By Erin Christie
From releasing their excellent sophomore record, The Shadow, this summer, to learning how to function as a band during a pandemic, and battling wildfires in their community this fall, garage rock trio Naked Giants have had a whirlwind of a year. Despite everything they’ve endured in the past few months alone, however, their city, Seattle, WA, has kept them grounded.
To document some of the locations around their hometown that helped make them who they are today, Gianni Aiello (vocals, bass) and Henry LaVallee (drums) rode around Seattle and compiled the photo diary below. Take a look!
We practically lived in this shop for a few years. It’s a great resource for young musicians — they’re always open to trading in gear and finding that next exciting sound, and they are also super helpful when it comes to fixing broken gear. Our friend Remy worked in the drum shop upstairs and would always help us out for free or for some serious discounts, and the guitar shop veterans downstairs are super handy in figuring out quick fixes. There’s also a bin full of super-cheap pedals, which has supplied us with plenty of wacky sounds over the years. Trading Musician is also one of the few woman-owned guitar stores we’ve come across, and it’s great to see that sort of representation!
RANCHO BRAVO TACOS, 10TH & PINE
Boeing is open so late, we would frequently go to Rancho before, after, or during rehearsals with both Naked Giants and Car Seat Headrest.
THE VERA PROJECT
I don’t think we realized how amazing the Vera Project is when we were first coming up in Seattle. On the surface, it’s an all-ages music venue, but it is also home to an art gallery, a screenprinting workshop, a recording studio, and is always reaching out to the young arts community to provide guidance and services to help them thrive. We’ve played a good amount of shows there and we recorded our song “That’s Who’s Really Pointing At Me” in the Vera studio with Lilian Blair, who runs the studio/music side of [the venue]. Vera is also a guiding light when it comes to inclusivity and using the arts to champion social justice — they often throw benefit shows and have had their hand in a number of community outreach programs, and, chances are, they’ll help you with any kind of show or project you bring to them!
ELLIOT BAY BOOK CO & CAFE
We would meet in the back of this labyrinth of a bookstore to talk about music videos, tour routings, action plans….you name it!
THE MURAL STAGE IN SEATTLE CENTER
Just underneath the Space Needle, this stage has seen more than its fair share of shows! We’ve played there a few times — KEXP often hosts shows there in the summer, and Bumbershoot Festival has a stage there. I remember tripping and spraining my ankle on that stage! It’s also wild to think about the history of the space — I just recently watched a video of Pearl Jam performing on the Mural Stage in 1991, and Eddie Vedder tripped backward over his microphone stand in about the same spot where I fell! Coincidence?…
NEUMOS, 10TH & PIKE, CAPITOL HILL
I remember seeing El Ten Eleven here in high school. I thought, if I could ever play Neumos, I will have made it. Who’d have guessed that 5 years later we would play an NYE show there with Wild Powwers and Thunderpussy? Then, we played our own headlining show there later that new year.
This is my favorite coffee shop in Seattle! It’s super cozy and frog-themed, and their espresso always lifts me out of my body and into the ethereal plane. They are also committed to ethical work in the terribly unethical world of coffee production. There are only two people who work there, with a roastery in-house, and they source their coffee from Cafe Femenino, which is a coffee co-op of women coffee farmers in Peru, Guatemala, Rwanda, Sumatra, and a few other countries who build business relationships and share resources to end cycles of poverty for women in the coffee industry. It’s inspiring to see people taking the power into their own hands in such an exploitative industry, and as much as it pains my heart when I see people with Starbucks cups, I’m glad a place like Muddy Cup exists to provide an alternative!
JIFFY LUBE OFF 45TH IN WALLINGFORD
This is the place we go to get an oil change for the tour van. It was usually raining and we would always go to Muddy Cup for coffee while they did the oil change on the van!
We used to live and practice just around the corner from here, and we’ve eaten countless meals there! It’s just a great family-owned restaurant tucked between a cat adoption center and a comedy club in the University District.
CAFE RACER (RIP)
Cafe Racer was a small music venue with a thriving DIY music and arts scene attached to it. We’ve played a few shows in that little room, and it was always a great place to hang out and see some interesting music you couldn’t find anywhere else. I remember stumbling upon one of their Racer Sessions, which was a weekly series of improvised music shows where a band would play and then, anyone from the audience could come up and join in for improvisation. Sadly, Cafe Racer had to shut down this year and I’m not sure if it will come back. They do have an online “Cafe Racer Radio” which is still operating, so the future shines brightly yet!
BARBOZA, 10TH & PIKE, CAPITOL HILL
Here, we played one of our first formative rock shows. The night we played this venue, we played “Pyramids” (RIP EP, 2016) and Gianni got so many compliments on his dance moves, he ended up making those very moves a huge part of the performance for years to come!
OUR CURRENT PRACTICE SPACE (CLOUD STUDIOS)
We’ve moved around a few times, from our music house in the University District, to the infamous Crybaby Studios, to our current space in Cloud Studios (just down the street from our previous space). It’s underneath the wonderful Cafe Pettirosso and the undeniably bougie Chophouse Row, and it’s such a privilege for us to have an isolated space where we can come and rock out any time we want. We’ve done a number of livestreams in our practice room, and we shot the music videos for “Turns Blue” and “(God Damn!) What I Am” in the lobby. It’s cozy and it rocks!
CRYBABY STUDIOS, 11TH & PINE
Here is the place of our first practice space that was not in the basement of Grant’s dad’s house. We had many formative years here in 2015-2016. Our practice space was our clubhouse. The walls were covered in posters, spray paint, goodwill picture frames, broken drum heads, leaky water, smoke, and whatever else would be in a 19-year-olds escape room. This was our first taste of autonomy and independence in a lot of ways. The music we made was in response to the scene we were asserting ourselves in at the University of Washington. How can we play hard music that will be accessible and danceable as well? A year or two after we left the space, we ended up going back there to rehearse with Car Seat Headrest in 2018-2019. Talk about full circle!
Formerly known as EMP (Experience Music Project) and originally dedicated solely to Jimi Hendrix, the MoPOP is now a “Museum of Pop Culture.” Our personal history is tied to MoPOP through their 21-and-under battle of the bands, Sound Off. We played one of our first Naked Giants shows as a trio there, and we can trace a lot of our success to the resources and opportunities given to us through Sound Off. Our manager, Shea, first heard of us through Sound Off, and we’re incredibly fortunate to have had her guidance from such an early point in our musical journey. We also met Kevin Sur through Sound Off, and, in addition to being famously kind and vibrant, he has involved us in some of his music festivals like Timber Fest and Doe Bay music festival. We still have relationships with industry folks we met through Sound Off like Ben London and Lilian Blair, as well as other artists like Emma Lee Toyoda, ParisAlexa, King Youngblood, King Sheim, and so many more awesome young musicians.
CHOP SUEY, 13TH & MADISON
Here, we played one of our first shows after Sound Off in 2015! We also met veterans of the Seattle scene (Marco Collins, Kevin Sur, Jodi Ecklund) here.
One of the best things I ever heard was backstage here, a rocker in his 40’s or 50’s said, you guys will do fine, just don’t do hard drugs and don’t stop.
Make sure to keep up to date with Naked Giants (via their socials, listed below) and check out their interview in our upcoming 18th issue!
In the meantime, make sure to give their new record, The Shadow, a listen on any of your favorite streaming platforms.