At first, the name Giant Giants may seem redundant. But we live in a world of overstatement where everyone liberally applies hyperbole to even the most mundane of ideas just to keep their heads above water in this age of “Hey, me too!” However, bandleader Reid Weigner’s rundown of the pieces that comprise his experimental project is enough to qualify the repetition on its own merits.
“For this iteration of Giant Giants,” Weigner says, “the instrumentation is guitar, two drummers, bass, a couple synthesizers and clarinet. That’s the new main addition which I’m really excited about.”
Giant Giants have done nothing but expand upon its own enormity since the group went dormant about a year ago after its last show as a four-piece at the Grey Eagle. And while complex layered drum parts have always been a passion for Weigner, who graduated from UNC Asheville with a music degree in percussion, he hints that the six-piece lineup of Giant Giants that will perform at the Apothecary on Aug. 9 blows the group’s past exploits out of the water.
“With some of the newer stuff, it’s been more of coming up with a melody and then trying to figure out interesting grooves. I definitely try to go out there with the grooves to see what I can make work,” Weigner says. “We’ve always had songs where one of us would switch to playing extra drum stuff, so there was a lot of two-drummer stuff. But with this new iteration, there’s a song that has four drummers on it for parts of it.”
But it’s not just the gonzo drum jams, inspired in part by groups like Tortoise and Caribou, that make Giant Giants’ songs colossal. Weigner also pays close attention to compositional tricks he picked up from his schooling and from more ambient groups like Boards of Canada.
“The in-between of classical composition and writing a song is kind of what I try to go for,” Weigner says. “And that’s kind of having elements that, maybe right when you hear the song, you can grasp on, like a strong melody or a good groove. But then once you listen to the music further, there are a lot of elements that you would find when you learn about classical composition. There are a lot of intricacies that I try to throw in there that I spend a lot of time thinking about.”
Naturally, this leads to some complicated material. Weigner has to write out his compositions on sheet music so his collaborators can stand a fighting chance amidst the dense layers of instrumentation.
“Once those parts are learned, they understand what I’m going for with the song and can kind of put their own style or their own bit of musicianship into the song,” Weigner says.
It’s a big jump from the original vision for Giant Giants. Weigner created the drum tracks for the debut release, A Place to Meet You, by splicing together grooves from an hour-long percussion jam between him and a friend. He added all the other instrumentation himself. It was only after hitting a lull with his other groups, Asheville-based instrumentalists Hello Hugo and Athens-based indie rockers Reptar, that Weigner decided to move forward with Giant Giants.
Fortunately, acceptance for music of such an experimental nature has only grown in Asheville over the past several years, thanks in part to the opening of Apothecary, a venue established in downtown Asheville by music students at UNC Asheville, many of which Weigner had worked with in the past.
“It definitely has grown a lot and felt like there is a forward momentum from like a year or two ago before Apothecary started,” Weigner says. “I guess Apothecary helped give a main venue for all that stuff to happen. If you couldn’t find anywhere else or if it’s just like, ‘I don’t know where to book this show,’ Apothecary has been really cool about letting whoever play there and helping to foster that scene.”
And having Apothecary around to foster the scene has given Weigner the opportunity to tend to his own musical maturation as well.
“I’m excited that Giant Giants is getting back together and playing again because, even though it’s something I love doing, it gets me out of my comfort zone a lot because I’m not used to being the band leader, I’m not used to doing vocals and I’m not used to being the one that gets everything together,” Weigner says. “In many ways, it’s a vessel for me to continue growing as a person and a musician.”
Giant Giants will play at Apothecary with Elisa Faires, Shane Perlowin and Otho on Friday, August 9 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $3-5. For more information, visit http://ashevilleapothecary.info/.