The city of Lafayette is considered the center of Cajun French culture in Louisiana. It’s also home to the young band known as Givers, which has a high–spirited, heel–kicking zydeco attitude but no accordion and no fiddle.
Givers, rather, is a pop/rock band with sunny, optimistic songs that flirt with the rhythms of zydeco (and reggae, and ska, and lots of other stuff that originated over the sea) and the tools of the contemporary musical trade (electronica, distorted guitars, skittery bass and burpy synthesizers).
It’s a buoyant, potent gumbo made especially delectable by the effervescent harmony vocals of co–founders Taylor Guarisco and Tiffany Lamson.
Having just signed to indie label Glassnote (Mumford & Sons, Temper Trap and others) Givers is about to drop a full–length album into the national pipeline. It’s that “pre–buzz” tour that brings the group here for a May 13 show at the Jepson Center. Co–sponsored by the TEDx Creative Conference and Savannah Stopover, this will be Givers’ first performance here.
Tell me about Givers’ origins in improvised instrumental music.
Taylor Guarisco: All of us, before we decided to start a band that “made songs,” were in bands that were purely improvisational, and most of the improv groups we had were all instrumental. But we got a lot of ideas for songs from that method, just making stuff up on the spot at some club or some cafe. Recording it, then going back and fishing it out.
Do you think it was a natural evolution, that you would add vocals and song structure?
Tiffany Lamson: Yeah, it was really natural. From a lot of the recordings of improvised shows, we listened back and said “That could be a hook” or “That could be the chorus.” We found the content through listening back, and realized they weren’t just rantings. They had depth and meaning to them, and we felt we could hone the energy and make it into a bundle. Make it into a song.
And also, the crowd gave us that energy. The people that were there responded really well, so we were like “This can’t just be us.”
Taylor Guarisco: Even if the crowd wasn’t there, it was like a crazy feeling we all felt, musically. It felt like we were writing songs on the spot. Which is a very weird thing to do. So those nights were very “Eureka!”
I had those recordings for a few months, and then one day I felt inspired to go fish through them and pick out little parts ... we just started taking little chunks out of the recordings and saying “It feels like you’re saying THIS,” and then we’d go from there.
That inspired us to say “We can do it this way,” and “We can take some song ideas that are halfway done, and let everybody do their thing to it,” to give birth to a song.
The Afro–Caribbean rhythm is a real hallmark of your music. Where did that come from?
Tiffany Lamson: Rhythm is a big part of where we come from. In southwest Louisiana we have a festival called Festival Internationale, with all the international music you can imagine. We were always going to that, and it was a big part of us learning rhythms and kinda seeing how other countries do it. It all resonates with us; it’s a big part of our culture.
Because of where you’re from, do people assume you’re a zydeco–playing Cajun band?
Taylor Guarisco: One thing we all feel is that we are, undoubtedly, a Louisiana band. And what defines a Louisiana band is that poly–rhythmic nature. And I think the reason we gravitate towards Afro–Caribbean rhythm is that’s what gets people dancing.
And there’s something to be said for music right now where you not only get your butt moving, but also it has a message in it that makes your heart feels good. Then, we take the time to make our songs interesting. We embrace being able to make people move their butts, feel something good in their hearts, and have something to look at and think about.
You’ve signed with a pretty big indie label. What do you want to happen next?
Taylor Guarisco: Some people were put on this earth to be a doctor and to help people who are sick; some people are here to be an incredible mother of children, you know? Whereas right now, our calling in life is to make music that makes people feel good. Not to be too cliched about it, but it’s our calling, if you will. It’s our service that we’re here to contribute to people’s lives. That’s a huge part of our mission statement, to allow this music to be for other people, besides ourselves.
With Little Tybee, General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers
Where: Jepson Center for the Arts, 207 W. York St.
When: At 9 p.m. Friday, May 13 (doors open at 8:30)