First of all, let’s settle a recurring misnomer concerning I Am Giant’s nativity. The band is commonly referred to as a Kiwi hard rock act. Yet while founding members Shelton Woolright (drums) and Paul Matthews (bass) have their roots in the New Zealand rock scene, the ‘NZ’ tag isn’t technically apt.
“We actually formed in London,” Woolright says. “The Kiwis really stick their teeth in and claim us but actually on paper I’m the only Kiwi in the band. Me and Paul formed the band – Paul was born in England.”
British vocalist Ed Martin completes the lineup, and I Am Giant continue to be based in London to this day. Conducting business from the northern hemisphere hasn’t negatively impacted on the band’s commercial fortunes in NZ. When the group’s second LP Science & Survival dropped earlier this month, it debuted at number two on the national albums chart.
“It is a pretty good feeling,” Woolright says, “especially in this day and age with not really that many platforms for [rock music] to get exposure. To be on the actual charts and even in the top five is quite a feat. We’re proud and we’re also really stoked that we’ve got a decent fan base who are actually supporting us.”
The record itself carries forward the melodic hard rock sound introduced by the band’s 2011 debut, The Horrifying Truth. However, what distinguishes Science & Survival is its moments of particularly pounding instrumentation, as well as the widest screen choruses in the group’s catalogue. The even application of these two core elements is essentially I Am Giant’s signature, but it wasn’t a fundamental objective at the band’s outset.
“I think why we sound like we are is because there’s a few different individual flavours, from what we listen to and stuff like that. [Paul and I] come from heavier backgrounds. Ed, with such a clean voice, it softens the music up. I remember The Horrifying Truth, when we wrote it, I thought it was quite heavy. But recorded and with Ed’s singing it’s actually quite soft alternative rock.”
Hearing the sound develop in this manner might have come as a surprise to Woolright and Matthews, but they didn’t attempt to correct the dynamic contrast. “Straight away we knew it was going to be good. It was something different. It was like, ‘Surely if we can get this to work it’s going to be unique,’ and it is a little bit. We haven’t reinvented the wheel by any means, but it works. It’s great.”
I Am Giant are unmistakably a guitar-centric rock band, so perhaps you’re wondering what the guitarist has to say about these stylistic details. Well, curiously enough, the band has never had a permanent guitar player. The first record features guitarist Aja Timu, while the Science & Survival guitar duties were shared between Matthews and UK guitarist Michael Triponel. This lack of stability isn’t such a major hindrance when it comes to touring – Woolright explains that they cope just fine by utilising an assortment of axemen.
“At the moment we’re using a guy in New Zealand, we’ve got a guy up in Germany, we’ve got a guy in the UK. I’m sure we’ll settle at some point, but at the moment it’s something we don’t really think too much about.”
Indeed, appointing different players in different regions actually increases I Am Giant’s mobility. The Science & Survivalworld tour kicked off in New Zealand last week and comes our way early next month. Woolright speaks eagerly about showcasing the record’s substantial advances to audiences all over the world. “We really feel we’ve done something a bit special on this one, so hopefully people will hear that.”