Interview: Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic

It’s hard to avoid saying that Big Gigantic has gotten really big. Almost… gigantic.  After a huge Thursday night set at Bonnaroo, and a few months filled with choice slots on major festivals, this may be the summer of BG. So we were pretty excited to have Dominic Lalli join us as our guest on Headliners streaming radio this month. To hear the entire interview click here. Or check out the highlights below.

So first of all, you gotta love the 21st century. You know, we got artists incorporating so many different genres of music. Music writers and fans are really befuddled trying to talk about what this is, and maybe it doesn’t matter, but when someone asks you what your band sounds like, what do you tell them about Big Gigantic?

Yeah, that’s kind of a tough question, but I would classify it pretty much as electronic dance music. Within electronic dance music we hit a ton of different genres, we do everything from hip-hop to dubstep to house, all different kinds of fields within that style.

Well your foundation is jazz and you’re classically trained in saxophone, but Big Gigantic now has you square among the greats in the live electronic rock scene, and it is a different scene than maybe artists you’ve worked with before and bands you’ve been in before. As a writer how do you keep the soul and that sort of musical core that the purists really crave in the electronic music that you create?

Well, I think that kind of music — soul, funk, jazz — that stuff is in your blood if you play it a bunch, and when I write I try to keep those things in mind. I’m trying to make a dance song so I’m thinking, what are people gonna dance to — a big bass and big beat — but I also try to keep a lot of those elements that are sort of natural to me, the jazzier kind of elements, with the core productions and the melodic content.  It just comes out in my writing. I’ve always written a ton of jazz. I used to play in this band called The Motet and it was more like a funk afro-beat thing, I just love all that stuff so I just sneak it in the dance music.

How is playing a show with Big Gigantic different than your shows with The Motet?

Well, The Motet has about ten people in the band right now and Big Gigantic has two, so that’s one big difference, and when I was playing in The Motet there were only about six of us, so I was one guy in a group of six trying to fit in there, and I would play a lot of solo melodies. With Big Gigantic I guess I’m kind of doing the same thing but I’m also kind of the master controller of everything. I’m DJing and playing the melodies and playing paths and blowing solos, but at the same time I have control over songs and order. The cool thing about Big Gigantic is it’s fully my vision in terms of what I wanted to do musically in this style.

Of course, it’s like collaborating with just one other guy instead of the five to ten. I’m sure that must be fun, playing with bands. I know you’ve guested with your friends in the jam rock scene and electronic scene. What have the other big festival guys taught you about this newer round of the electronic scene in terms of how to do the stage production and the bigger sets and big festivals and bigger crowds? What have you learned from some of your counterparts, like Sound Tribe and The Disco Biscuits?

There’s definitely a handful of acts out there doing some pretty big things. Me, Jerry, my manager Ben, we pay attention to everything and just try to learn from all these guys. Pretty Lights has a huge festival headlining spot, so we look at their production and try to get ourselves on a level so we can try and compete with that whole look, and then musically we try to get up there and compete with them as well, put a little twist on everything. Definitely a lot to learn from some of these bigger acts, there’s a lot of great music and production coming out of these electronic artists, and a lot of them are our friends so we’re excited to learn from them and just see what’s going on and develop our own take on the whole thing.

Right on! So you’ve released each one of your albums online for free. You guys must either really love ramen or just really understand that if you put music in front of potential and existing fans, ultimately they will be in front of you at one of your live shows. Tell me about how that has come to pass.

It started out that we just want everyone to have it—that’s still our motto, because in this day and age, how people are getting their music is just a whole different scene than it used to be. So we were kinda just like, let’s give it away, let’s see what happens. Not only do we give itaway for free and have it visible everywhere in that free world, but also in the buying world–we’ll have it on iTunes, Amazon—anywhere you can find it, we want it, whether you want to buy it or not, and it’s worked. And people still buy it, it’s a weird phenomenon. The moral of the story is people are getting the music, which we want. And we want you to come see us live because it’s a whole different aesthetic.

Absolutely. So you’ve played several festivals this summer and you’re pretty much hitting everything. Is summer any sort of a break for you? Are you guys busier than ever?

It is a little bit of a break, because when we’re on tour we’re just out and I don’t really come home much as opposed to just doing weekends over the summer. It’s nice, you’re not grinding every day on the road but you’re getting to prepare some special things for big festival spots. I love playing festivals and going to festivals. Summer is my favorite time of year because me and Jeremy have always gone to festivals and it’s really cool to be able to come back to those festivals and all your friends are out there and you just get to throw a big party.It’s really super fun. So we get a little bit more down time but we still get to pop around and play some fun stuff.

So you guys are a partner artist of HeadCount, a voter registration organization we love here at Headliners, so obviously you and Jeremy care about your fans getting registered to vote and staying connected. With all this time on the road and jumping around while also trying to write all the time, how do you keep up with issues that you care about in the news and what are some of those things that you’re following?

Well it’s definitely tough to always keep up with the news, and I’m not a very big TV person in general. I just kind of get it where I can—newspaper, apps on my phone, just try to keep up as much as I can politically. I can’t always be real on point with everything but I definitely do my best to be in the know of what’s happening, and obviously voting is one of the greatest things we’re given as Americans. The choice to be able to vote is awesome, so just being able to do your part and have your say is huge and we support that. I’ve always voted since I was eighteen and we definitely encourage everyone to get out there and do that.

Tell your friends!