: OK, cool. So what kind of relationship do you guys have with Justin [Vernon]?
TG: We met Justin at Jazzfest. They played right after us, in New Orleans. We invited him and some of the other guys to our night show that night at One Eyed Jack’s — that’s a club in New Orleans — and they all came out and it was very bromantic, you could say. And that’s when Justin invited us to come to his studio in Eau Claire that night.
He was like, (Guarscio deepens his voice to imitate Vernon’s) “We’ll record you guys at my studio,” and it was just like “oh, at your house?” and he was like (Guarsico deepens his voice) “Come on down.” So we did. It was a very sweet, brotherly love kind of scenario with him and all the guys. After that we just kept running into them at festivals and scenes in the UK, Switzerland, so for now we’ve just been high-fiving on the road. And now he’s invited us to play his festival. We spent a bunch of time up in his studio and that was really awesome. Just kind of being in Eau Claire, we could focus on the record in this beautiful place to make music.
TK: Did you guys get to explore the city here?
TL: Oh no, no, we were sooooo snowed in.
JL: We went to like some kind of downtown strip, which…
TL: A couple bars. It was like one night of barhopping.
TG: Yeah, just like a weekend.
JL: We were so cooped up in the house. We tried skiing, or what did you…
TL: Trashcan lid sledding.
JL: Yeah! (laughs) I I fucking tried that and I was loving it and running up and down the hill, and after a while I couldn’t breathe. I just wasn’t used to that kind of temperature
TG: Yeah! (laughs)
TK: Yeah, that must have been a big shock for you guys, I’m sure.
JL: Yeah, I was really cold and I got so nauseous and I just (makes barfing sound) threw up. Our bodies weren’t used to it. I was like ‘This is so much fuuun…bleahh.’
TL: Yeah, I never thought about hypothermia and then I was like “Oh, now I get it..” (laughs)
JL: ‘Oh, you could DIE out here?! Oh, shit!’ Like if you spend 30 minutes out here, you could die.
TK: What do you think listeners will find surprising about the new muisc? Do you think that listeners will find a different vibe than they got on the last one?
TG: Definitely. If there wasn’t a different vibe we’d fail. We’d fail as a band and as artists.
JL: It’s a lot darker.
TL: It’s a different range of emotions. We had grown…it had been four years since we put out our last record, so it would be like the equivalent of somebody going to college and coming out a totally different person. So the motifs in it are a lot more involved.
JL: Yeah, ‘cause if you listen to the last record, it’d be kind of like…so everyone just gets one emotion from that and is just like, ‘Oh you guys are just so happy, right? You’re happy all the time?’ And I guess this is just a little bit more of like, different emotions on this record where we get to explore all the different kinds of, you know, vibes we have on the record.
TG: Yeah, it’s more of a balance kind of thing, we’ve gotten like specific without explaining ourselves…As people we’ve grown. and we’ve gone through different life changes and the album reflects that. There are songs where you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s like a Giver, I know those guys,’ but there’s also things where you’re like, oh, man, that took me to a new place. We’re going to go different places at more dynamic emotions.
New Kingdom is out now on iTunes, Spotify and other downloading and streaming platforms. Catch GIVERS on Friday, November 20th at Boot and Saddle; find tickets at the XPN Concert Calendar.
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