Interviews

Young the Giant's François Comtois on Politics, Religion, and the "Worst-Looking Hangovers I've Ever Seen in My Life"

This weekend, the age of the radio-sponsored music festival will be reborn in Fort Lauderdale. Once the norm, this sort of fest has gone nearly extinct in our area since the deaths of events like ZetaFest.

But South Florida's latest rock channel, 104.3 the Shark, is ushering in a new era of live music and alternative radio bliss. The headliner for its inaugural Undertow Jam at Revolution Live is none other than indie-rock darlings Young the Giant. The Irvine, California, five-piece first crashed the airwaves, and then the charts, with a trio of hit singles, "My Body," "Cough Syrup," and "Apartment."

Since then they've released two records, including 2014's brilliant Mind Over Matter, which brought them even wider appeal and adoration from music critics. This August, they're set to debut their third LP, Home of the Strange, a more socially conscious album.

"All the different ideas and cultures just kind of gave us a mental image of this behemoth."

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François Comtois, the band's drummer and former bassist, spoke to us during a break from rehearsals to chat about the upcoming record and Young the Giant's return to South Florida.

Young the Giant has toured through Florida, and South Florida specifically, a few times. Any memorable stories?

You know, I actually missed out on the most memorable thing that, I think, happened to this band in South Florida. My girlfriend's family lives in South Florida and I was having a pretty demure night. Apparently, I missed our guitarist Jake [Tilley] just getting three sheets to the wind and kind of throwing up all over himself. He ended up getting thrown into the shower by the other guys. I did see the repercussions though. Probably the worst-looking hangovers I've ever seen in my life. We don't do that anymore. We don't get that crazy anymore.

Your latest singles, "Amerika" and "Something to Believe In," touch on politics and religion, respectively. Was that on purpose?

Yeah, I think there's definitely some of that involved in it. Some of the tracks on this record, the guiding influence while we were writing, was about all of our experiences and our family experiences coming to America and being either all of us sons of immigrants or immigrants ourselves... Just seeing how much weird shit there is out there, not necessarily in a bad way. It is a very bizarre culture. So it was one of those sources of inspiration that we kept on going back to.

Is there anything going on today in America or the world, politically or socially, that spurred making a record like Home of the Strange?

I think right now, with things like the election and how everything is getting politicized, it kind of seems like that's the case, but we were actually writing a lot of the stuff before the election season started. I think it was more thinking about our experiences getting to travel around. We've done some international [tours], but by and large, most of our touring has been in the States. Getting to tour all the different ideas and cultures just kind of gave us a mental image of this behemoth, and we tried to take it on. Now it definitely seems apropos since we're entering, [in] the last year or so, kind of a circus. I don't want us to seem opportunistic because, truthfully, it started before any of that happened.

Is it true the band shares a house together when not touring?

It is no longer true. It was our MO for a while when we were a little bit younger and our relationships weren't so complex — not with each other; we all have dedicated significant others. Living with five dudes [it] was so easy some days to not get shit done. When it worked, it worked, and we would be in the same place thinking the same thing and we could go downstairs with our instruments, set up, and strike when the iron was hot. The way we've done things this time around, now that I think about it, it might also be a function of the fact that we live together and separately. Now when we leave the studio, we can all have different thoughts about where the song is and let it stew, and when we get back together, everyone's got ideas and we'll try to incorporate [them].

It's funny; we don't all live in the same house, but we all live basically four blocks from each other. For all practical purposes, it's kind of the same thing.

104.3 the Shark's Undertow Jam
With Young the Giant, the Strumbellas, Joywave, Bear Hands, and JR JR. 2 p.m. Sunday, May 29, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $23 plus fees via Ticketmaster.com.


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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.
Contact: Angel Melendez