After graduating from Northwood in 2006, Francois Comtois, has spent the past 10 years as the drummer for the popular band Young the Giant. He sat down with The Howler to discuss his experiences with the Irvine community and his band.
Derek Kim: Tell me the story of Young the Giant. In other words, how did you guys get to where you are now, and what can you tell me about the experience?
Francois Comtois: Young the Giant technically started as a band called the Jakes back when we were all in high school. The current lineup was solidified in 2008 and we felt that a name change would help us to refocus our efforts. We spent the next couple of years writing our first album and dipping our toes into the touring world. Things picked up steam after we got signed and we’ve been doing this full time ever since.
DK: Did Northwood prepare you for the life you have now?
FC: I think Northwood did a good job of fostering critical and analytical thinking as well as valuing creativity. Those are the skills that I find myself using most while trying build up a body of work but also in the everyday challenges of navigating the music industry. I also met several friends that have been a part of my life for over a decade.
DK: What do you remember from high school at Northwood?
FC: I moved to Orange County from Montreal when I was a freshman, so I remember being blown away by how beautiful the campus was. Apart from that I remember spending a lot of time doing homework.
DK: Who was your favorite teacher at Northwood?
FC: I had quite a few teachers make positive impressions on me but I would have to say that Mr. Halop and Ms. Keiko probably had the most to do with the musician that I am today. Their passion and attention to detail really instructed the way I approach music.
DK: What were your early years with Young the Giant like?
FC: The first few years in the band definitely took a lot of work and commitment. I think people have a glamorous vision of what it’s like to play music professionally, but the truth is that sometimes it’s downright exhausting, especially early on. As time has passed we’ve been fortunate enough to get to a point where we can tour and write on our own terms, which is incredibly rewarding.
DK: How connected are you and rest of Young the Giant to the city of Irvine?
FC: Growing up in Irvine absolutely shaped the way that we view the world around us. We were all fortunate enough to be raised in an environment that promoted inclusivity and taught us to view things with an open mind. That being said, Irvine can also be pretty boring at times, but I think that we were forced to find creativity and excitement from within which in a useful skill if you work in a creative field.
DK: What’s the best part about being in Young the Giant?
FC: The best part of being in Young the Giant is seeing how our music has a positive impact on people. I’ve always used music to help me cope with difficult times, and it’s so rewarding to hear from people who have used our songs to help them deal with whatever is going on in their lives.
DK: What’s the hardest part of life as a touring musician?
FC: The hardest part is having to spend extended periods of time away from those you love. It doesn’t get easier, but it’s a fair tradeoff.