GIVERS Head Up, Up, Up



Louisiana natives GIVERS are going to tour for the rest of their lives. Regardless of what the future holds, the band’s five members have been on a musical journey since middle school and have no intention to ever stop playing shows. They’re off to a good start: GIVERS’ determination and experimental musical force has led to touring with the Dirty Projectors and performances on late-night television. The quintet’s love for music in its purest form is heavily evidenced in their optimistic songs, which betray their Southern roots, as well as Afro-pop and Cajun strains. However, GIVERS doesn’t want to give too much away. They want their music to speak for itself—and it does.

Their debut album, In Light, out now, features the summery theme, “Up, Up, Up,” which has been hitting airwaves nationwide. We had a chance to speak with lead singer and guitarist Taylor Guarisco and percussionist Tiffany Lamson on their love for the Dirty Projectors, childhood imagination, and touring forever.

ILANA KAPLAN: What is In Light about? Is there a particular theme that resonates?

TAYLOR GUARISCO: As a whole, In Light the album is about a much different dimension of the same thing. It’s about all these different approaches to life. The main theme I think that is woven throughout all these dimensions is what we’ve found to be our personal best way to approach life, which is with a sense of appreciation and love from our years of playing in other bands. We found that these songs just happened to come out as somewhat of an expression of being grateful. I don’t want to say positive, but there’s something about these songs that we feel are these reminders. Like I don’t care how bad your life is, there’s always something around you to be grateful for. Our songs are a testament to that kind of thinking.

TIFFANY LAMSON: The theme came after the fact. It wasn’t until we had recorded the songs and had all this time to just sit on what we had done. That’s when we realized that would be the most appropriate title for that album. It kind of came to us afterwards. It wasn’t really a thing where we would be like, all these songs are going to be about this, and we’re going to name our album this.

KAPLAN: Do you guys have any favorite songs to cover when you play?

LAMSON: Yeah. We actually just started doing the Talking Heads medley. We really, really love the Talking Heads. David Byrne is like the godfather for us. Talking Heads have been a focal point of this year for cover songs.

KAPLAN: Taylor, do you think you’re very influenced by the Talking Heads as well?

GUARISCO: Right as you asked that question, I’m looking down at this book that I just got from a friend called Bicycle Diaries by David Byrne. David Byrne would be one of my influences for sure. That’s funny. There’s who you are as a person; your parents, your brothers, and your friends help you be that person. The way you love other people and the way you are as a person. Then there are these artists that allow you to be admired by the way they express themselves. David Byrne is a huge part of the way I express myself. Between him and Dave [Longstreth] from the Dirty Projectors, they’ve been a huge inspiration for me the past few years. Touring with them was kind of a very shocking thing, to meet and go on tour with him, as you can imagine it would be, as a super fan-boy.

KAPLAN: Did you ever expect that you would be playing on prominent TV, like Jimmy Fallon?

GUARISCO: No. Well, I think if you like music and you’ve liked music since you’re a kid, there’s certain things, as a healthy kid growing up, you should fantasize about. To me, you’re supposed to have that crazy, fantastical imagination. Most people in our world that we live in today have had that imagination robbed of them. It’s a total innocent childhood fantasy. There’s just that part of us that probably did imagine us playing things like that. We were able to just hold on to a certain part of our imagination. I think that’s very, very important as far as being an artist and being a healthy human being in the world of all the bullshit we live in today. We’re just trying to get it back. That’s what we’re doing as a band, slowly getting back this approach.

KAPLAN: What has your musical journey been like as a band?

LAMSON: The best word to describe my experience with the band is growth. Every day we get to either grow from our experiences with each other, or we can be stagnant. This band has pulled us all to grow larger than I think we all would have grown in the past few years.

KAPLAN: What are your future plans?

GUARISCO: It’s hard to really say the future plans. I think the bigger picture, what are our plans in life. As a band, we’re just going to maintain the approach of being really honest with ourselves and the music that we’re making. I think we’re going to let the music we play, play us. We like to live life like that. The most amazing place to do that is on tour, showing people this music that we’re making. From what we’ve gathered, it makes people feel good. That’s the plan: to tour forever.

LAMSON: We are about to embark on our first full tour in Europe in August. We are gonna do some more US dates. We plan on touring probably for the rest of our lives. We love playing live shows. We have a lot of shows coming up for the whole year. We’re gonna be opening up to writing more songs.

KAPLAN: Is there anyone you could dream of touring with or have toured with that you’ve been completely amazed by?

LAMSON: Yeah, of course. Our first tour was the most amazing tour of our lives and it was with the Dirty Projectors, which is a band we all really respect and that we really look up to. That was Taylor’s favorite band at the time, still is. He’s kind of obsessed with them. Our first tour ever was probably a tour that now we would still be saying, oh, I wish we could tour with the Dirty Projectors, that would be our dream. We hope to tour with them again. One of the bands I’m looking forward to trying to manifest a tour with is a band like Arcade Fire that we could resonate with. That’s definitely been a part of touring, is the connection you get with other people and other musicians. That’s the best part of touring: the connection. It becomes a lot more special.

KAPLAN: What are some comparisons that you have gotten, both good and bad?

GUARISCO: What negates a good comparison and a bad comparison is not really the artist they mention, it’s in the way that their face looks when they say it. If some dad figure came up to us and said, “Man, you guys sound like Journey and Styx,” and he’s smiling and loving it, I would say, “Thank you. I need to listen to more Journey and Styx before I get into a conversation with you about it.” The comparisons we have gotten are because of the African influence, a lot of people will pair us up with Vampire Weekend or sometimes they’ll say they the Dirty Projectors and I’ll say, “Totally.” I don’t know if this African influence is on this cyclical trajectory—every however many years, it comes back and is strong. Now it’s re-emerging.

KAPLAN: What’s been the most exciting thing that’s happened to you on this journey?

LAMSON: Everything’s really exciting, because everything’s really new to us. This is the first band that we’ve been able to put our complete creativity into. It’s our baby. We put all of our efforts and our passions into it. Everything that happens to us is like getting to watch a baby take its first steps.