Lafayette, Louisiana quintet GIVERS play a highly danceable brand of pop music that sticks in your head for days if you let it, but there's much more at work in their music than simple four-on-the-floor dance beats. Swatches of West African guitar melodies and Latin percussion rhythms mingle with more standard indie-rock influences, creating an exuberant blend of music all their own. They don't have the coastal sound of Vampire Weekend, or the complex vocal tones of former tourmates the Dirty Projectors, but the shared interest in rhythm that drives both of those bands is also at play in the music of GIVERS.
In advance of the group's headlining show with Pepper Rabbit and 1, 2, 3 at the 7th St. Entry on Sunday June 26th, Gimme Noise spoke with vocalist and guitar player Taylor Guarisco about the band's origins, his love of zydeco and Cajun music, and the group's songwriting process.
Gimme Noise: Have you guys played Minneapolis before?
Taylor Guarisco: No, this would be our first time playing in Minneapolis. This may be the first time any of us have ever been to Minneapolis as well.
How's the tour going so far?
It's been great actually. We've been out for the past five weeks. It's been kind of exhausting the last week or so, but it's definitely been awesome to be on the road with this band in particular.
How long have you guys been playing together?
This particular composition of the band has been together for about three years.
And so In Light is your first full-length album then?
Yeah. We recorded a four-song EP up in our drummer Kirby [Campbell's] apartment, but this is our first full-length effort.
So what's your musical background like, both personally and as a band? I hear a lot of influences outside the realm of Western pop in your music, like African guitar music and some Latin rhythms.
I think that's part of growing up and being in an area like Louisiana, where it's so full of worldly influences in the native music of southwest Louisiana and all of Louisiana. From funk to jazz to Cajun music and zydeco music, all of those genres are in a way world music that's evolved in some sort of American fashion. That's our music too, I think. That root element, rhythm, is really intended to make people dance in most traditional styles of music, and that element's something much older that we're trying to infuse with our appreciation for art music. Art music like the Talking Heads and Dirty Projectors and other bands that we listen to.
That makes a lot of sense. Do you, or anyone else in the band, have experience playing any of these other styles that you mentioned, like Cajun music, zydeco, or any other genres like that?
Yeah, totally. I played bass in a traditional Cajun band for almost four years. The summer after my senior year of high school, I joined up with this band and started touring with them. They had already been together for 10 years or something, but we toured all over the states, and it was an awesome experience to be 18, 19, 20 or 21 years old and touring with those guys. Then right after that I played in a zydeco band, Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience, and I played bass with them for a few years.
Everyone else in the band has a diverse background too. Nick [Stephan], the keyboardist, he's got a degree in jazz studies, and he's this amazing jazz saxophonist, but he plays keyboard in this band. This is the first band he's ever played keyboards in. And then Josh [LeBlanc], the bass player, he's a trumpet player who did jazz studies too, with all that crazy jazz theory and composition. I was doing jazz studies as well at university, but on upright bass. So there's that element to our group where everyone's played a lot of music outside the "indie" scope of things.
You can definitely hear that in your music. What's your songwriting process like as a group?
Pretty much every song came about differently, actually. Some of the songs on the album came from the very first time we ever played music together, when we just had a full-on, improvised jam. All of us got in the same room and we just started playing, and whatever happened, we went with it. There were about 20 people there, just checking it out, and we were just making shit up. I got on guitar, and Tiff [Lamson, lead singer/percussionist] grabbed a tambourine. We both shared a mic and went back and forth with vocals. We ended up recording that night, and out of that very first jam, we got the very core of what would become "Up Up Up" and another song on the album, "Ripe." There was another one too, but we haven't recorded that one yet.
So your first time playing together was doing this improvised jam at a show?
Yeah, in a way. We'd all played in a bunch of other bands together. I'd played in a band with Tiffany, a bunch of bands with Nick all throughout high school, and then a different band with Kirby and Josh, and everybody knew each other from playing in other groups together. So we kind of knew each other musically, so to speak.
Lastly, do you guys have any Prince covers on the set for Sunday night?
Actually, that's all we're going to be doing that night, a full set of Prince covers. [laughs]
GIVERS play with Pepper Rabbit and 1, 2, 3 on SUNDAY, JUNE 26 at the 7th ST. ENTRY. 18+. $10/$12 at the door. 7 p.m.