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Young the Giant moves from surreal toward reality on ‘Mirror Master’

March 8, 2019

For Los Angeles-based alt-rock quintet Young the Giant, a few songs is all it usually takes.

After writing a handful of songs at the beginning of a new album cycle, the theme of the collection will typically appear, albeit fashionably late.

But from there, the band can take the theme and run with it, creating a collection of songs that feature a connective thread of some kind.

When it came time to start work on what would become its fourth studio album “Mirror Master” though, it was only after the band wrote nearly 50 songs that the theme of the record, turning your focus inward and taking control of your own image, presented itself.

“We wrote a bunch of material and then certain songs fit well together and the puzzle was put together after all the songs had been written,” guitarist/singer Eric Cannata said. “The theme almost showed itself toward the end actually on this one.”

“Mirror Master,” which was released in October, brings Young the Giant to the Knitting Factory for a sold-out show on Friday.

The band – Cannata, drummer/singer Francois Comtois, bassist Payam Doostzadeh, singer Sameer Gadhia and guitarist Jacob Tilley – recorded “Mirror Master” in several different studios.

They hopped from studio to studio in Los Angeles with producers John Hill (Portugal. The Man, Charli XCX, Phantogram) and Alex Salibian (Elle King, Mikky Ekko, Harry Styles), who produced the band’s third record “Home of the Strange.”

They also traveled to El Paso, Texas to record the song “Oblivion” with Dave Sitek, a member of TV on the Radio.

Moving from studio to studio allowed the band members to let go of the idea that they needed the equipment they’d amassed over the course of their career in order to record.

For his part, Cannata wouldn’t bring any gear to each studio. Instead, he worked with the guitars and pedals that were available.

“It was doing these sessions with different guys to see what came out of it,” he said. “It’s a lot of focus on the song itself. The gear and the sonics come into play but if there’s not a song to utilize that gear and make some sort of production out of it, there’s no real point in my mind.”

As the band took a different approach to the music, the lyrics they wrote also went in a new direction. While 2016’s “Home of the Strange” was an overtly political look at the state of the country, “Mirror Master” is an internal study.

“I am a sinner of a broken church/I am a saint drunk on the carpet/I am the master of my universe,” Gadhia sings in “Glory.”

“I don’t know how I ended up/So close to where I started/I went to war for peace of mind/What was it for?” he sings in “Tightrope.”

“I think we were the most open on this record,” Cannata said. “We can have a tendency to write in a poetic sense and there’s a lot of metaphor and storytelling and characters involved, and I think on this latest album, it’s a more internal look at ourselves and going deep inside ourselves.”

That internal look at themselves required something guttural and human, Cannata said, more so than any of their previous albums.

“Glory,” Cannata said, found Gadhia being honest and writing from his reality, which led the band to focus on balancing poetic lyrics with those that came from a real place.

“It’s always been a little bit more leaning towards the surrealist, and I think that on ‘Mirror Master,’ which comes with looking internally as a human being in general, it becomes a little bit more reality and more ground level, human quality to it.”

The way Cannata sees it, that kind of self study is missing in society. We, himself included, are constantly trying to escape our reality, be it through our phones, television, drinking or drugs.

After years on the road and constantly being surrounded by other people, Cannata said it wasn’t easy for him and his bandmates to face the time alone that being at home afforded.

But with that space came a chance to reflect on life and the reasons behind why they act, think and feel the way they do.

“I think that that is the first step to be able to see how you affect people and see how you affect yourself,” Cannata said. “That’s where ‘Mirror Master’ lies is the reflection that you have on the outer world and also the reflection you have in your own mind and your own internal reflection of yourself.”