By Jodi Walker
Updated January 20, 2014 at 05:05 PM EST
Credit: Jason Shaltz

These days, a band taking more than three years off between freshman and sophomore albums is, at best, a refreshing allowance for the creative process to do its thing — and at worst, a career death wish.

L.A.’s Young the Giant — known for recent rock-radio staples like “Cough Syrup” and “It’s About Time” — are aiming for the former. After all, they had other priorities after releasing their self-titled debut album in 2010: namely, hitting the road to preform for fans at every show, festival and venue they could book. And after many miles, four consecutive homes, and six tours, they’re finally returning with their second album, Mind Over Matter, out Jan. 21.

One week before their its due date, EW caught up with Young the Giant at a private concert hosted by Sirius Radio in New York City. Hearing the earlier hits (“Cough Syrup,” “My Body”) that scored them their first brushes with the Billboard charts played alongside songs from their new album, it was clear that this upcoming LP carries a harder edge, and a more varied sound from what casual fans might be used to.

Lead singer Sameer Gadhia explained to EW: “You deal with a lot of things on the road; you can get in your own head, or you drink a lot, or you forget the people that are around you. We started as a high school band, playing garages and little clubs and it’s important that we never lose sight of that.” Reflecting back on personal experiences seems to have influenced not only the band members – who look like those stylish Sociology majors you were too intimidated to talk to in college – but the band’s overall sound, as well. Gadhia notes that while it’s not necessarily something they were striving for with Mind Over Matter, “there’s a feeling of nostalgia to it; that feeling that you kind of remember something, like a taste, or a smell.”

That might just be the natural byproduct of many years, and many memories, shared together. Bass player Payam Doostzadeh adds that this album feels a little like growing up for the group of twentysomethings. “When we first started playing together, we were all really young and we had the opportunity to go out on the road and tour and travel, and I think we all just really matured together.”

When asked which song from the new album they’re most proud of, Gahdia jumps in that for him at least, the synth ballad “Camera” is “one of the more vulnerable songs that I’ve ever written lyrically.” It was also the first song the band wrote for Mind Over Matter, setting the tone for other new challenges to their style, like “Anagram,” the record’s opening track, and perhaps it’s most sonically divergent. Gahdia says that as a songwriter, he was trying to build on what he used to do, “which is just kind of putting words there that sound good or make sense rhythmically,” and make both the lyrics and the sound feel more natural, more cognizant of the subject matter.

The updated creative style was a concerted effort from the whole band, who have been living together in houses all over L.A., and wrote the bulk of Mind Over Matter in a little recording studio they built in their most recent home in Palos Verdes.

They admit that how fans respond to this album might depend on the way they found them in the first place. People that stumbled across them on Sirius Alt Nation or just found their In The Open Sessions in a YouTube deep dive will still find satisfying familiarity in the more “stripped down” tracks of Mind Over Matter, like “Firelight,” “Crystalized” and “My Hum.” But “It’s About Time,” the album’ first single, is deliberately a less expected choice.

Listen below, and make your own call:


Mind Over Matter releases Tuesday, Jan. 21 (currently available for streaming and pre-order on iTunes) and Young the Giant’s tour kicks off Feb. 4.