Colorado Rages: Big Gigantic on Music, Marijuana, and in Defense of Dreads
Legalized pot does not dampen productivity. Denver is proof!
Jeremy and Dom of Big Gigantic, photographed at Cervantes.
It starts off with a polite argument about dreads. I'm of the firm belief that white dudes with dreads are woefully misguided. Just from looking at a picture of dreads and I'm pretty sure I can smell them. It seems Jeremy—the drummer and programmer in Big Gigantic—is a dread defender because he spent an undisclosed amount of years with them on his head. I say he must have smelled. He said he smelled he good. I raise an eyebrow and the other half of Big Gigantic, saxophonist Dom starts laughing. You can watch the whole exchange in the second episode of Made in America - Made in Denver (below). Luckily Big Gigantic have a good sense of humor.
Since 2009 the duo have released five albums and every single one of them the have made available to download for free (including this year's The Night is Young—download is it here). Their reasoning: "We just wanted to get our music out there, and that was the easiest way to be everywhere—whether it’s on our website, iTunes, Spotify, eMusic, Pandora, or Google Play," explains Dom. "So if you’re listening to music, you can find us and hopefully you’ll come out and see the show."
Big Gigantic's live sets are absolutely key to the band's success. Their music—a party-primed blend of electronica, jazz, hip-hop, earthquaking dubstep, and sax noodling—thrives when delivered live to the masses and they're capitalizing on this with summers of back-to-back festival dates. This year they close the season by headlining two dates in their home state of Colorado, playing Red Rocks, an awe-inspiring natural amphitheater located just outside Denver. Over the two nights they'll play to 20,000 excitable fans.
So of course it made sense when I swooped into Denver to meet up. They took me to their favorite venue, Cervantes, and Vine Street Bar where they taught me how to play cornhole. Apparently it's all about "the arc." (Check out all their favorite spots in Denver here.) But the primary topics of discussion were the Denver scene, legalized pot, and jam bands and jam cruises!
So we’re here at Cervantes, which is a pretty special venue for you.
Dom: Yeah! One of our favorite places to play, with Big Gigantic we’ve played here before, as individuals, and we come here and sit in, a lot of our friends. It’s kind of a mainstay for us as musicians in Colorado, a lot of other musicians come here to see other musicians just playing and hanging for sure.
But now Big Gigantic is too huge to be contained on this stage. But you jump up sometimes and play sax with your friends?
Dom: Yeah, that’s just one of the things about the Colorado community, and the music community. I’m always sitting in with people, Jeremy’s always sitting in with people. If we’re in town, we’ll jump up at least once a week.
So you guys weren’t born in Denver or Colorado at all, what drew you guys to the state and the city?
Jeremy: For me, it was honestly music. I moved out here to be a snowboard bum, and moved down from the mountains for music. I didn’t know a single person. I just put myself out there, and ended up meeting people through the music community. It’s how I met Dom.
Is it a welcoming community?
Jeremy: Oh yeah, it’s laidback, welcoming and easygoing. Maybe because people who come here are looking for something new or different. Everyone wants to try new things: it’s a very open-minded state.
And what was your connection when you two met? What did you bond over?
Dom: We actually met on a boat: Jam Cruise.
Wait, Jam Cruise? That’s a thing that happens?
Dom: Good Lord, it happens.
Like the Weezer Cruise… for jam bands.
Dom: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, have fun, jam…
That might actually be my worst nightmare, you guys.
Dom: You don’t know what you’re missing! It’s like a funk cruise, there’s like a bunch of super, super talented people and they all come together and do some really cool stuff. So anyways, we met on there and started doing some stuff with The Motet, doing some local stuff. Being a local musician around here, we’ve done everything like play weddings, playing private parties so it’s like, “Oh you’re playing this gig? I’m playing the same gig too, call me on Thursday and we’ll do something together.” There’s a lot of that stuff and then we were roommates.
Oh wow, you guys were really involved.
Dom: Yeah, and then after that, we weren’t living together anymore, and I wanted to start a music project, and then it was like Jeremy’s the perfect guy.
And you’re like let’s throw a computer in there; start doing electronica. Has it been interesting seeing the rise of electronic music and the popularity of it in this country?
Jeremy: Oh my god yeah, it’s insane. But back then it wasn’t much.
Dom: We saw it happening from here with Pretty Lights and stuff. We were all playing house parties and you could see the excitement. There were all these warehouse parties and it was just boiling in the underground, and we were sitting in it with some of these bands and people were like “Start something, do something, we’ll come!” So we were like, “Alright!”
And now you’re playing two nights at Red Rocks this September. So that’s playing to about which is about 20,000 people in total. It looks like such an incredible place to see bands.
Dom: Yeah, it’s such a beautiful place, I mean, just the way that it’s set up with the two rocks and it’s an ampitheater. Because the stage goes down and the crowd goes up when you’re on stage and the crowd’s yelling and screaming and you feel like people and this energy are coming down on top of you. And the rocks are gorgeous. Whether you’re playing there or going as a fan and experiencing a show it’s one of the greatest venues you could go to.
I spoke to Two Fresh while I was here in Denver and they said people like to dance. Is that really notable compared to when you play elsewhere?
Dom: Oh yeah, that and the crowds are just so responsive. So when people ask us about Colorado, we always mention the fans and people like dance there and go wild, and it’s so cool to have that as your home. People definitely get down here.
Forget skiing. Denver people are into cornhole.
And what would you say is the most popular genre in Denver?
Dom: Honestly, it’s hard to say. Like, I would say maybe electronic, but the thing is, music is popular here. It could be like Halloween or New Years and you’ll have bluegrass here, hip-hop here, electronic here, and five electronic bands around. You’d think it would be oversaturated but every place is sold out. Everyone supports it, everyone supports different kinds of music, and I think that’s just how a lot of this organic electronic music came about. It’s also one of the beauties of coming out of Colorado—the diversity of all the music and the fans that support it all.
Dom why did you start playing sax, because it’s not just one of those instruments that people tend to casually pick up.
Dom: I remember the blue sheet of paper that was like “Do you want to do band?” and I was like “Yeah, let’s do band!” I was in sixth grade and I remember walking into the little room or whatever, and they were like “Sax? OK cool, here’s the sheet.” And then it was like, “Do you wanna play alto or tenor” and there was like fifty alto players and four tenor players, so I picked tenor. But I was tiny carrying that big horn. It’s what I’ve played ever since. My mom was a singer, my dad was a drummer, I was always going to church, so we were always doing music, playing piano…
It’s a much maligned instrument, but it’s great!
Dom: Yeah! It’s funny now because I don’t even think about it. Like, it is but for me it’s just this thing that I do music with. But it is funny that it’s a sax.
How come you’ve released every album for free? That’s pretty unusual, even in this day and age. And that’s how you make rent.
Dom: Yeah! [ laughs] That’s how you pay your rent.
So weed is now legal in Colorado. Has that been impeding people’s productivity?
Jeremy: Nope, because people have been smoking it the whole time!
Dom: It literally hasn’t changed anything. There’s more traffic coming in, but I’ve been here for 11years and people have been doing it just as much as before. Now you can actually get it without going to your buddy’s house or some shady guy down the street. So that’s nice. Everyone in Colorado is super laidback. Coming from Virginia—you couldn’t even talk about it with anybody in public, unless you really knew that person. Yeah, it’s that strict. Everybody’s so paranoid, and the rest of the country is probably like that, but here it’s like, “Yeah I got tons, you want some? Here you go.”
What artists out of Denver are you excited about?
Dom: Well you mentioned our friends Too Fresh who live here in town and they’ve been killing it, putting out some amazing music and playing great festivals and touring with some cool people. They’re some of our best friends.
Jeremy: The twins are awesome, they’e always keeping it fresh [laughs]. Almost too fresh.
So Denver is the kind of place where you can see great bands and artists two to three times a week, right?
Dom: Every night, really.I was at a buddy’s thing last night, they do a thing every Monday and played a little bit there, and I’m sure there’s something going on tonight, and then there’s Two Fresh’s show tomorrow night and then all of a sudden it’s the weekend so of course there’s going to be something going on. Colorado rages, people never stop.
Episode 2: Made in Denver – Featuring Big Gigantic, Two Fresh, The Apples in Stereo, and Tennis
Meet Two Fresh: Denver's Identical Twin Party Starters
Our Interview with Tennis was Interrupted by a Tornado
Made in Denver: Behind the Scenes Photos with Big aGigantic, Tennis and Two Fresh