Formed in 2015, the Seattle trio — guitarist/vocalist Grant Mullen, bassist/vocalist Gianni Aiello and drummer Henry LaVallee — put out debut EP R.I.P.the following year and have been steadily building up their reputation as a live act in the meantime, and having as much fun as possible while doing it. Because as much as the three-piece — who are all in their very early 20s now — have their heads screwed on and are fiercely intelligent people, they also want to let loose and enjoy being in a band. After all, that’s kind of what being in a band with your closest friends is all about.
“I just want to make as much noise and have as much fun and get as sweaty as I can,” says LaVallee, “and if that resonates with people, that’s who I want in my life. That’s who I want to play music for.”
That clash of the cerebral and the intelligent — the desire to say something meaningful but also just have some fun — is what underpins the very essence of who Naked Giants is. It’s a band of contradictions. Their music, which is simultaneously timeless and modern, new and old, is loud and brash and raw, but there’s vulnerability there, too. In fact, debut album SLUFF is a melting pot of ideas and sounds that, on paper, don’t seem like they would go together, but which form one phenomenally cohesive whole.
That’s exactly what they do on SLUFF’s twelve weird and wonderful songs. Recorded with producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana/Screaming Trees/Beat Happening/Car Seat Headrest/Low/Minus The Bear) in Seattle at Avast! and Soundhouse Studios over the course of two and a half weeks in October, the record is a dizzying mélange of influences and ideas. It swirls with hyperactive restlessness as 1960s harmonies share space with 1970s riffs while at the same time battling an undercurrent of punk rock and more modern indie influences. The song “TV,” for example, is a kaleidoscope of sound that seems to take in the whole history of rock’n’roll but reframes it in a more contemporary context.
Raucous and rabid, but also considered and complex, Naked Giants’ music is the sum of all their influences and then some. And then some more. Then, of course, there’s the quasi-grunge title track, which chugs along with an ominous yet uplifting attitude as its title is shouted with a fervent zeal — “SLUFF!” — and which carries with it both the weight of the world and the reckless abandon of youth.
So while Naked Giants are happy to play the role of the dumb, hedonistic rock band, don’t be fooled for a second — they’re one of the brightest, smartest acts out there at the moment. And this is also just the beginning of what they’re already planning to be a long and rewarding career. Even at this early stage, they’re taking it as seriously as they are just having a good time. They have a lot to say and they’re not afraid to say it, but they also relish in what making music has, even already, given back to them.