On paper, it looked like a good plan. To follow its 2010 self-titled debut, and hits including “Cough Syrup” and “My Body,” Southern California alt-rockers Young the Giant would recruit Grammy-winning producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen (who produced Beck and Nine Inch Nails), hole up and get serious. But it didn’t quite work out that way. Its recent sophomore album, “Mind Over Matter,” turned out a success, says frontman Sameer Gadhia, but not before band members overthought themselves into writer’s block. Yet on the recent singles “Crystallized” and “It’s About Time,” the band comes out confidently swinging.
So you had a brilliant plan at first? We isolated ourselves in the middle of nowhere for a while. But a band without context, not in its natural habitat of the city and people? You begin to start questioning a lot of things. We lived in Palos Verdes together, which is about a 40-minute drive from anything. You have to take a really winding road along a cliff that is continually shaking because of the plates underneath — they’re doing constant roadwork there. So we were very, very far away from most people.
But you’ve lived together before this. We have. We’ve lived with each other in many different places, like Hollywood. But for this record, I think there was this feeling of seclusion. We wanted to be able to work in an environment free of distraction. And we actually lived in Mount Washington for a while, as well, for a couple of months in this weird haunted house up in the hills of East L.A. We wrote some of the music there, but a good majority of the record was written at the other place.
The house was haunted, you say? The architecture was pretty kooky — there were hallways that would lead to nowhere, secret passageways, and an underground, open excavation site where they were planning on building this ground floor, but it was never completed. There were all sorts of strange objects in there, and weird cavelike drawings on the walls. We had a couple of instances where big porcelain creusets were just falling on the ground by themselves. More than that, you could just feel it — there was this weird cold air sometimes.
You overcame the writer’s block by using mind over matter. But did you meet a ghost? For the track “Camera,” we were in the studio and picking up a very strange radio transmission of this Japanese lady talking. It wasn’t necessarily creepy, it was just this garbled stuff. But we ended up using it in the track — toward the end of the “Camera” outro, you’ll hear this strange, ghostlike Japanese woman speaking.
IF YOU GO
Young the Giant
Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (510) 302-2250, www.ticketmaster.com