Get To Know: Naked Giants
If you caught Seattle’s Naked Giants while they were in Australia you would already be familiar with their extraordinary and eccentric world.
If you’re new to the band, don’t worry, here’s your chance to catch up! We spoke to singer/bassist Gianni Aiello all the way from the USA to celebrate the release of their second studio album The Shadow.
Following 2018’s breakout album SLUFF, Naked Giants were named “Seattle’s Best Live Band” by the Seattle Times. Rolling Stone listed them as one of the “30 Best Artists We Saw” during SXSW that same year. Since then the trio have maintained an unrelenting touring schedule that’s seen them grow and add new layers to their sound. The result is an eleven track adventure that is simultaneously dynamic and focused, full of energetic hooks, but also a dissection of the modern sub-conscious.
The Creative Issue: So we know you’re not quite a new band, and that The Shadow is in fact your second studio album, but since this is our first chat feel free to introduce yourselves! Where are you from? How did you meet? What should we know about you?
Gianni Aiello: We’re Naked Giants! We’re from Seattle Washington, we’re three 24 year olds who make loud rock noises. We’ve been together as a trio for about five years – Henry and Grant started the band as a drums & guitar two-piece as teens. I was playing bass in a synth-pop band at the time, and we ended up playing a show together – they asked me to come over and jam, and we have not stopped jamming since.
TCI: What is “The Shadow“? Can you explain the meaning behind the title?
GA: “The Shadow” is a way of expressing the parts of life, and parts of ourselves, that are hard to confront and sort into the comfortable boxes we’re used to – things like anxiety and depression, oppression and privilege, technology, responsibility and relationships to name a few. It’s about shedding light on these things, figuring out how they fit into our lives, and perhaps more importantly figuring out how our lives fit into the bigger picture of society. We’ve done a lot of growing over the past few years, and it feels like people as a whole as well as 24 year olds like us are waking up to these uncomfortable parts of life, whether it’s mental health or institutional injustice. The Shadow is all about questioning our involvement in these processes in order to better serve ourselves and the world.
TCI: The album sounds great! Who was on your production team? How did it all come together?
GA: Chris Funk produced the album with Adam Lee as engineer. We recorded it at Halfling Studios in Portland Oregon, which is this wild big building with an indoor skate bowl, a big art and print-making station, modular synths, vintage guitars, and a slide on the roof. We were able to sleep in these little bunks at the studio, so it was a really involved process – we would wake up shortly after sunrise, make some coffee and get right into the tone-zone. It was so nice to be able to go in and tinker around at any time, and the creative juices were super sweet! Some other instrumental people in the process: Kim Buie, our rep at our label New West; Shea Chappel, our manager; Danae Bernunzio, who made the album art; Bella Martinez, Zoe Salvucci, and Grayson Whitmire, who took the photos.
TCI: Who do you look to for songwriting and production inspiration?
GA: We each have different songwriting styles and influences, but some artists we agree on are Neil Young, DEVO, Stereolab, Os Mutantes, Yura Yura Teikoku, Black Sabbath, U2, and on and on and on…
TCI: You’ve been on tour for a lot of the past three years. What are some of your favourite places that you’ve played shows?
GA: Amidst the chaos of touring, it’s actually kind of hard to immerse and appreciate where you are before you have to leave. That said, we all remember having a remarkable time in Amiens, France, which is this sort of country town in the north of France. We played a show there with Car Seat Headrest last year at a venue called La Lune des Pirates. We were fed a beautiful meal at the little restaurant next door, and the stage was super small so we all crammed together, and everyone at the show was super nice and appreciative – it was just a stellar night all around. Some other stand out places are Chicago, Berlin, Melbourne, and of course Brisbane!
TCI: We understand you’ve been the main support on Car Seat Headrest’s world tour but double as his live band too. Does it feel strange to do both? Does each set still feel like a separate entity to you? Does it take more out of you on tour?
GA: It was quite a busy time, but it made us grow so much as musicians and as people. It was our first time on a serious headlining tour, in these big theatres and working with a steady crew – we had to step up professionally and musically and that’s definitely stuck with us. The tours themselves were quite exhausting. We would drive to the venue and have a pretty full day and night from the double load-ins to double sound-check and of course, the double set. But it was also so fun and we are so honoured to have had the experience.
TCI: We’re a publication based in Brisbane, Australia and I believe you played three Australian shows on that tour? What do you remember of Australia and those shows?
GA: It was so awesome! I particularly remember landing in Sydney and heading straight to Coogee beach, and after that 24 hour travel day it was mind-blowing to immerse ourselves in such a beautiful place. The shows were awesome too – You all really like to rock out down under! We played a few festivals that tour and they all went swimmingly – overall just a great time!
TCI: We’re living through a pretty crazy time worldwide right now. Your country definitely seems to have a lot going on and your elections are just around the corner too. How is day-to-day life for you guys right now? How are you keeping safe and sane?
GA: Our country has been unjust from the beginning, and I think this current moment is full of white and non-black people like us finally waking up to our involvement and complicity in that injustice, as well as the urgency needed to bring about the small justice we can in our personal lives. So yes we do have a lot going on here! Unfortunately it’s not going to change from the elections alone, but fortunately there are a lot of people from all sorts of communities (the music community being one of them) rethinking and restructuring our lives to sustain the movement for Black Lives. Our day-to-day lives are a balance of that sort of restructuring, finding new ways to spread information and spread our wealth, and just making music and taking care of ourselves and our loved ones the best we can.
TCI: If you could put together a festival line up of ten bands who would you book?
GA: Aha I’m sure each of us would have a different lineup! Some artists I’ve been meaning to see live are: Deerhoof, Sneaks, Ava Luna, Jonathan Richman and Stereolab, and of course we’d have to book some Seattle artists: Black Ends, ParisAlexa, Sleepover Club, Guayaba and The Black Tones would round out an excellent night!!
TCI: We noticed you’ve got some beautiful Naked Giants playing cards available on your website. I feel like this is an untapped market in our country. Where did this merch idea come from and do you ship to Australia?
GA: When we toured the UK, our tour manager Gavin showed us this great game called Shit Head – that got us hooked on playing cards and it’s one of those things we can’t tour without. I think I saw some other bands like MGMT and Hinds make their own cards and we thought why not give it a go! Order away, we’d love for them to make their way across the world!