Blues-influenced rock with a twist of indie/alternative and a subtle helping of ska. A lead singer with a musical and lyrical affinity for Tom Waites. Energetic live shows with visual nods to Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips. The Montevallo five-piece known as Giants and Toys is gaining some serious momentum.
The band started in the fall of 2008. Michael Messina (Lead Vocals/Guitar) and Jack Kish (Guitar/Vocals/Synth), who both graduated from Montevallo High and had been playing music together for several years, started looking for a new drummer and vocalist. They even went as far as to put up Singer Wanted posters around campus, but just ended up “meeting some pretty weird people.”
They recruited percussionist Chris Estes, bassist and trumpet player James Vance, and keyboardist and trombone player Jake Finn from another Montevallo act, Hey Man!, of which Kish and Messina were also members. “We had done Hey Man! as sort of a novelty ska band that won the Battle of the Bands our freshman year. Then it kinda went a little further and we actually played a show in Birmingham. That was a pretty big crowd, Chris was interested in playing drums not just for Hey Man, but for something more substantial,” said Messina.
“Jake played trombone in Hey Man and he was a music major and that was his first experience being in a band. Vance has been in ska bands since high school,” Messina continued. “Initially, Vance was gonna be the trumpet player and I was gonna be the bass player cause I’ve played bass since high school. Jack was gonna play guitar and Chris was gonna be on drums.”
However, as the practices became more routine, each member began transitioning into their current role in the band. Vance moved to bass, allowing Messina to take on guitar and vocal chores. It was during this period that the band realized that simply jamming out was not enough. “December 27th, 2008. That’s when we wrote our first song (“Hold Me Down”) collectively,” Estes said.
“It was a song that I had written and something that I had never even considered. I wrote it my senior year in high school. A lot of turbulent things were happening my senior year. It was something on my back catalogue that I never thought about playing,” Messina said.
Messina said he just started playing the song one day at practice and the band took a hold of it and made it their own. “From there, we were like ‘Man this is something we can do’,” he said.
Their name often throws venues and first time listeners for a loop. “We get a lot of interesting confusions. My favorite one was Giants with Boys or Giants and Boys. Giants with Toys, that’s what BAAM called us on the internet. But we’ve heard some interesting variations,” Messina said.
The idea for the moniker came to Jack Kish after a failed Google search for “cool band names.” “I think I had read somewhere that some band had named their band after a movie I liked and I thought we needed to try that. Second Lions, we thought about that one. Then, Giants and Toys was an old movie from the 50s,” Kish said.
The movie was a Japanese film about three competing candy factories; the members admit they have not seen it all the way through, though they said you can find it on Youtube.
John Nicholson created their famous robot logo that has been seen on past show posters. “Every great venture in business, music, and entertainment, they always have a logo so we wanted something people could identify us with and GAT wasn’t positive,” Messina said.
Musically and lyrically, the band draws from a wide variety of influences such as Kings of Leon, Modest Mouse, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Tom Waites, and The Flaming Lips.
“What you think influences you is not necessarily what your music is gonna sound like. Evan from Toga! Toga!, when we first played our show with them, he said that I sounded like a mixture between Jim Morrison and Jack White when he played with the Raconteurs. I thought that was interesting because I didn’t necessarily sit down and say, ‘That’s what I wanna sound like,’” Messina said.
“Most of the songs are about having a good time, some of them are about heartache, some of them are about some really dark stuff. Some of them are just fun,” he continued. “I mean, there’s no theme. I’m not trying to write every song the same way. I have a lot of messages I want to convey.”
The band began recording this summer, though they experienced some initial turbulence. “Before we went into the studio, we had planned to have album out by June 30th, but the first recording studio we went to kind of screwed us over,” Estes said.
However, through Estes’ grandfather, the band got placed in the hands of Grammy-nominated record producer, Don Mosley. Messina said that stepping into the studio for the first time was nerve-wracking.
“They had an original Fleetwood Mac from one of their albums; it was a painting, the original artwork in the recording studio. We were just like, ‘Who else has been in there?’ and now we were in there recording our stuff. That was cool, that notion. Figuring which people had been where you’re standing,” he said.
If everything goes as planned, the EP will drop October 31st.
In regards to their live act, Giants and Toys played their first show in February 2009 and played one show a month in Montevallo, alternating between The Bus Station and The Main Street Tavern, eventually making the trip to Birmingham for a show at the Firehouse. Recently, they’ve participated in Birmingham’s inaugural BAAM Festival, playing at Matthew’s Bar and Grill on Morris Avenue. They also kicked off the school year with a gig at Eclipse Coffee and Books.
The band said that they hope to provide an entertaining and energetic show that provides a lasting memory for the audience.
“For me, I just want everybody to have a good time. Smiling and dancing. I really feel like our music is about having a good time, getting rid of your cares for a little while,” Estes said.
“I hope, that since I man the confetti cannon, that they take away a little piece of confetti,” Kish added.
“I want people to remember us. That’s my biggest thing. It’s kind of childish. You know, but it’s kind of like going after your American Dream. You just want to be remembered. I hope the crowd will remember us. I hope it won’t be some three month shindig and they say: ‘Yeah I remember that. It was fun that you did that. You should start up a different band.’ I want it to last,” said Messina.
Listen to their music on www.myspace.com/giantsandtoys or become a fan on Facebook.