Young the Giant is Changing the Face of Indie Rock

With album ‘American Bollywood,’ frontman Sameer Gadhia fuses Indian and American music, adding a new sound — and story — to a predominantly white space.

Sadaf Ahsan

September 2, 2022

Young the Giant is Changing the Face of Indie Rock
Jacob Tilley, Eric Cannata, Sameer Gadhia, Payam Doostzadeh, and Francois Comtois. (MK Sadler)

Before co-founding indie rock band Young the Giant, singer-songwriter Sameer Gadhia was living a different Indian American dream: studying human biology at Stanford. Gadhia has been the frontman for the band since 2004, when he was just 15, playing at coffee shops and local festivals with his childhood friends and guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bass guitarist Payam Doostzadeh, and drummer Francois Comtois (give or take a few lineup changes). Five years later, when he decided to drop out of college and pursue music, his parents weren’t too keen, partly because “all they really wanted was for me to find a place to belong.” It was a tough note to forget. 

When Young the Giant scored a record deal that same year with Warner Music’s Roadrunner Records, Gadhia remained more cautious than optimistic. “I was under the assumption that this wasn’t going to work out for me,” he said. “I just hadn’t seen anyone like myself in the particular genre.” Based on his voice and choice of “white boy music” alone, fans and producers often presumed that he was white. Even as the band made a name for themselves with hit singles “My Body,” “Apartment,” and “Cough Syrup,” which an episode of Glee featured, Gadhia still stood out as one of few Asian Americans to front a group. He was also well aware that part of the reason Young the Giant made it into the mainstream is because the band is mostly white.

But during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gadhia finally took pen to paper and began writing something different. The resulting tune, “American Bollywood,” became the title track and name of Young the Giant’s latest album, where Gadhia set out to reclaim his experience as an Indian American.