It’s been a crazy year for Young the Giant. The Southern California band, who made waves after their live performance on the 2011 MTV Music Video Awards, started off this year with a headlining tour. By February, their hit “Cough Syrup” had turned up in an episode of Glee. Now the five-piece will spend summer on the road, traveling to music festivals across the US and Canada, with a few non-festival dates included in the itinerary. We caught up with drummer Francois Comtois by phone in advance of their gig at Bonnaroo.
What was the first festival that you played?
I think that the first real festival we played was Sasquatch in Washington. Last summer, I believe.
What was it like to play a big festival for the first time?
it was great. That one, in particular, is at a venue called The Gorge, which is overlooking this huge, expansive mountain. It’s kind of overwhelming just to walk up to it. We had just flown back from a month straight in Europe.
We had a little RV that we drove up there. We played the festival and it went really well. Then we got to enjoy being an artist at the festival and getting to meet all these bands that we really respect, meeting up with people and trying to make connections.
Do you have a lot of time to check out the festivals or are you in and out in a day?
It depends. I think for a lot of more established acts who have been doing this for a long time, there’s probably less of a draw to hang out on the grounds.
This is all still so new to us that we ask to stay as long as possible. We play Bonnaroo on Sunday, but we’re getting there on Friday to check out Radiohead and other bands that we haven’t had the chance to see yet. For the most part, we’re spoiled as artists because there’s usually a VIP area. You get to chill out. Most of the time it’s so hot. Also we drive a bus now, so that helps.
How long have you had the bus?
We’ve had the bus since last August. We had a van with a trailer for a couple years and put 150 thousand miles on it, so it’s a step up for sure.
You have a bus driver, which is pretty nice. We did a lot of tours opening for bands who were in buses and we were in a van/trailer and we would have to follow their route, which means waking up at six or seven and doing what they had done the night before. When you’re on a bus, you sleep while the driver takes you to the next town. When you’re in a van, you don’t have one of those, so you have to do all the driving yourself.
It gets really tiring after a while. It’s pretty stinky, particularly in the winter because everyone is sweaty and gross when you park in the lot for the night. Pillows and blankets will actually be frozen stiff because of all the humidity in the air. There are pretty nasty bits.
The one thing that the van has over the bus is that, when you drive, you can experience the land, beautiful things around this country, which is awesome. You don’t get to see that in a bus because it’s nighttime and it’s dark in the bus as it is. That’s one thing I miss.
What do you have in store for Bonnaroo?
We’ll probably try some random ass covers, something like that.
We just want to go nuts, that’s what we do. I think we’re closing out the tent on Sunday and there’s really good competition. I think we’re playing at the same time as Fun., the Shins, Bon Iver. There are a lot of really great acts playing at the same time. We’re going to have to turn our amps up a little bit more and see if we can get people into the tent.
Who are you excited to see at Bonnaroo this year?
Definitely the big one for me is Radiohead. We’re all humungous Radiohead fans. I’ve actually never had the chance to see them.
– Liz Ohanesian