Interview: Jan Rosenfeld of Yes Giantess

By on Thursday, 11th February 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thanks to Washington’s SNotorious B.I.G. of 2010, the 9:30 Club gig last night, 10 February, starring La Roux and Yes Giantess was cancelled. I was scheduled to interview Yes Giantess after their soundcheck at the venue but unable to get into the city due to “severe inclement weather” and not willing to wait until 25 July (the date the gig has been rescheduled to), I had a virtual chat with lead singer Jan Rosenfeld instead. We talk about their upcoming single ‘The Ruins’, last autumn’s NME Radar tour, and English band professionalism. And I ask the important question: Victoria or Elly? Read on.

Hello Yes Giantess. How are you guys doing today? And where are you?
We’re snowed in here in D.C. on the La Roux tour. We just played a serious game of Scrabble with my Dad. And he beat us mercilessly using the word “adze.”

So let’s talk about your name first – Yes Giantess. Who came up with it? I had this image in my mind the phrase being uttered in reverence at the feet of a female Sasquatch. Am I warm?

Very warm. Imagine this: You’re locked inside your house. You’re 5 feet tall. A 12 foot woman will not let you leave. You try to head for the door but she keeps pushing you down. Why are you in this house? How did you get here? Who is this woman? Why are you so short?

I’ve read that you met at the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Are you all from the Boston area, or somewhere else in Massachusetts?
Three out of four of us met at Berklee. None of us are from the Boston area. Zach and I met in second grade at a birthday party. We were playing a heated game of F-Zero on Super Nintendo. Our bitter rivalry warmed up over the years.

Word on the street is that some of you used to be members of a previous incarnation of Passion Pit?
That’s sort of misleading. Joey [Sulkowski] (drums) and I were in musical projects with Ian [Hultquist] and Mike [Angelakos] of Passion Pit. Ayad [Al Adhamy] was the producer and engineer of some of our early stuff.

Now let’s talk about your sound. I hear a lot of ’80s synth influences in your previously released double A-side ‘Tuff N Stuff’ and ‘You Were Young’ on Neon Gold Records, and on ‘Can’t Help It’, a song of yours I really love that you worked on with Liam Howe of Sneaker Pimps. Have you all always loved electronic music…or how did the Yes Giantess sound evolve?
We don’t think of ourselves as synth-dependent anymore. When we began, the project was definitely focused on making the craziest sounds come out of our synths as possible. Lately we’re more concerned with writing interesting pop songs.

In the early days I think we had six keyboards on stage at once. Plus electronic beats, samples, and processed vocals. It was absurd! One time we did an all vocoder show.

Tell me about your upcoming single ‘The Ruins’ (due out 22 February). I’ve read that you worked with producer Starsmith on it, who’s worked with the winner of the BBC’s Sound of 2010 poll, Ellie Goulding.
‘The Ruins’ was such a long process. It started with a simple idea for a bass line, and throwing a bunch of things at the wall with Starsmith in his studio. Then we dissected it, reworked it, and finally had our good friend Jake Aron mix the final version. There are some spooky versions of ‘The Ruins’ floating around in our heads.

In terms of your own original music, what are your next recording plans?
We’ve got so much material that’s ready for recording. We’re doing three new songs after this tour is over. We’ve been writing and refining them on the road. Ultimately, we’re putting an EP and an album together.

Judging from your page, you enjoy doing remixes. So far you’ve remixed your mates Passion Pit, American rapper Asher Roth, and English band Magistrates. How do you decide, “wow, now that’s a band I want to remix?
Remixing is great. It lets you see just how talented other artists are. And it gives you a chance to write something that sounds decidedly different than your own band. When we have the opportunity to remix something, it’s generally already a pretty good song. There’s no point in remixing something that is terrible. The best remixes come from the best songs, in my opinion. Tracks with tons of character and soul.

What are your goals when you set out to do a remix? What remixes do you have in the works now? What acts haven’t you remixed yet that you’re dying to someday?
I just want to rebuild the song from the ground up. Re-imagine a totally new direction for the track. It’s like getting to play producer for another artist…without consulting with them. I really want to remix a Will Smith song. That’s the end game.

So what’s the story behind your remix of Miley Cyrus‘s ‘Party in the USA’?
Bored on a Wednesday? We searched and searched but couldn’t find the remix we wanted to play at DJ gigs, so we made it ourselves.

And another song you’ve remixed is Golden Silvers‘s ‘True Romance’. You toured alongside Golden Silvers, Marina and the Diamonds, and Local Natives last October on the NME Radar tour. Tell me what that was like, touring in the UK. Was that the first time you’d toured internationally?
That was the first proper tour – we’d been overseas a few times for one-offs. The UK is an amazing, confounding, tiring place. Everything is so concentrated. People treat music so differently. The exchange of music is so quick. Things come and go. We saw the entire country in like 3 weeks! It was beautiful.

Did you get along with your tour mates, was it difficult / a cultural shock being in Britain? What were your impressions of each of the bands you were with?
All the other bands on the tour are great friends of ours now. We had sing-alongs, jams, and stage invasions. It was great.

Being who we are – just kind of silly, I guess – was sort of a weird thing. English bands aren’t silly. They are far more professional than we are. They all have tour managers. And giant vans. And crazy gear. We’re just four Americans crammed into a small vehicle out to see the world.

You’ve been on the road with Little Boots before and are now touring with La Roux. So I have to put the question to you, Victoria or Elly? And why?
Impossible! We will never answer that! Both are amazing and different. I will say this: With Vic, we got to tour up the beautiful coastal highways of California. This tour, we’re in the frozen tundra of the northeast and Canada. It’s definitely a different world.

Yes Giantess’s single for ‘The Ruins’ will be released on 22 February on Neon Gold / Pure Groove Records.

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