Consisting of long-time friends Tiffany Lamson (percussion, vocals), Taylor Guarisco (guitar, vocals), Kirby Campbell (drummer), Josh LeBlanc (bassist, keyboards) and Nick Stephan (flautist, saxophonist and keyboards), Givers have released their debut LP In Light, an invigorating and energetic compilation of uplifting and sun-speckled funky guitar pop. It cannot be overstated enough that they are products of their upbringing.
Guarisco is chatting to me by phone, and when I bring up his unabashed and very public praising of his geographical roots, he practically gushes about what it is that makes his hometown of Lafayette such a musically magical place.
“[Lafayette is] so unique,” he states emphatically. “It’s the only place where [one can find] authentic Cajun music, authentic zydeco music, authentic Cajun food and creole food; it’s really like a whole separate culture!
“I think when you grow up, you don’t really appreciate what’s around you, it’s like ‘zydeco is old peoples’ music, it’s not cool, it’s not hip’, and then you get over the rebellious teenage years and then you realise that some of the funkiest and grooviest music in the world comes from your hometown!
“It’s totally under-the-radar, and you have to go see this music played live, you know? So that’s what [Givers are] so into; we’re so proud of – it’s such a very warm city, all the people are warm and friendly – we wish the whole world could take a trip to Lafayette and experience what we’re talking about!”
All five members of Givers had performed in various local Cajun and zydeco acts for quite some time before coming together. Lamson and Guarisco had headed off to the University of New Orleans to study music – but fatefully, Hurricane Katrina came along and altered their course completely.
“We had been set up [together] in New Orleans for school,” Guarisco recalls, “And when the hurricane came, it totally flooded the place we were staying in with like 12 feet of water. We came back to Lafayette, and just had the rest of the year off, because school was cancelled. Tiffany and I just became best friends and started making music every day, and we began developing our musical chemistry. Through general jamming, we really got to know each other; that was a really important time for us, not having any obligation but to figure out what we wanted to do with life, and it put us in the direction toward making a band.
“We had a few months where we didn’t really work; we just played open-mic nights, and it really set the foundation for us to have this musical connection. We initially went from being people who didn’t sing in public to people who supported each other and encouraged each other and eventually we did it in a setting with these people in a band, and it felt really good … so we kept doing it. [Givers] developed after that.”
Givers (whose name is taken from the song of the same title by Los Angeles-based experimental duo Lucky Dragons – “Givers is one of our favourite songs from them,” enthuses Guarisco) had released a self-titled EP in 2009, and were performing at the Austin City Limits Festival when their festive and funky set was witnessed by Daniel Glass of Glassnote Entertainment, who decided he’d like to sign the young band to his label. “Yeah,” recalls Guarisco, “we just sat down with him and talked. We had just written all these songs and we suggested that the band’s position was that we totally wanted to take our time and not rush the process. So we sat down and we had dinner and began talking about music and life and understanding the way [Glassnote] does things.”
When I mention that In Light, and in particular the first single Up Up Up certainly has a distinct unrushed feel, he heartily agrees. “Yeah, we actually had the album completed before we had started talking on any levels, you know? I think that’s a huge thing, that we had spent all this time and our own money, before we’d recorded the record. And we were able to give it to [Glassnote] and other people and start seeing what label would be the best home for the album. So [the album’s] definitely a testament to the way the songs are and were at the time!”
But what makes the whole experience of writing and sharing music with the world such a soulful and powerful thing is Guarisco’s undying and ferociously emotional love of music itself. “It means a great deal to me, you know?” he says with awe. “I feel like it’s my service. Like, I’m not able to perform surgery on anyone, I’m not a doctor; I’m not a teacher, I’m not teaching anybody how to read … I make these songs with my friends and as far as I know how I do things to help others and so this is my chance!
“So the chance to be able to share my music with others, it just means so much. I finally found a way to bring some kind of joy and something valuable to other people. So we take it very seriously, and it’s just something we hold in such high regard, just sharing something positive with other people; people either have that uplifting experience throughout their day, or have that ‘whatever’ experience they need from our music, we appreciate the fact that we could do that.
“Whatever they need from us, you know?”