Breaking Out: Givers
Afropop-influenced optimists rise from the rubble of a natural disaster.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Givers singer Tiffany Lamson had just started her freshman year at the University of New Orleans. She’d moved away from Lafayette, Louisiana, where she’d sung in the church band (her father was the pastor), only to see her new apartment and all her belongings drowned in 15 feet of water. Fittingly, considering Givers’ penchant for joyous pop, Lamson saw the experience as a positive. “It was awesome to be smacked in the face with that,” she says. “It changes your perspective.”
It also helped start the band. Lamson’s friend Taylor Guarisco, another Lafayette native, had been playing bass in zydeco ensembles. With school on hold and nowhere to live, the two returned home with little to do. So they started making music. “We were displaced into each other’s lives,” laughs Guarisco, now Givers’ singer-guitarist.
Despite being born of disaster, ?Givers beam optimism. The quintet’s debut album, In Light (Glassnote), serves up a stew of polyrhythmic ?percussion, major-key guitar lines, and Lamson and Guarisco’s buoyant shared vocals. The former credits ?Lafayette for the band’s infectiously upbeat vibe. “There’s a festival for ?everything,” she says of the city, “and everybody plays music with everybody else.”
Indeed, Givers’ lineup came ?together in 2008, when Lamson, 23, and Guarisco, 25, asked drummer ?Kirby Campbell, 21, keyboardist Nick Stephan, 29, and bassist Josh ?LeBlanc, 24, to help out when they were offered a two-hour slot at a ?Lafayette pub. It went off well, and they played part time until 2009, when they opened for Dirty Projectors, whose blend of Afropop and ?indie rock was a key inspiration.
“We rehearsed eight hours a day for a week,” says Guarisco. “I was opening for my favorite band!” The practice paid off. Projectors’ main man Dave Longstreth subsequently invited his fans along as support for an East Coast tour. A similarly triumphant gig at the 2010 Austin City Limits festival led to a record deal when Glassnote execs caught Givers in full chiming swing. This fall, the Louisianans will undertake a headlining U.S. tour. Their success, says Lamson, proves “you can choose to do what you want.” It’s just a matter of attitude.