UTG @ MIXTAPE FEST: Giants At Large Discuss Musical Influences, ‘The American Dream Is Dead’

Giants At Large feature 2015

One of the most charismatic bands out there today goes by the name of Giants At Large. The Long Island pop-punk four-piece radiates a lot of young passion, both on stage and off.

The band recently played the first day of Today’s Mixtape Festival in Patchogue, NY alongisde bands like Iron Chic, Kill Your Idols, The Movielife, and many more. Under the Gun had the pleasure of speaking with them about their new record, their plans for the rest of the year, Criss Angel, and several other hot topics. Check it out below.

Under The Gun: Hey, guys! It’s nice to meet you. Can you tell me your names and what you do for the band?

CJ Kostaras: I’m CJ. I play drums.

Andrew Bilder: I’m Bilder. I play bass.

Matt Lagatutta: I’m Matt. I do sing and play guitar. Our other guitar player is in Ireland. Our friend Dom is filling in today.

UTG: Awesome. So how long has the band been around?

CK: We’ve been around for about five years now.

ML: We have previous bands that we played in together, but we all started releasing music under Giants At Large in 2010.

UTG: How did you all get started? Did you grow up with musical backgrounds?

AB: We actually all took lessons at the same music school. Matt and I knew each other from when we were really young. CJ, too, actually. And Dom, our fill-in guitarist, who’s also on our latest record’s artwork.

CK: We all took lessons at the same time, but we weren’t aware that we were taking it with one another. I’m sure we probably sat next to each other at one point and didn’t say a word. Fun fact from where we all took lessons, actually: the owner of the place was the brother of Criss Angel.

UTG: That’s sick!

ML: Yeah! So Criss Angel would just hang out where we were and he’d be like, “Hey, guys! Wanna see a magic trick?” And I’m like, “Piss off, Criss Angel. I wanna get to my guitar lesson. Leave me alone.”

CK: We used to tell Criss Angel to leave us alone. It was hilarious. He’d walk up to us and be like, “Hey. Wanna see me levitate?” And I’ll be like, “Not really…. I just wanna get to my drum lesson and leave….” [laughs] And then he’ll freaking levitate in front of me! He was some weird, goth guy.

UTG: How did you come together as a band?

ML: CJ and I played in another band together. When that broke up, we decided we wanted to keep playing. We’ve had people go in and out over the past few years, but CJ and I have been around since the first day. We then brought Bilder along.

UTG: Tell me about your back catalog. How many EPs and full-lengths have you guys had so far?

ML: We have one EP, one split, and now two full-lengths.

UTG: What’s your newest full-length record called?

ML: It’s called The American Dream Is Dead and we put it out in March.

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UTG: Tell me about the writing and recording process for that.

ML: We started writing in August of 2012 and we wrote until probably about September 2013. We started recording in October of 2013. We sat on it for a while, and then we just put it out this year.

UTG: What made you guys decide to put it out this year as opposed to last year?

ML: I guess we were just waiting for the right time. It took a while for the record to get back to us. Our producer’s father passed away, and a lot of other things happened that led to pushing it back a bit.

UTG: Who were some of the bands you guys looked up to when you were younger that could have made an impact on The American Dream Is Dead?

ML: I think everyone can agree that blink-182 is that band that got us listening to music. Over time, we got into other things. I personally got into Third Eye Blind and Jimmy Eat World. I think that shows a lot in this one.

AB: I’m going to say The Movielife. Not just because they’re playing tonight. I discovered them when I was younger and they’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since. They broke up and now they’re back together so I’m really excited. I got to see their reunion shows in New York City, and now I’m playing the same show as they are. It’s sick. I feel lucky.

CK: I can also say that we were all influenced by the original Tony Hawk soundtrack and American Pie 1, 2, and [American Wedding]. As I was growing up, I veered towards the metal scene–which has absolutely nothing to do with them–but I was very cool with going back to that type of music.

UTG: What have you guys been doing in support of the record?

ML: We did a couple East Coast tours in the Spring, and then a Midwest run earlier this Summer. Right now we’re all home. We’ve started writing again and we’re focusing on writing new songs.

UTG: Can we expect new material next year?

ML: Yeah, potentially!

CK: Maybe a few songs here and there eventually. Right now, we’re just focusing on writing as much as we can.

ML: I think we have the best version of the band right now. Everyone here can write songs, and this is the first time everyone’s really tugging and pulling and trying to get things out there. We’re coming up with some really great stuff and it’s making me excited.

CK: Also, I write really good Christmas songs. Just putting that out there. I’m a big fan of Christmas.

UTG: You guys should put out a Christmas EP! Have a twenty-track Christmas EP. Like twenty different versions of “Joy To The World.”

ML: Don’t give him ideas. [laughs]

CK: Oh, I am all about that.

UTG: So what would you say so far is your favorite thing about being in this band?

ML: We’re all really good friends who hang out. We’re not just people who play music together. I’ll probably see these guys tomorrow just to chill.

CK: It’s an awesome feeling, on and off the stage. It’s not just playing a set and doing your own thing afterwards. It’s playing the set and then being together right after. I’ve known these guys for a really long time. They’re still cool with hanging out with me. I’m surprised[laughs]. We can call each other and not think about the band… Horseplay. I just wanted to say that. Horseplay.

AB: I’ve been in a handful of bands and I can say that this is the first time where I can sit around with any of them and play, and none of them have to stop and show me what they’re doing. Everybody kind of just picks things up. Even during a show, I’ll look over at CJ and improvise.

CK: That’s the best.

AB: We’re all very in-sync with one another. There’s no specific learning curve.

CK: It’s so crazy how you can look at someone and know what they’re trying to get at without saying a word.

ML: You give a nod and everyone knows what you’re talking about.

UTG: What is something you would tell bands that are just starting out?

CK: Quit right now [laughs].

ML: I’d say just write music you like. There are so many bands out there that feel like they have to write songs just so they could get signed. Just do what you like. If it happens, then it does. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t. Just play music. Don’t worry about the other stuff.

UTG: Lastly, if you guys could head out on the road right now and tour with any musician. What would the bill look like?

AB: We’d be direct support to Beethoven, and then Bach would open [laughs]. But seriously, maybe Taking Back Sunday. I have a weird connection to Long Island bands.

CK: Dead or alive? Oh, my god. I would do an All Killer No Filler Sum 41 tour. I would love that. I loved Sum 41 as a kid. I used to listen to rap. Serious Notorious BIG shit. Then my cousin got me into Sum 41. Maybe add Weezer. I also bleed Weezer, by the way.

ML: I would say I want to tour with bands you’d mesh with musically, but I also want to tour with someone fun. I’ll say Jimmy Eat World.

‘The American Dream Is Dead’ is now available for digital purchase here.
Feature photo credit: Michael Leighton Stollard

Dana Reandelar

If not hunched over her desk writing about music, Dana can be found binge-watching old episodes of Gilmore Girls or condensing long rants to 140 characters. She also writes for Idobi Radio, and is an Off The Record podcast contributor.
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