Young The Giant’s Francois Comtois Talks To Us About The Band’s New Album Ahead Of Performance At Riptide Music Festival
On Oct. 12, Young the Giant released “Mirror Master,” the band’s latest album, which is about self-reflection, discovery and how perceptions change depending on moods and situations.
Riptide Music Festival attendees will get to hear songs from “Mirror Master” when Young the Giant takes the stage on Dec. 1.
We spoke with Francois Comtois, one of the band’s songwriters and the drummer and backing vocalist, to talk about the new music, whats fans can expect at the festival and more. Highlights from our conversation are below.
If you could describe “Mirror Master” in three words, what would they be?
Looking inwards—we’re going to count inwards as two words—just looking at yourself and looking in the mirror. It was definitely a response to all the externalized factors that we had been living through since the last album, things that we touched on in the last album sort of coming to fruition after we released it. I think we all wanted to take a step back and have a look at the motivations and the things that were happening in our lives that caused us to behave a certain way, or react a certain way.
What served as the main inspiration behind the album?
I think it was a question of how do your actions impact the world around you and how can you have an agency in those actions? A lot of us went through big life changes this year. It’s really interesting to see how your motivations change and how your mindset changes over the course of those things. It was a really good source of inspiration.
What was the mindset like going into the studio to create a new album?
It’s interesting, it’s always a cycle that happens where you’ve been on the road for a little bit, supporting the last album, and then you all of sudden change into this head space where you just want to be in the studio. You want to be creating every day. Kind of this new opportunity to write and to create. There’s always that first three of four months where we’re all so excited to be writing, ideas are coming a mile a minute. We ended up writing 50 songs for this album. It was more than we’d ever written before, but the focus was also something that we had never honed in on quite so much. Then as time progresses, as you’re working on a record for a year, a year plus, then the momentum starts to slow down and you really have to start to push yourself. The early days of writing are always really fun and exciting for us.
How do you keep the creativity going when the momentum slows?
Meditation is a part of it, kind of creating an atmosphere for yourself where you don’t really need to worry about other factors, focusing on what’s important. Most important is doing it every day. That was something that we learned over the course of the past 10 years. It’s that famous quote from Elvis Costello that’s like, “You have your whole life to write your first album and then you have six months to write your second.” We learned that you can’t fully stop that because the wheels take a while to get going. Even if it’s just sitting down at your desk, or at the keyboard, or at your guitar or drum kit for 10, 20 minutes a day. As long as there’s some sort of creative output coming out every day, I think that puts you in the right place.
What’s the album’s highlight for you personally?
Listening to the record and thinking about where we came from. One of the producers we worked with is Dave Sitek. He used to play the guitar for and was producer of TV on the Radio, which is a band that we love and have had respect for for such a long time. He really pushed us lyrically to try to maintain that poetic angle that we have, but to be more direct. We’d be writing lyrics and he’d be like, “Nope. I have no idea what you’re saying. Make it more direct.” And when I listen back now, I think we were able to find that balance between still having things be up for interpretation, but also being very direct about what the meaning is for us.
“Mirror Master” is all about reflections. Did creating the album change your own reflection of yourself or your surroundings?
I think it was probably the other way around. Three of us got married in the period of time that we were writing the record. Different family dynamics, friend dynamics, all of these things sort of kept on coming back and the same things kept on arising, and it was really good to have this [moment] where we could take a step back and see how we felt about these things, and how we internalize them, and then actually have to turn those into songs. I don’t know, maybe now that we have it out and we’re going to live with it, and especially now that we’re going to start to perform these songs live, they take on a new meaning. And then that’s this weird feedback loop that happens, but I think at least during the recording process it was definitely our lives that were impacting the writing.
What do you want the fans to learn from the album?
For me, it was it’s OK to not be OK. If you listen to the album there are a lot of songs that are about love and about the beauty of feeling that boundless love either for your significant other, or your friends or for yourself, but there are a lot of songs on there that are about living with that discomfort, but being aware that it is OK and it’s a normal part of life and that everyone goes through that. I think if you acknowledge that, and everyone else acknowledges that, it makes it a little easier to go through things.
What should we expect from Young the Giant’s performance at Riptide?
Well, we’re going to be playing a lot of these new songs. It’ll be the first couple months that they’re existing as live songs. That’s always really exciting for us, especially over those first few months. You learn what works and what doesn’t. [Riptide attendees] will be able to see the work in progress, which I think for me is always really fun to see. When I go to see other musicians and I know that the song might still not be fully solidified as a live song, it’s interesting to see the choices that are being made. That will definitely be the case come December.
To buy tickets to Riptide Music Festival, and to see the festival’s lineup, visit riptidefest.com.
Photo courtesy of Wesley Yen
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