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"Plus, there was a double rainbow," Cannata chimes in. Payam promptly digs up a picture of the guys in a dead sprint toward the water, a faded double arch of color looming in the background.
* * *
On the night of Aug. 28, 2011, Young the Giant sat backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards preparing to go in front of a worldwide audience for what they believed was a brief, obligatory appearance. Days earlier, after finishing a tour in Indonesia, their management told them MTV wanted the group to play "My Body" for the show. Now in the States and walking up to the stage to perform, they ran into Jay-Z and Kanye West in the most stereotypical of scenarios—in the middle of toasting each other with glasses of Crystal. "Just as we were walking," says Gadhia, "they're like, 'Cheers!'"
Staring out into the Nokia Theater's sea of bright lights, flailing arms and a glowing catwalk, the band switched on their amps, allowing Doostzadeh's bass to amble in time with Comtois' rumbling drums to open their lofty anthem. They could barely hear themselves over the frenzied roar of the crowd, and Gadhia eventually launched himself into a trusting, crucifix-style stage dive. This cliché of rock-god antics was saved by the track, punctuated by spritely guitar and a rising chorus universal in its call for personal strength in the face of struggle: "My body tells me no/But I won't quit, 'cause I want more."
Since then, tour stories surrounding the song keep popping up. Cannata remembers a young disabled boy rolling up to them at a meet-and-greet backstage in Tampa. An invalid for most of his life, the told Cannata about how he listened to "My Body" every day before school to get him going. The song is used by multiple organizations dealing with disabilities and other charities. Just the other day, they a heard a story that a doctor in a maternity ward played the song for a mother about to give birth on an operating table.
It's the kind of flash-in-the-pan pop magic the band would be wasting their time trying to duplicate—they know this. So they continue huddling inside Einziger's wood-paneled studio with a flotsam of guitars, drums and electronic gadgets, jamming on new ideas and playing scratch demos from their three weeks in paradise. Each song flaunts shiny new ribbons of sonic influence, lush keyboard textures that float in and out, a wash of siren-sounding omnichord effects, even Motown-style piano, all tucked into their already recognizable sound—there are already eight new tracks. They're growing up and have learned adding new sounds is akin to an artist painting.
"I feel that a lot of bands go in [the other] way," Cannata says. "They have this ADD record with everything going at the same time, with no room to breathe ,and over the next couple of records, they start taking stuff out. And that's some of the times we really like in music. The times when nothing's going on."
Part of the appeal of this OC Fair gig, aside from selling out the same venue where the band saw acts such as Beck perform just a couple of years ago, is the opportunity to share some new material, opening another chapter of their sound in front of a hometown crowd, some that may remember them as snot-nosed teens playing to an empty room in a dive bar and handing out EPs. But it's also a matter of actual love: The bulk of the guys' friends and family still live in Irvine. They still support the place that raised them, playing a charity gig at the Observatory earlier this year to raise money for the Irvine Public School District and its scholastic music programs.
A few weeks ago, Gadhia remembers getting a call from his dad, asking if he'd attend his sister's high-school-graduation party at a banquet hall in Orange County; it was on the same day the band were scheduled to play the San Francisco Oyster Festival, more than 400 miles north. There was no way he could get out of it. As the family gathered to celebrate his sister's achievement, Gadhia magically managed to show up, on time no less, after boarding a private jet half an hour or so after jumping offstage.
Naturally, his bandmates were there with him. They split the cost of the crazy, last-minute ride back to OC. Like any pack of wayward tribesmen, they make it a point to return home together.
"Everything we do, every aspect of our lives is intertwined," Doostzadeh says. "A lot of people have their friends, their family and their colleagues. We're everything all together at the same time."
This article appeared in print as "Homeward Bound: Irvine's Young the Giant are becoming OC's Next Great Band—but they're not ready to leave us just yet."