Glassnote Entertainment Group released In Light, the national CD debut of Lafayette band Givers, this week. A group that makes vibrant, Afro-pop-touched music, Givers has the distinction of being on the same record label as Mumford & Sons, the British folk-rock band that’s among this year’s breakthrough acts.
As different as Mumford & Sons’ country-Celtic-rock is from Givers’ music, singer-guitarist Taylor Guarisco and singer-percussionist Tiffany Lamson relate to their labelmates’ passionate approach to music.
The altruistic Guarisco hears something universal in both bands’ songs: humankind’s resolve to find love in the world.
“I believe Mumford & Sons’ success is a testament to that,” he said last week from San Diego during Givers’ West Coast tour. “They brought a big dish of love to the world and people are just eating it up, because it’s so healthy for people’s souls.
“At the end of your life, you’re not gonna think about how cool you were. You’re gonna think about all the love that you had in your life. So why not get a head start? Why not start making your life about love right now?”
Say what you may about Guarisco and Givers’ idealism, their philosophy plus hard work and talent took them far quickly. Recent and upcoming milestones include the group’s nearly sold-out June 2 show in Los Angeles; the June 7 release of In Light; Givers’ June 10 debut at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.; and the band’s June 14 network TV debut on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
“Yeah, we have a full plate,” Guarisco said. “It’s been crazy the past few weeks, but I can also say we’ve been on the clock every day for two, almost three years.”
The beginning of the band that became Givers happened in New Orleans in 2005. Guarisco and Lamson were music students at the University of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina halted their studies one week into the semester. Retreating home to Lafayette, the two played drums and bass together and, gradually, inspired each other to sing.
Things developed spontaneously through the next few years as drummer Kirby Campbell, bassist Josh LeBlanc, keyboardist Will Henderson and saxophonist and keyboardist Nick Stephan joined the original duo. Lamson cites 2008 as the year the band formed.
Lafayette’s neighboring city, Baton Rouge, played an important part in Givers’ history. The group performed its first non-hometown show here at the Spanish Moon. Afterward, Aaron Scruggs, the club’s talent buyer and booking manager, asked Givers to open a show for the touring, nationally known Dirty Projectors at another Baton Rouge venue, Chelsea’s Caf?.
It so happened that Dirty Projectors leader Dave Longstreth was among Guarisco’s musical inspirations.
“I’d kind of been obsessed with him for almost four years,” Guarisco said. “Nothing would have been bigger and scarier than to play in front of him, and that happened at Chelsea’s Caf?.”
Longstreth liked Givers so much that he invited the group to join the Dirty Projectors for an East Coast tour.
“That was the coolest thing that could ever happen,” Guarisco said.
Givers’ trek with the Dirty Projectors put the young band from Lafayette in front of big, receptive crowds.
“That was a huge learning curve,” Tiffany Lamson recalled. “Almost every venue was filled. It was amazing to see the feedback and have strangers from all over the country compliment us. Our dream was becoming reality.”
Even as the band was taking off, escalating success required serious tradeoffs. Guarisco left a great position with Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience, a Grammy-winning Cajun band that tours nation and the world. Campbell dropped out of Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
“When we got that Dirty Projectors show, that kind of expedited our idea of what this could be for us,” Lamson remembered. “And when we got the tour with Dirty Projectors, everybody was like, ?This is it.’”
“I like to think there are moments in everyone’s lives when we’re called to do something,” Guarisco said. “It’s a call that you can’t not respond to. And everyone who’s ever been an inspiration to me always told me to follow my heart.
“As for dropping out of school, quitting the zydeco band, changing plans, we all heeded the call. I hope that part of our story can inspire other people to recognize when synchronicities like that line up for them. They line up for everybody. It’s just a matter of recognizing it.”