Q+A: Naked Giants are already melting faces and they're just getting started

Get to know April's Locals Only Artist of the Month

April 1, 2016

Votiv

Henry LaVallee was getting ready to graduate high school and leave Mercer Island for the forest-hidden Western Washington University like a lot of kids his age looking forward to the next step. That is until he got a call that would take his plans and turn them upside down.

His father had a stroke and Henry decided to put a pause on his college endeavors and stay home with the family and attend community college instead. At the time, the 18-year-old, now 19, probably had no idea keeping his roots in the Seattle area would prove to find fertile soil for his budding music career with his band, Naked Giants.

Henry and Grant Mullen have known each other since they were four years old in pre-school. They split to go to different schools, but reconnected through their mutual love of music at 15 years old while attending different High Schools.

The two started jamming on a consistent basis, using the music as an outlet, a well-told tale of teenage angst in the great Northwest. But the creative outlet for the boys continued as the two continued to jam and write music. While playing as a two-piece, the duo dug the bass-slapping musings of Gianni Aiello and asked him to join the duo, rounding out the sound that would become Naked Giants.

The now-trio of Naked Giants kept playing as Henry remained in Seattle while Grant and Gianni began their education at University of Washington. With two songs now release and an EP likely on the way, the band is getting critical acclaim right out of the gate.

Naked Giants placed second in EMP's Sound Off!, Seattle's under-21 battle of the bands, in 2015 and have since completed their first mini-tour. Accustomed to playing college parties and getting kicked out of bars after their set due to being underage, the trio is The End's Locals Only Artist Of The Month for April.

Get to know more about the band and tune in to hear their tunes on 107.7 The End:

THE END: What's up man? Obviously you guys are local, but I want to know a bit about the band and how you all know each other?

HENRY LAVALLEE: Grant plays guitar and sings, Gianni plays bass and sings and I play drums. I knew Grant from pre-school, we were four when we met, which is the best. We went to different schools then reconnected when we were 15 and we started playing music. We would jam for hours. For four years, all through high school, we would jam on and off and record once in a while, but it wasn’t until senior year when I was going to Western Washington University and my dad a stroke before I graduated so I decided to stay and go to community college. Grant and I just started using the music as an outlet for the **** we were dealing with in that regard. Since I stayed in Seattle, the only thing I wanted to do was play music to see where it goes.

Grant and I started writing and our fifth performance; we played a show with Gianni who was in a different band at the time. We networked and asked him to come in and practice and he did. We not only have similar tastes in music, but similar vision for what Naked Giants was to be. We grew at the same time with it and would bring different sounds and run with it.

THE END: You all started progressing together, but when was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized you guys were going to go for it?

HENRY: There’s a certain thing about having grown up on Mercer Island where there’s a lot of privilege. Grant and I are ones who try to never be ignorant of our privilege or even waste it. We decided that if we are going to do this, let’s only do this because that’s how you’re going to be successful at anything in life is when you start dedicating your personal time to developing and refining your craft. That summer of 2014 after we graduated high school, I texted Grant and said, “Listen, performing with Naked Giants is the best feeling ever.” I am pretty bad with relationships, but I am really good with my band. It is everything and so nice and real, and I don’t really know how to even phrase it.

He was totally with me. My dad always wanted to go to art school but his mom wouldn’t let him, but when he saw I had a passion for this he always encouraged me to keep doing it. Having that support is huge.

THE END: When was your big breakthrough as a band?

HENRY: We did the Sound Off at the EMP, the big under-21 battle of the bands, and we played a really great show and placed second and had a good time. After that we started taking it a lot more seriously and started talking to managers. We just got back from a tour where we took school off where we thought we can either get a C- in school and an A+ in music because instead of studying, we’re practicing. If you want to be a professional lawyer, you read your books. If you want to be a professional musician, you have to practice your instrument. We’re still just figuring out how to do this music thing.

THE END: What was going on your first tour like? Did everything start to fall in place and start feeling real?

HENRY: There’s this Seattle bubble. Sometimes it’s hard to break out of just being popular in Seattle. So some shows we played on tour there were 10-15 people in the crowd, others there were 120. We only have a couple songs out so it’s a long process, but those steps were crucial. You play the same songs over and over and you spend a lot of time in the van, loading instruments in every night and you’re really tired.

THE END: You guys have a very ‘Seattle’ sound in the best way possible. How do you guys think your sound was shaped and where is it going?

HENRY: We pretty much just try to sound like Macklemore as much as possible….kidding. He’s dope, though. I remember seeing him at a Holy Names dance when I was 15 and I was blown away.

Real talk though, Jimmy Hendrix is the biggest boss to walk the Earth and also to walk, I don’t know, Jackson Street, probably. His music and his live show totally helped me personally with self-confidence. That soul of Rock and Roll of “I’m going to wear whatever I want, I’m going to f*** my guitar on stage and look you in the eyes while I do it” is amazing because you’ll feel that power in the audience. My soul that makes my body move is going to make your body move. Naked Giants as a three-piece has always been about mimicking that soul communication between listener and musician. Music is a human tool. And it all started with drums, by the way. Go drums, the very first instrument. That’s rad. Drums can make your heart jump out.

THE END: What has your Seattle experience been as this young band rising through the ranks?

HENRY: We play a lot of house shows at the University of Washington because that’s where Grant and Gianni go to school. We get recognized on campus now by people that see us at house shows. It’s an awesome way to connect with the audience and have fun. When we were down at SXSW we would go to concerts with other Seattle bands like Tacocat and we were hanging out and connecting, and the managers were hooking us up and a lot of other bands came up after our show and said, “That’s the best live show I have seen at SXSW.” People are feeling that and it’s awesome we were able to have that dialogue with the audience without saying anything. It was like being at summer camp. Coming back here, we have all these new connections in the Seattle scene and having Tacocat talking about us. They are all such cool people. All these bands are like, 10 years older than us and it’s awesome to get that recognition.

THE END: What’s the next step for you guys? I am sure a lot of people are waiting for your first album.

HENRY: We have been talking about that. The next two months we’ll be taking classes, not really going on tour or anything, so a lot of writing is happening. We are compiling a list of house shows in college towns so we will be taking weekend trips to those houses for the next few months down in Oregon and California. We hopefully can do radio sessions and shows and just talking to new people and getting our sound out there. We’re 19 and 20-years-old so playing at bars, we can’t really hang out with the crowd afterward and make those connections. We’re shopping around for labels and that would help us get a record out.

We are trying to play Neumos and sell that **** out, or play Sasquatch and rock out the night time set with the lawn packed. That’s my dream venue. We want to kill that.