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- Posted on Jun 6th 2011 2:00PM by Cameron Matthews
Lafayette, La., five-piece indie-rock outfit GIVERS aren't your average set of punk kids with a few guitar tricks up their sleeves. The members are all seasoned multi-instrumentalists taking influences from their native state and its plethora of Cajun and zydeco musical history. The band (singer/guitarist Taylor Guarisco, singer/percussionist Tiffany Lamson, bassist Josh LeBlanc, drummer Kirby Campbell and Nick Stephan on keys and flute) stopped by Spinner recently to share a couple of tunes from their debut full-length, 'In Light,' a perfect mix of shimmering pop and summer-strong songs.
How did you guys all come together?
Taylor Guarisco: We met in high school and then kind of congealed musically right after, the first year or two of college. We played in a bunch of other bands between the five of us and eventually we just decided to make one band where we're all in the band.
When was the first time you all played together?
Tiffany Lamson: November 2009.
Nick Stephan: 2008.
Lamson: '8! [laughs] Time flies man! It was in Lafayette, La., at this little bar, actually where Taylor and I started doing singer-songwriter night. I got a call from a friend asking me, "Hey, do you want to come play a show, fill in some slot?" A band had dropped out or whatever. I was like "Yeah, I think I know some people" and we called pretty much everybody that is here today. It felt right. We improved the whole set for like three hours, however long it was. I had recorded it on a little handheld digital recorder and listened back. We arranged it and now it's on the record. So, very organic the way it all came together and continues to be actually.
Guarisco: She's Right.
Lamson: He said it [laughs].
Guarisco: We never really planned on being a band. We're friends just playing music. Hopefully bands still start like that today where it just feels good and they don't have big ambitions. They just play and it feels right.
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Lamson: Aaron [Scruggs, GIVERS' manager] helps. He keeps the morale up. We just love to be able to play music for a living is kind of the best career we could have ever have dreamed of. Every moment is a gift, every opportunity.
Josh LeBlanc: There's not a lot of room for complaining when there's a lot of awesome s--- going on.
Stephan: Plus, these songs are just so fun to play. It's hard to be morose when you're getting into these songs. It's just by nature. We have fun playing them.
How do you guys write?
Guarisco: There's a lot of stuff that we like. The first songs that we came up with, like the first time that we played together, we just ended up playing all this music that night and going back and listening to those phrases and then coming together and cultivating a song out of that. That's one way. Another way will be Tiff or I will bring a song idea to the table. There's really no one way we've ever written a song.
Lamson: every song has its own formula.
Guarisco: Yeah, and that formula is never like a "formula," which is really great. We all contribute so much to the process. But on like the whole happy s--- vibe, [laughs] to us it's like if you're playing music -- we're in New York you know, we're from Louisiana -- If your job is playing songs and just hanging out and talking to and meeting people and you're bitching about life, you should check yourself. There's a lot of things to be happy about today, and a lot of things to be depressed about too. You just pick what you choose to focus on. If you focus on this, you'll attract more of that in your life. If you focus on that, you'll attract more of that. We've just decided to attract some good happy s---.
Is that your band's Mission statement?
Guarisco: We actually got bumper stickers.
Lamson: We have T-shirts for sale!
Guarisco: "GIVERS: Good Happy S---."
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Lamson: I have a little more percussion.
Guarisco: Oh yeah, she has a whole percussion rig that she jams on so hard! In fact, they said we couldn't do it [here] because it would break windows.
Lamson: Keeping it chill.
Guarisco: But yeah, Kirby [Campbell] has this drum setup where it's like he mixes all these electric drum sounds with his acoustic kit so it's very futuristic. We call him Kirby 3000 actually.
Lamson: And Josh plays trumpet, amazing trumpet.
Guarisco: That's like GIVERS 2.0. He's a phenomenal trumpet player. He just rocks the bass and guitar in this band. 2.0 he'll be rocking the trumpet. Probably two at a time, right? You can't just play one trumpet. That's been done 1000 times.
LeBlanc: That's so 1960s.
Were you guys all music students or some of you self-taught? How have you achieved this sound?
Guarisco: It's a bit of both. We all kind of grew up in a way with a drum set or a guitar around. And that eventually [led] into being in middle school band.
LeBlanc: No, it was a great experience!
Guarisco: It was great.
Lamson: I'm saying that because I never did that.
LeBlanc: She was the punk rocker, the non-band geek.
Guarisco: She's our Billy Badass and we need that. Because, to be honest, we did all the music training. We all were in classical studies or jazz studies and studied music all the time and eventually got to the point where you can realize where certain institutions of art can somewhat hinder you or contain your approach. I'm not using much jazz theory whenever I'm playing guitar on these songs.
LeBlanc: Not consciously.
Guarisco: Yeah, it took me at least a year or two to let go of my schooling and to be able to write a melody because my school taught me that I always had more scales to learn that I always had more charts to read. That's not really the way music should work. Music should be this thing where you feel adequate, feel good about expressing yourself. You shouldn't be this mountain of practice. You should have this ocean of creativity where you can just jump in at any given moment.
LeBlanc: That's why we play in major pentatonic nowadays because we're just totally keeping it simple. Just earth tones, whatever naturally comes out.
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Guarisco: You know the godfather, from my perspective, people like David Byrne. Personally, I was really into funk and jazz music all through high school. And I think we all had this one thing that we all gravitated towards whether it be funk or Afrobeat or singer-songwriters or electronic music or whatever. We all were attracted toward that one thing. We all probably found an influence that pulled us out of our comfort zone and made us rethink music, and David Byrne was that guy that took me from all the funk music of my high school days. He was the first person who brought some kind of artful weird white boy, but also funky kind of vibe.
The Dirty Projectors took you all on tour. How did your lives change after that? Have you guys thought about doing a collaboration with them?
LeBlanc: That was our first tour and the most learning we probably did.
Lamson: Our very, very first tour. It was like the ninth show that we played with them ever as GIVERS. And yeah, a collaboration might be on the table for us.
Guarisco: Yeah, it's on the birthday/Christmas wish list. We'd totally like to collaborate with the best band in the whole world. They win the global battle of the bands. I don't really wanna ask for that because it's kind of weird. They've influenced our lives, that tour that we went on with them. After that, so many things started opening up. They were gracious enough to let us in into this world that we had no connection with -- this touring world of the East Coast, all these people out at their shows -- because they were just nice people who liked our songs. And because they did that, so many things opened up so we have them to thank for a lot of things.
What type of influences do you guys pull from Lafaytte? What's the scene like there?
LeBlanc: You guys like crawfish? [Laughs] It's a lot of different cultures mixed together in one area. The rhythm, I guess, comes from Haitian, African influence. There's also some Western influence in there where the melody part of what we do kind of comes from too. We've all been active in some part of the culture. Taylor played in a Cajun group. Nick has probably played with so many different Cajun groups.
Guarisco: Travis Matte. Please google Travis Matte.
LeBLanc: Please! M-a-t-t-e. That's his last name.
Guarisco: 'Vibrator' is the hit single. So yeah, the whole funky dance vibe, zydeco dance vibe, Cajun dance vibe, that influences the way we project our music to an audience, who we are musically. And then we all get influences from YouTube.
LeBlanc: Raised in the Louisiana area, there's definitely a different outlook on life, so naturally music is going to have a different sound and a different feel and we kind of represent that idea of lightness and joy. Just enjoying life.
Guarisco: There's lots of celebration in Louisiana. There's people that somehow have the energy to take a moment and have the energy to dance. Dancing is this spiritual thing because if you're really dancing and you're truly dancing there's this thing you can do where you stop thinking about the way that you look. If you're dancing right, a girl or a guy is thinking like "Whoa, that's a good dancer." You let go and actually dance because it's fun, something special happens. That's a regular part of the diet in Louisiana, it's this weird phenomena. That affects our music, it affects us as people.
Lamson: Most people in New Orleans are either musicians or chefs or something. Everything's about food and music. It's really tight-knit.
LeBlanc: You'd be really shocked to see the web Louisiana has created with people that aren't from Louisiana, like Paul Simon and David Byrne. It's a testament to Lafayette too, like the energy is so strong in this tiny area of Arcadiana that it somehow resonates with people like Paul Simon or David Byrne. They're great minds. They see that simplicity. It's cool that people appreciate that vibe that we like to have.
Is this vibe present on the new record, or is there a deeper concept?
Guarisco: There is a real meditative side to the album.
Lamson: There's a lot of different colors and emotions.
LeBlanc: And it can only be expressed through the music.
Guarisco: There is that celebratory feeling we were talking about in Louisiana. It is there. But there also are meditative songs, so we feel like the album is balanced. You don't want to overload people with too much happy-happy joy-joy. There's a balance.