‘It’s like a puzzle’: Naked Giants’ bassist Gianni Aiello talks songwriting and new album ‘Sluff’
Science and music connect on an inherent level for Naked Giants’ bassist Gianni Aiello — maybe more so than they do for the average person. While studying biochemistry at the University of Washington, he found that some people have a natural skill for flipping molecules around visually in their brain, relying on 3D spatial awareness to connect concepts. He processes songwriting in a similar way. After dropping out of school around age 20, Aiello sees science as influencing his artistic process, even though he doesn’t study it anymore.
“It’s fun to rotate a song in my head and see how all the parts bond together,” Aiello said in an interview with the Emerald before the trio’s frenetic and pedal-laden show at WOW Hall on April 6. “I like the way the pieces fit together. It’s like a puzzle.”
Naked Giants has played in Eugene three times in two years, but for their current tour, the band is opening for and playing with Car Seat Headrest in support of the fellow Seattle band’s re-imagined album “Twin Fantasy.”
Naked Giants released its debut full-length album, “Sluff,” on New West Records on March 30, but for its members, the songs exist in the past. Aiello and his bandmates Grant Mullen [guitar] and Henry Lavallee [drums] have been working and writing non-stop: playing South by Southwest, hopping all over the United States for shows and brainstorming new music, all while processing responses to “Sluff,” an album Aiello is glad people are at least listening to. He says he agrees with criticisms about the album losing its footing or even having a different feel than the first half during its ending tracks.
On this second Northwest tour with Car Seat Headrest, Aiello hopes to “win over” the audience with the band’s live presence. With Mullen flailing around on his back, Aiello playing his bass behind his thick wavy hair and Lavallee’s wild arms circling about his drum set, the band’s Eugene performance was exhilarating, even for the audience. But for Aiello and his bandmates, the energy expenditure is well-worth it because it’s their job.
As long as an audience — live or not — is interacting with his work, Aiello says he’s excited.
“Beyond that, what they think of it is good — no matter what they think,” Aiello said. “If they care about it enough, about music, about art that’s being made right now, to go out and buy it — they could love it, they could hate it, they could have a million ideas about the politics of it. That’s all good. That’s causing stuff to happen.”
The diary-like Bandcamp songs he released as a high schooler might not have as much impact on another person, he says, because he wrote them in his bedroom.
“When it’s more in a public eye, I’ve tried to get a little more purposeful with the writing. Not everyone is going to be transported in to my head as I would with my own music,” Aiello said. “That’s impossible. And I think that’s what makes good writing and good art in general — is when you can transport someone right in to your brain.”
That being said, Aiello says that writing with his fellow band members in Naked Giants is more of a balancing act between different songwriting styles. Mullen’s style is more subversive, according to Aiello, and Lavallee contributes his own ideas and pop sensibilities, too.
While the songs on “Sluff” are ones the band has been playing for years — the band is hoping to record demos for a new album in the weeks off they have from touring — they reflect a more subversive songwriting style, sometimes with nonsensical lyrics like the ones on the album’s titular track. “Sluff!,” the band members shout over grungy guitars. The song functions because the word both means everything and nothing, as Aiello has told publications such Billboard and Uproxx. Sluff is whatever the beholder of the word thinks it is, but it’s not just that one thing.
Ultimately, this goes back to how Aiello writes music and perceives art, scientific connections and the processes that come with these way of thinking.
“You can program emotions into anything,” Aiello said. “It’s kinda cool.”
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