Friends of Giants: Faith in their music pays off
Jacob Cunningham and Dave Emmert met at church. To this day, they rehearse in a church. But the music they produce is not Christian rock.
“We’re Christians,” said Cunningham, the singer of Friends of Giants. “Our values and beliefs are in the lyrics. But it’s not necessarily like, 'You need to be saved,’ or whatever. I just write what I know.”
“Regardless of what you believe in,” added Emmert, the guitarist, “you can use your gifts to create music, and it doesn’t have to specifically be a call to Christianity.”
Friends of Giants is part of a wave of young, preternaturally talented indie-rock bands that have swept Pinellas County over the past two years, including the Grecian Urns, the Sun Society and Goodnight Neverland. All have wholesome images, exquisite live shows and rich, evocative sounds.
In concert, Friends of Giants sounds at times like Death Cab for Cutie, at others Kings of Leon. But aside from a few agreed-upon influences — Pedro the Lion, Band of Horses — they struggle to compare their sound to anyone else’s.
“We try to write more melodic, ambient stuff, but we don’t necessarily confine ourselves to that,” said pianist Tim Ostrander.
“Everyone here has at least two instruments that they can play,” Emmert said. “So to say, 'You just write guitar parts, and that’s all you focus on,’ it’s a waste.”
“Plus I think that brings out influences from each person,” Ostrander continued. “If you have lyrics from Jacob, it might always sound like Death Cab for Cutie or Pedro the Lion. But if somebody else wrote vocals, it could sound like Coldplay with a Band of Horses guitar part. It always changes.”
Cunningham and Emmert met at Immanuel Chapel in Largo. Cunningham had been writing music, and he asked his sister, Amber Long, to chime in on a variety of instruments. When he found out Emmert played guitar, they decided to write together.
Ostrander, a veteran of Alexander and the Grapes, joined on piano. Drummer Micha Neubauer, a native German who moved to Pinellas County two years ago, signed on because, in his words, “they’re ambitious, they’re motivated, they’re talented. This band can become big.”
It was tough booking shows at first, especially around the job and family commitments of each member. But Cunningham spent months e mailing venues and promoters, begging for gigs.
“Then, almost overnight, people were like, 'Hey, you wanna play this show?’ I don’t know if they were sick of me asking, or what. But once we played, they asked us to play again, and other bands that we played with started asking us to play their shows.”
This spring, Friends of Giants is recording five to seven songs for the followup to their 2009 EP In Circles. And they’re still hustling for gigs. Last year, they drove to Illinois to perform at the Cornerstone Music Festival, one of the largest Christian music fests in the country.
But as always, they don’t want to let the venue define who they are as a band.
“We don’t care when we play, if we get paid or not, how far we have to travel,” Emmert said. “We just want to play music, because that’s the only way to get your music out there.”
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo/video: Lara Cerri, tbt*.