Young the Giant talks life on the road, cover songs and love from Morrissey

It’s been a steady climb for Young the Giant. Over the past several years, the Irvine, Calif., alt-rock band has grown from an opening act to a headliner, from cramped clubs to roomy theater stages, at home and abroad.

Now it’s time to work on new material. The band has begun work on the follow-up to its self-titled 2010 debut, bassist Payam Doostzadeh tells Listen, Dammit, by phone from California, before hitting the road for a tour that hits Wallingford, Conn., on a swing across the U.S. and Canada and back again.

“We’ve pretty much written half the record already, and we still have a couple months to go to write the rest,” Doostzadeh says.

Here are three more facts we learned about Young the Giant:

1. There’s a reason sophomore albums are about life on the road. All that touring over the past couple years has honed the quintet into a tight, assured musical unit. It’s also broadened their personal horizons. “You go through a lot of experiences together and all you all learn, you really grow up much faster. You’re going to different countries, you’re going to places like Indonesia and Europe, you see the world, and you pull from those experiences. It’s really influencing the record,” Doostzadeh says. “It’s a cliché that second records are always about touring, but it’s true: if you’re lucky enough to make a second record, you’ve been touring a lot.”

2. It’s tricky filling a headline set with just one album. Playing an opening set with one album? Easy: you pick 8 or 10 songs, play for a half-hour and you’re finished. Young the Giant has had to stretch for headline sets. “We play almost everything we have,” Doostzadeh says with a laugh. “We play one or two old songs, and we’ve been playing new songs: having three new songs in our set has definitely helped us. And then we’ll do a cover.”

And what sorts of covers does Young the Giant gravitate toward? Early on, it was Strokes covers, but Doostzadeh says that was too obvious, given how big an influence the Strokes have been on Young the Giant. They’ve more recently branched out, with covers of Gorillaz’s “Empire Ants” and, gloriously, a version of R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” which they first recorded for the Onion’s AV Club one afternoon in Chicago.

“We played it for the first time live that night, and we came out in fur coats, just to do the whole R. Kelly thing,” Doostzadeh says.

3. Doostzadeh got a birthday present from Morrissey. Well, not directly, but the well-coiffed English singer happened to rave about Young the Giant last year on the bass player’s birthday. “That was crazy,” Doostzadeh says. “We’ve been trying to get some dates with him over the past year, but it just hasn’t worked out. Maybe one day we’ll play a couple of shows with him. But his words were definitely appreciated, and helped us. People who might not have otherwise have given us credit might have changed their minds.”

Young the Giant performs Tuesday, July 17, in the Dome at Toyota Presents Oakdale Theatre, 95 South Turnpike Road, Wallingford, Conn. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show are $20 via www.livenation.com.

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