Twilight Concert Series: Young The Giant

The Salt Lake Arts Council Presents

Twilight Concert Series: Young The Giant

The Aces, Sego

Thu, August 1, 2019

6:00 pm

Gallivan Center

Salt Lake City, UT

$10 ADV / $15 DOS

Young The Giant
Young The Giant
The fourth album from Young the Giant, Mirror Master is a layered meditation on identity in modern life, an emotionally charged look at the dangers of illusion and possibilities of freedom. "Within one single day, we're all so many different people," says Gadhia, lead vocalist for the L.A.-based band. "Especially with the use of social media, we're not just living in the now -- we're living on several different timelines simultaneously. At a time when everyone wants to put each other in a box -- culturally, socially, musically -- we wanted to show that there are a multitude of reflections inside everything. We don't have to be a certain thing; we can contradict ourselves and show all these different sides of who we are."

Mirror Master arrives as a continuation of Young the Giant's Home of the Strange, a 2016 album that found the band members shedding light on their shared experience as immigrants or first-generation Americans. But in a departure from the externally focused Home of the Strange -- an album written entirely before Donald Trump emerged as a presidential candidate -- Mirror Master shifts perspective and joins in the post-election reckoning faced by so many Americans. With the influx of social media use and public attention to cultural issues in the country, people have been forced to see how their actions, both good and bad, are reflected. "This record takes a lot of the concepts we explored on the last album but plunges them inward," notes Gadhia. "It's about being okay with yourself, especially in light of what's happened in the world in the last two years, and realizing that there's something beyond that duality of right and left, black and white. The space in-between is infinite."

In bringing Mirror Master to life, Young the Giant applied that sense of openness and imagination to every aspect of the creative process. Working with producers like John Hill (Santigold, Florence + the Machine), Alex Salibian (who worked on Home of the Strange), and TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, the band purposely upended songwriting formula and took an intuitive approach to constructing each track, always emphasizing substance over style. "With production you can dress up a song however you want, so we made a point of not using that as a crutch," says Gadhia. "Instead of thinking about the tonality so much, we just focused on what we wanted to say within the song."

Proving their instinctive ingenuity, Young the Giant ultimately created a genre-defying and dynamic album, one that transforms the complexity of its themes into music with a mesmerizing quality. Right from the opening track "Superposition," Mirror Master proves untethered to the mundane, its ethereal textures merging with lyrics that capture the cosmic destiny of a life-altering romance (e.g., "In any universe you are my dark star"). Then, on "Simplify," Young the Giant switch gears to offer up an anthem built on bold and buzzing guitar riffs. "The idea of 'Simplify' is that while there's so much to deal with in this world, so much sensory overload at every moment, being able to connect with someone you love at the end of day can make everything so simple," says Gadhia.

Themes of love and connection imbue many songs on Mirror Master, including "Call Me Back" (a nostalgia-soaked track that conjures teenage longing in its dreamy guitar lines) and "You + I" (on which Gadhia expresses lovestruck fascination in lyrics like "I wanna know why you hide in your hair/Where do you go when you glide down the stairs?"). But on "Heat of the Summer," Young the Giant push into darker terrain, an element brilliantly contrasted by bright guitar tones and high-powered rhythms. "On first listen it might feel like a summer song, but the lyrics look at dealing with depression and trying to find the control that once helped you get through the day," says Gadhia. "It's so common to see someone who seems happy and like they've got their whole lives together, when really they feel lost and alone." From there, Young the Giant flip the script with "Oblivion," a track whose moody urgency belies the serene acceptance at the heart of the lyrics. "That song came from thinking about how the idea of oblivion or nothingness doesn't have to be negative, if you don't attach so much weight to it," says Gadhia. "It's about coming to peace with the inevitability of oblivion, and feeling some sort of hope for togetherness."

On the glorious title track, Young the Giant close out Mirror Master with an emphatic message of self-reliance. Inspired in part by Italo Calvino's experimental novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, "Mirror Master" surges forward with limitless energy and a litany of edifying lyrics ("And when you hit disaster/The answer will be yours to find/You're the mirror's master/Now forever I'm resigned"). "After all the emotional ups and downs of the record, we wanted to end on something reaffirming, like a mantra," Gadhia says. "It's driving home the point that this is your life and your story, and it's all up to you to make the rules and do what you want with it."

Throughout Mirror Master, Young the Giant move through an immense scope of sounds: the gauzy sprawl and choir-like harmonies of "Darkest Shade of Blue," the string-laced reverie of "Glory," the brisk beat of "Brother's Keeper" and disco jangle of "Tightrope," the delicate psychedelia of "Panoramic Girl." Along with showcasing Gadhia's nuanced yet powerful vocals -- an instrument praised by the New York Times as "one of the great contemporary rock voices" -- the album underscores the uncompromising intensity that's earned Young the Giant a devoted following and long captivated audiences at their kinetic live shows.

Although Mirror Master was partly informed by recent life events like the marriages of several band members -- and the ensuing urge to look both inward and toward the future -- the album's introspective depth also stems from some very deliberate self-examination in their songwriting. "It's easy to hide behind the platitudes that generations of rock & roll music have laid out for us," says Gadhia. "Hip-hop has done a good job of separating from those platitudes and being more real, and that's what we're trying to do too: be true to ourselves, and know that there are people out there who want to see that honesty in our music."

With the release of Mirror Master, Young the Giant hope to offer not only unfettered honesty, but the inspiration and encouragement to help listeners take charge of their own narratives. "Even though it may all be an illusion, there's solace in that illusion," Gadhia says. "Because if you have control of anything at all, it's your own reflection, how you treat people and how you walk through this life. Don't let people feed you what they want you to think. Do what makes you happy, and realize and that all is good and all is horrible and everything else in between."
The Aces
The Aces
Playing shimmering indie pop with an electronic edge, the Aces are an all-female quartet hailing from Provo, Utah. The group was formed in 2008 by singer and guitarist Cristal Ramirez, guitarist Katie Henderson, bass player McKenna Petty, and drummer Alisa Ramirez (Cristal's sister). The members of the group were longtime friends, and it didn't take long for them to click as songwriters and musicians. They began performing under the name the Blue Aces, and were soon performing at teen events and school assemblies. As their popularity grew, they made their way into Provo music clubs (aided by the fact that many venues in the area don't serve alcohol, making them open to teenage bands), and their reputation spread across the state as they issued a seven-song EP in 2012. The online magazine Provo Buzz named them one of the city's ten best bands, and Paste Magazine included them in their feature "10 Best Utah Bands You Should Know." They shortened their name to the Aces in 2016 and struck a deal with Red Bull Records, which released the single "Stuck" in March of that year. "Stuck" racked up more than two million plays on streaming services, and gave them their first taste of national success. A second Aces single from Red Bull Records, "Physical," followed in April 2017. Their first EP on the label, "I Don't Like Being Honest" is out now worldwide.
“U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” Not what one would expect to hear chanted vehemently from the members of an indie rock band in 2019… But Sego seems to get off on doing things one wouldn’t expect from an LA indie band today. Being proficient at their instruments instead of relying on computer tracks to play their new album Sego Sucks live, recording said album in a church in far away Canada in the winter, thus committing to the deliberate notion of an album more than an amalgamation of 'laptop studio' singles. And yes, chanting “USA, USA, USA” as the main reprise of a reflective tune about entitlement culture. One must ask why? Why take it there? Or one may not ask and instead bounce and bop their way through each energetic turn, just happy to have their blood pump a little faster than the “everything chill all the time” pace that we’ve all become accustomed to.

And therein lies the trick of Sego. It’s a gosh-damn choose your own adventure story of music for adrenaline huffers and introspective socio-philosophical types alike. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

I would say Sego hails from Utah, but when does anyone say that someone ‘hails’ from anywhere other than in gratuitous band bios, ya know? Sego is not only aware that their Utah upbringing is different from most Angeleno transplants, but they exhibit a sense of pride in the perspective it has given them. Perhaps this is why singer Spencer Petersen finds ways to separate himself from the status quo. Like using a flip-phone still. And recording interludes with one of the many tape machines he has stock-piled in his studio. Sego Sucks is the cathartic result of a person like Spencer sorting his way through a natural resistance to being smothered by Modernism.

Sonically, the 10-track LP is woven with the changes of becoming a four piece band. Originally Spencer Petersen and Thomas Carroll, the band added members Alyssa Davey on bass and Brandon McBride on guitars and keys in 2018. The sound became more focused, but the raucous spirit that has kept people sweating since the beginning is just as tangible and, dare I say, primal as ever. The extensive touring they’ve done throughout North America, Europe, and the UK has also shown to be a strong influence. There’s heat, there’s resistance, there’s intelligence. Did Sego fool us and write a modern day punk album that could be played on the radio?

To go to a Sego show is to be standing amongst very different people having very different experiences. To your left is someone intently staring at Spencer digging through his many acid-tongued references trying to decipher his cryptic slant on absolutism. Behind you is a gear-nut scratching their heads trying to understand what far corner of the brain one can write such dissonantly triumphant guitar parts. In front of you is someone falling in love with Tom, Brandon or Alyssa depending on who the light falls upon in any given moment… or perhaps all 4 at the same time, the way it was always intended to happen when a band is really a band. But perhaps most common is the person to your right, who is dripping in sweat, dancing with their eyes closed and losing themselves completely in an anoetic experience particular to when music is being played live. And loud.

While only on their sophomore album, Sego exhibits the kind of maturity in songwriting and pride in a live performance that makes for the band that your cool older brother worships and turns you on to the second your frontal lobe develops enough to spark your curiosity in taste.

– Chris Hess (SWIMM)
Venue Information:
Gallivan Center
239 Main St
Salt Lake City, UT, 84111