Since graduating from Irvine schools in 2007, members of Young The Giant have produced four top 10 albums, sold over 9 million records and become one of the world’s most popular alt-rock bands.
“We’re all products of music education in Irvine,” says drummer François Comtois, who studied musical theory and singing at Northwood High.
Long before their hit “Cough Syrup” became certified double-platinum or they headlined at the legendary L.A. Forum, they were Irvine teens playing local battle of the bands contests and free shows at Heritage Park Community Center.
“The city put on all these events for kids to come together,” Comtois says. “You could put together a band, write a couple songs, and all of a sudden you could go play in a battle of the bands on Friday night. That’s how I met the guys.”
They initially formed as The Jakes in 2004, an amalgamation of friends and classmates going all the way back to elementary school.
“We’re all products of music education in Irvine.” – DRUMMER FRANÇOIS COMTOIS
A band as diverse as Irvine
Most band members are immigrants or children of immigrants: Frontman Sameer Gadhia’s parents are Indian; Comtois is from Montreal; guitarist Jacob Tilley is British; bassist Payam Doostzadeh is of Persian descent; and guitarist Eric Cannata is Italian and Jewish. But no one noticed or cared until they left Irvine.
Gadhia, who attended Stanford after graduating from Irvine High in 2007, says Irvine is a “place of refuge” where people of all cultures come for a good public education, adding “there’s still something really exciting about that level of diversity.”
In fact, he credits the band’s diversity as part of its success: “Our cultural makeup and different backgrounds really informed our music,” Gadhia told Billboard magazine in 2021. “That cross pollination of sound and culture bled into our music.”
It has also kept them grounded through world tours and four Billboard Top 10 albums.
“It’s hard to get a big head when someone has seen you at your best, your worst and everything in between,” Comtois says. “We know each other’s families, who still live in and around Irvine. Just having that support system and that community, it keeps us connected to what’s important.”
‘It felt professional’
Band members also received a diverse musical training at Irvine schools.
“That early introduction to music and musical concepts really helps later on, even if you don’t end up pursuing it as a career,” Comtois says. “It helps with creativity, and I believe it helps with open-mindedness.”
Comtois sang in several choirs and in musical theater.
“People think of high school plays as these low-budget things attended by a few of the parents,” says the rock drummer who once starred in a production of “Beauty and the Beast.” “At Northwood, it was this huge production. It felt professional.”
In 2007, band members graduated from Irvine schools. In 2010, they released their first album, “Young The Giant,” which was certified gold. Their fifth album, featuring 16 new songs, is due to be released this summer, followed by a world tour.
From IRVINE SCHOOLS to ‘Saturday Night Live’ to STARDOM
Imagine being in class with one of these future celebrities …
University H.S., Class of 1986
One of the most famous celebrities to come out of Irvine is also one of the greatest “SNL” cast members ever. Ferrell made a name for himself with his impersonations of George W. Bush. He later starred in comedy films such as “Elf” and “Anchorman.”
University H.S., Class of 1999
Pedrad appeared on “SNL” from 2009 to 2014, gaining popularity with her celebrity impersonations. She went on to write, produce and act in her own sitcom, “Chad.” The show’s second season will premiere this summer on TBS.
UC Irvine, Class of 1979
As an “SNL” cast member from 1985 to 1990, Lovitz was nominated twice for a Primetime Emmy. He is best known for his character Tommy Flanagan, who finished all of his stories with the line, “Yeah, that’s the ticket.”