XPoNential Music Festival Artist Interview: Givers’ Taylor Guarisco
Louisiana indie-pop quintet Givers has had a whirlwind breakout year thus far, signing to Glassnote Records, performing at SXSW and Bonnaroo, and releasing their debut LP In Light. Many types of listeners have found themselves drawn to the group’s infectious energy and dynamic sound, which draws upon alluring influences including afrobeat vibes and interesting percussion lines throughout. In anticipation of the band’s performance at the XPoNential Music Festival this Saturday (July 23rd), lead vocalist and guitarist Taylor Guarisco spoke with The Key about touring with his Dirty Projectors, what he wants listeners to take away from the group’s music, and the infinite possibilities for their next album.
The Key: How did the band first start playing together? I know, originally, you were all doing some different things, with different types of groups.
Taylor Guarisco: We came together in a very natural way, like “Hey, what’s up?” We just saw each other play with other bands and became friends, and eventually started playing in all these bands together. I was in a band with Josh [LeBlanc]; he played trumpet, and I played bass. Kirby [Campbell] started drums for that band. Then, you know, a few weeks later I was playing in a different band with Tiffany [Lamson]; she was playing drums, I was playing bass, and Nick played keyboards…We all just played in all these bands. Seven or eight bands total that more than one of us were affiliated with. So we just got to know each other through all these different bands, so that’s how the story goes.
TK: When did Givers first perform together?
TG: One night, Tiff got a call from a friend, and this little cafe/bar in Lafayette had a band cancel, so they were looking for some people to fill a spot. Tiff called me and we called everybody and got everyone to show up and bring their instruments. It was just a night that we made up all this stuff, and it felt really good. Tiff and I made up all these lyrics and improvised vocal melodies, and we recorded a bunch of ideas for songs. That’s where we got “Up Up Up” from, that first night we jammed and recorded it, as well as two other songs that we still play.
TK: When was that?
TG: I need a cue card or something to write down these dates. Everyone asks us the dates, but the past few years have been a crazy blur. I don’t know if it was 2009 or 2008.
TK: The band recently signed to Glassnote, which is a pretty big label. Has anything about your creative process changed since you signed with them?
TG: You know, no. The reason they signed us was because they value and appreciate our approach. They respect that, whatever we did to make the first album. They signed us after the album was done. They signed us after hearing our final product. They just liked it enough to sign it…It’s like, they respect our process and they haven’t changed anything. But the other side of it is that the way we create is always changing. There’s no one way that these songs were created. It’s something that’s always unfolding and it’s never stagnant, which is a really awesome thing to have.
TK: You’ve generated a lot of buzz in the past year or so. A lot of best new music, band to watch, etc. What would you consider your biggest accomplishment in that time?
TG: Probably meeting and getting to know Dirty Projectors, and touring with them. They’ve been my favorite band for years. I can’t really express how much I love that band and how much they’ve meant to me as a person who makes music. We don’t have enough time in the interview…Like I’m obsessed, like a weird fan boy. If they knew how much I liked them as a band they would not let us go on tour with them.
TK: How did you get hooked up with Dirty Projectors?
TG: It was nuts! This guy Aaron Scruggs, who’s now our manager, was just some guy who was booking bands in Baton Rouge. He saw us and gave us a gig. He was like, “Hey, do you guys want to open for Dirty Projectors?” It was like, “BOOOOM.” I exploded. Like, I died. I quit the band I was in, this zydeco band that was touring the world, getting gigs in Australia, Germany, South America, Paraguay, all over the world we were playing. I was playing bass in that band. But after getting that gig, just that one chance to open up for Dirty Projectors, I quit the zydeco band that had just won a Grammy.
TK: You’d just won a Grammy? You must have been pretty young, too.
TG: I was a 20-year-old young man playing bass. I felt like that was a pretty good gig to have. But it was the universe, it was god, it was whatever you want to call it speaking to me very loud and clear when we got offered that one gig to open up for Dirty Projectors. So I quit that zydeco band and Kirby dropped out of school and Josh dropped out of school and everybody did what they had to do. We rehearsed our asses off for four weeks to get ready for the Dirty Projectors spot, and they saw us and they liked us enough to bring us out on the road.
TK: You’ve also played a bunch of big festivals such as SXSW and Bonnaroo. How has that experience been?
TG: Man, we like playing really hot festivals, where we almost have heat strokes during the show. Those always end up being the most fun shows. I don’t know why, it’s weird. It’s almost…what’s it called when you hurt yourself for fun? Masochistic or sadistic?
TG: Yeah, or something like that. There’s something about those shows like Bonnaroo, shows that are outside, where it’s so hot and any normal human would be like, “Get me inside.” We’re all sweaty and red-faced. Bonnaroo is really fun because of that heat exhaustion factor. We just played there. This past tour we had so many cool shows and venues. We opened up for Dirty Projectors in Austin at Antone’s, and it was 26 tickets short of selling out in a 700-something capacity room. Huge. The crowd in Austin was amazing. We sold out the Bowery Ballroom, which was ridiculous.
TK: That’s really cool.
TG: There have been some moments where we’ve been like, “Oh my god, is this really our band?”
TK: The new video for “Up Up Up” looks like it was a lot of fun to make, too.
TG: That was a concept that we came up with while just dishing out ideas. Concepts that were very abstract that everybody brought. Everybody was really supportive and cool just talking about it, and we just kept adding on ideas in the group. We brought it to Tim who directed the video, and he was all about adopting it and just kind of went with it. It was just a thing that developed over time.
TK: What do you want people to feel like, or take away from, your music after they listen to it or see you perform?
TG: You know, everybody listens to music and gets something totally different. Whenever I listen to certain songs from my favorite band, Dirty Projectors, the meaning and the overall feel of the music could be totally, totally different from what somebody else gets?
TK: Yeah, definitely.
TG: But I think that’s the cool thing about music, it’s that specific. It molds itself to whatever you need, your moment. So what I hope that people get from us is that they…I don’t know. I guess I hope they have their own experience and take something from it that takes them on a personal level—whether it’s emotionally, whether it’s just feel-good nature, whether it’s a spiritual thing, whatever it may be, or whether it’s just fun to listen to. There are so many different ways to listen to music. I just hope that people connect with it. We’re just grateful for that.
TK: How does the new material deviate from the songs on In Light?
TG: The next album is going to be called In Darkness and it’s all death metal.
TK: Oh yeah?
TG: [Laughs.] No. Today, July 13th, way back in the day, not sure what year but it was the day that Black Sabbath had its first show. I heard that on the radio on the way to my house. Random fun fact of the day.
TG: But yeah. The new music is going to be different than In Light, cause you know, to make an album just like the last album would suck. Everybody would be like, “I just bought this shit.” We as a band imagine people, these songs, this album, In Light. These are the first songs that any of us have ever written. I’ve never written indie songs, the first songs that I’ve ever brought to the indie creative table ended up being on this album. So we’re just excited to make new music, to make songs that are just way better to listen to and more fun to play. Music, this world of creativity, is an infinite, very fertile thing, you know? It’s an awesome thing to realize. There’s creativity, there are favorite things about yourself that you’ve already created. Explore those parts. Parts that you don’t like, you can leave those. Just keep evolving and keep having fun. Endless world of possibilities.
Givers will be performing at the XPoNential Music Festival along with artists such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Ra Ra Riot, Sun Airway, Other Lives, and many others. The festival will be taking place July 22-24th at Wiggins Park in Camden, NJ. Tickets are available here.