By Syd Smith
The Naked Giants, Grant Mullen (guitar), Gianni Aiello (bass) and Henry LaVallee (drums), are making earl grey tea in the green room at Emo’s Austin right before their set. Across from me on the couch sits LaVallee and Aiello and to my right is Mullen relaxing in a black chair with a pack of smokes in his front shirt pocket.
Syd Smith: Sweet, this will be quick. Are you guys all fans of the Velvet Underground?
Grant Mullen: Hell yeah.
SS: Do you guys have a favorite song by them?
GM: Um…I have a Velvet Underground tattoo–
SS: Hey same here!
GM: Really? Wait what– of which one?
Henry LaVallee: Oh my– if you have the same tattoo I’m leaving!
*shows them Andy Warhol banana tattoo*
GM: Oh nice! That’s a great looking tattoo, I just have one on my chest–
*lifts up shirt to reveal “Sister Ray” lyrics running across the front of his chest in black ink*
GM: It’s just the Sister Ray song, but I don’t know if that’s my favorite, I can’t really pick though.
Gianni Aiello: I mean I’ll always get down to “Pale Blue Eyes” and there’s the song, “I’m Sticking With You” but it’s weird, we have a CD loaded in the car and there’s a version of “I’m Sticking With You” on there that I haven’t heard before and I was like I don’t like this version as much- there’s another version that I think is on the V.U. compilation that’s just like demos and unreleased stuff–
HL: *English accent* Not anymore.
GA: Well yeah, now it’s released but on that version of the song there’s this part, my girlfriend was the one who showed me the song, and it starts out kind of playful and weird but then there’s this part at the end were the piano sets in and Lou Reed is just singing his thing and then the drums kick in and the guitar is just so laid back and it just transports you to another dimension and it always gives me shivers.
HL: I like that ocean song, *imitates Lou Reed*, ‘An oceaaaaan…’
HL: Is that it, right?
SS: Haha yeah–
GM: Okay so I rethought my one– “I Am Set Free”.
SS: Oh yeah that’s a good one, alright, so right now there’s a lot of movie bio pics like the Queen one and there’s the Elton John one coming out soon–
GA: Oh I didn’t know that.
SS: Yeah, so if one day there’s a movie about you guys who would you want to play you, and who do you think would be a good director?
GM: Right off of the top of my head I’m going with Owen Wilson and directed by Steve Buscemi– who I don’t know if he’s directed a film or not *laughing* but I think he’d do a great job.
GA: I’m not in touch with a lot of current actors, every once in awhile someone will say I look like Ezra Miller from ah whatever that is…
SS: Perks? Or–
GA: Yeah, but other than that I don’t know, for the sake of the Owen Wilson thing it would be funny if it were a Wes Anderson movie about Naked Giants so my character would probably be played by Jason Schwartzman.
*Henry starts laughing again.*
GM: Henry would be Bill Murray.
HL: Yeah I was thinking Bill Murray or Edward Norton, but uh–
GM: Luke Wilson!
GA: Oh yeah!
HL: Yeah that’d be really good actually.
GM: *laughing* That’d be really good for Henry, “Guys I need to get a haircut!”
HL: Haha yeah that’s funny, I was going to say Finn Wolfhard that’d be dope. Oh and Spike Jonze as my director.
SS: Have you watched Video Days?
HL: No what’s that?
SS: It’s an old skate movie/video that he did back in the day, Jason Lee’s in it, who was in Alvin and the Chipmunks *laughing*, but it’s like a really young Jason Lee shredding.
H: Wow yeah he’s pretty funny, he was in Almost Famous and plays the lead singer-
GA: I forgot about that.
HL: “I was supposed to be the outspoken singer and you were supposed to be the guitarist with mystique!” Or something like that, I got to nail that quote.
GA: We have that on DVD it’s in the van.
SS: Talking about Almost Famous do you guys feel famous? Are you at the point as a band where you want to be? What do you think the future might be like for you guys?
HL: I’ll start by saying you know we did a headlining tour out here from Seattle to New York basically to start the tour. And you know, when you walk around a room full of people there to see your headlining set it’s like you can tell people are like, “Oh is that the guy who’s playing tonight?” But as far as that goes that kind of stops there. But with the Car Seat Headrest stuff we’re playing bigger theatres and you just realize that internet and social media makes it so easy for people to send what they used to have to send as fan letters like in the ‘70s or ‘80s, but now it’s like an Instagram DM– that’s the fan mail.
SS: Is it not as personal?
H: It’s very easy to get personal, that’s what I was going to say. It tricks you into thinking the boundary is there but really-
GA: There’s a lot of access.
HL: This tour I noticed that and that’s a weird thing having more strangers wanting to talk to you on the internet. I don’t know if that’s fame but that’s definitely what you sign up for.
GA: I realized with the Car Seat Headrest tours as compared to when we do our own shows, it’s like this weird jump because CSH has such a devoted following and that will spill out onto us because we are attached to it, but it’s not directed out of a joy from our music. Our music is kind of secondary to the fact that we are apart of CSH. But at our shows- it’s a different feeling, it’s this adoration, it’s like these people are kind of friends in a way, they like what we are doing and they’re happy just to be at the show and happy to let us just be us.
GM: (fan impersonation) “You guys rip!!”
GA: *laughing* Like Tom Zito for example, he’s from Detroit who gave us the Trader Joe’s grocery bags- that is above and beyond what you expect someone who likes your music to do but he’s so nice and he just like wants us to be happy because what we do makes him happy and that’s such a great relationship. Whereas places like this, people are over and above in a kind of weird way, like what do you want out of this relationship?
HL: Like imagine if we got the bag of food but then that person was like, “Hey I want to be on the guest list for the rest of my life.”
GM: Or even creepier they’d be wanting something from you, not just from the band, but from you.
SS: Like a locket of hair?
GA: *laughing* There’s people who want it. But yeah, so I don’t think we’re famous, but we’re making friends.
Recommended albums: (GM) American Stars n’ Bars, Neil Young, (HL) Eternally Even, Jim James, (GA) Dots and Loops, Stereo Lab.
Celebrity crushes: (GM) Nicole Kidman, (HL) Elizabeth Taylor, (GA) Winona Ryder/
The Brave Little Toaster.
Featured image by Syd Smith.