It was about 6:00 pm on Sunday, April 12th. My JamFeed co-workers and I were at Carson Creek Ranch, located just outside of Austin, for Euphoria Festival 2015. We had been running around the entire weekend conducting interviews with Euphoria artists, catching as many shows as possible, charging our phones when we could, and trying diligently to stay dry and clean (the word ‘clean’ is a relative term in this case, to the point where I would have paid a large sum of money for the chance to ‘shower’ in the Colorado River for 20 seconds).
But I digress. For me, 6:00 pm on April 12th meant one thing and one thing only: my responsibilities for the weekend were over, and I had t-minus six hours until my 24th birthday.
All of JamFeed’s interviews had been conducted, my phone had been dead for the past day with no hope of charging it (and really, at that point, no urge to charge it), and we had two fresh cases of beer ready to go for Big Gigantic’s 9:00 pm show.
So despite being exhausted, I thought that I might as well get into “birthday turn up” mode. And then it happened.
JamFeed CEO Cameron Gibson, who had been messing around on his phone for the past couple minutes, looked up at me with a twinkle in his eyes. It was the same twinkle that James Harden gets after he barrels into a hopeless defender and draws contact, knowing that he’s going to the free throw line for the 46th time that game (well, it’s the twinkle that Harden would have if he wasn’t a soulless cyborg). It’s the same twinkle that the developers at Apple get after they create yet another product that is due to self-destruct after at most two years of use, knowing that our helpless consumer asses are getting strangled by their corporate leash yet again. Cameron had that twinkle.
“We got Big G at 7:30,” he said.
Oh, the irony. The JamFeed team is getting ready to down 60 beers in two hours in preparation for the Big Gigantic show, and now we get the chance to interview them. All of a sudden getting wasted for my birthday seemed very inconsequential. This is Big Gigantic, one of the best bands in the business.
For those who don’t know — which should be a small portion of music fans at this point — the duo based out of Boulder, Colorado has been puttin’ down the funk since 2008. They are one of the first groups to combine live instrumentation with electronic music in the right way, blending elements of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and soul to create a sound that makes for one of the best live music experiences one can expose themselves to. Their style is still getting heavily bitten to this day.
So with all of this on my mind, I placed my bucket hat over my head and passed out in my folding chair. When Cameron woke me up an hour later I was ready to rock. No excuses.
Cameron and I sat down with Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken, otherwise known as Big Gigantic, at 7:30, and needless to say, the following interview coupled with their subsequent 9:00 pm performance was the best birthday present that I could’ve ever asked for. Big G, if you are reading this, thank you guys.
Peep the below video of their Euphoria opener, the remix to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.”
The guys spoke candidly about their origins, the divvying up of responsibilities that makes their operation run so smoothly, the shows that put them on the national radar, their first hip-hop remix (hint: it’s a Pharcyde song), their legendary rain-soaked Austin City Limits performance last year, and much more. Enjoy.
So how long have you been working with Ben Baruch, your manager?
Dom: Almost since the beginning. About five years. We did about a year by ourselves.
Did y’all meet in Boulder?
Dom: Yeah, yeah, we were getting it started right when he moved to town. He moved from LA. He started taking over the Fox Theater booking and stuff. We were just all going out together because we love music, you know? We met at shows, we got some shows for ourselves, we would get happy hour, the three of us. And then I remember we had a conversation like, “maybe Ben should be our manager.”
Did he have ThisSongIsSick at that point? (editor’s note: the founder of the highly successful and influential electronic/hip-hop/indie/alternative blog ThisSongIsSick is actually Nick Guarino, not Ben Baruch)
Dom: Nope, but Nick was coming up too, man. He was our other homie. He was like, “yeah I run this blog, it’s kinda getting big.” I was like, “bro send me music so I can hear what’s up!” But anyways, we had a dinner with Ben one day and we asked him to be our manager. He said that he was thinking the same thing!
So it was pretty mutual?
Dom: Yeah, definitely.
So where are y’all from originally? Did you meet in Colorado?
Jeremy: Yup, met in Colorado. I’m from Virginia.
Dom: I’m from Vegas.
Awesome. Did you meet at the University of Colorado?
Dom: No, just kind of around town, you know.
Jeremy: We both played in different bands around town and the music community there is pretty small. We used to do gigs together, stuff like that.
Dom: We did wedding gigs and shit, jazz gigs, funk gigs, all kinds of shit.
Was it just y’all two from the very beginning?
Dom: Yup! (Jeremy nods approvingly) I was getting stuff together and thinking about concepts and I just decided that I want one other guy, you know, and it was just like, “yup, let’s keep it like that.”
So we know that during live shows Dom is on the saxophone and alternates that with keys and the laptop, while Jeremy is on drums, but how does the beat-making process come about?
Dom: I make all the music. Our thing is very different but it works so well because Jeremy handles so much other stuff.
Jeremy: I do a lot of our business stuff.
Dom: We’ve been playing for so long together and we have such a connection musically that it’s like, when I’m thinking about writing I’m thinking about us playing. You know what I mean? So even though Jeremy’s not writing, we know what the concept is that we’re going for so it’s really easy to write in a style that Jeremy’s about.
How would y’all describe that style?
Jeremy: It’s a lot of different stuff.
Dom: We never know how to classify it. Saxophone, drums, and bass is the style (laughs).
Where do your sax roots come from, Dom?
Dom: In school, I started in sixth grade.
Vegas just doesn’t seem like a sax place to me.
Dom: It was though! Back in the day my grandfather was a drummer, there was a lot of jazz stuff going on in Vegas, you know, like Frank Sinatra was playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and shit like that. So it was definitely poppin’ at a time. It’s not like that anymore, but I just stuck with it, man. I fell in love with it, ended up going to college and getting my masters and then I was touring with an afro-beat band for awhile. After that simmered down a little bit we started Big G.
Did you ever find it hard while you were in school to strike the balance between focusing on graduating and your music career simultaneously?
Dom: Well I didn’t really do anything until after school. When I was in school, I was in school, pretty much. There was a little bit of time to do local gigs and stuff, but I didn’t start really giggin’ a lot until after I graduated.
Do you guys remember the first show you played together where you really realized “this is what works?”
Jeremy: It’s always felt kinda natural from the beginning. The first show we played was with Murph, who used to be in Sound Tribe (STS9). We opened up for a side project that he had. It was sold out the first night, in Boulder, and the whole thing just kind of came together. It always felt like we were doing it for fun, but at the same time it was like, “wow, I think people are really going to like this.” It kept growing and because of the Murph connection, he had us open up for Sound Tribe and we gained a national fan base by doing after shows and bouncing around with them.
Dom: There were definitely a couple shows. Camp Bisco 2010…
Was it Red Rocks where it was you guys, Ghostland Observatory and STS9?
Dom: Yeah, we did one of those, that was years ago.
Jeremy: Dude, playing Red Rocks was… I don’t know if you guys have been there before but it’s just the most incredible place. That’s where you want to play wherever you live. It’s epic.
Dom: You’re immersed in nature and the way the crowd is set up, the way the bleachers go up and the stage is at the bottom, it’s different from every other venue. It really feels like people are on top of you like “aaaagghhhh!!”
Jeremy: All the energy rushes down.
Dom: It’s like you get vertigo for a second.
Dom: Damn, what was it? It was a Pharcyde song.
(they both pause to think)
Jeremy: Can’t keep runnin’ awayyyyyy…
Hell yeah! So y’all have a reputation for bringing crazy fucking weather to Austin. Are you gonna make it rain tonight?
Jeremy: I hope not.
The ACL performance in the rain last year was legendary. (Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find any YouTube footage of the performance, probably because any cameras would’ve been done for in the downpour)
Jeremy: We were soaking wet. Completely drenched. (Looks at Dom) I don’t know how your computer kept going! I was hitting drums and water was just splashing up in my face off the drums.
Dom: It was literally like getting sprayed in the face with a hose while performing.
Jeremy: We love coming down here as much as we can. We love Texas. Austin is like a Boulder sister city.
And everyone in Austin loves going up to Colorado as well.
Dom: For sure. Lots of homies down here, man.
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