Getting ready to celebrate New Year's Eve in Chicago for the second consecutive year, I spoke with Big Gigantic saxophone player Dominic Lalli as the electronic duo prepares to end 2012 and ring in 2013 at a sold out Aragon Ballroom...
2012 was a big year for Big Gigantic. In a relatively small amount of time, the electronic duo went from playing clubs to a major slot at Lollapalooza. As the band prepares to spend its second consecutive New Year's Eve in Chicago, saxophone player Dominic Lalli is well aware of Big Gigantic's humble roots. "I think our first show was at Kinetic Playground which was right across the street from Aragon so it’s cool. It’s not there anymore but you know that’s where we first started playing in Chicago." he says. "[Chicago's] like our second home. We did the Riv last year for New Year's and that was just super awesome. We had a great time. And we actually did play at the Aragon a while back. We opened up for STS9 there a couple years back. So [we're] really, really excited to actually do our own headlining show there" says Lalli.
As the electronic dance music scene continues to flourish, Big Gigantic's profile continues to rise with it. But unlike many of their peers, both Dominic Lalli (saxophone) and Jeremy Salken (drums) play instruments in the live setting, combining those brass and percussion sounds with electronic beats for a sound all their own. It's a formula that that helps the band appeal to a diverse audience hitting not only fans of electronic music but fans of jazz and jam bands too. From the get go, the band forged it's own path, a strategy that continues to pay off. "... Nothing in the music industry right now is like 'This is the way it has to be. This is how it is.' And that’s the thing: the people who are finding creative ways to make their music, release their music and do everything with their music are the ones that are successful" reasons Lalli.
Earlier this year, Big Gigantic released their third full-length album Nocturnal. Like many of their EDM peers, they gave it away. "We’ve always given our music away for free." says Lalli. "We sort of developed it into 'How about we just put it everywhere? Let’s just put it everywhere!' So it’s there for everyone to download or buy or however they get their music."
And while that strategy undoubtedly raised Big Gigantic's touring profile, helping their music to reach an ever growing fan base, it also achieved a less likely goal. In addition to putting out the album as a free download, the band also made it available for purchase online via the iTunes store. Depsite little to no advertisement, it immediately climbed the iTunes chart, ending up as the number two electronic album on its first day of release. "It’s just incredible, the fact that we can give our music out completely for free, not even advertise it for sale… and it charted at number two! It’s exciting for us. We didn’t really think anything like that could happen."
In an era where the album has supposedly been devalued as a method for music distribution, Big Gigantic proved that even in a genre often known for its style and flash, it's still possible to sell records if the product's quality stands up on its own. Many artists complain about how tough it is to sell albums today, placing blame squarely on the internet. But the year's best selling artists have included Adele, Mumford and Sons and Gotye... all artists with a unique sound who originally broke courtesy of the internet. And Big Gigantic is just one more example of an artist with something original to say, exposed by the net and successful long before ever being sought after by radio or other forms of mainstream media. They've also proven that people will still pay for a quality product. "It’s interesting how much the people support the music. Obviously they support that you’re giving it away for free but I’m sure some of those people that got it for free ended up just going to buy it too" asserts Lalli.
Dominic Lalli, a trained jazz musician, cites as a saxophone player influences like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. "Herbie Hancock, his music… I’m a huge fan of his music (the jazz stuff and the more funk stuff)." And as Big Gigantic begins work on new material, the idea is to stress quality over quantity. "For us, I think for the next album, we’ll probably do... maybe like six or eight songs... the most important six to eight tracks you’ve ever made in your life is a good number."
But for now the focus remains on touring. "We just love music. We love good music and we love to play. We love to hang out with our friends. We love to have our friends at the show and play and just do their thing. This is a community thing." That sense of community is one of the more endearing aspects of electronic dance music. It's one of the reasons these artists are able to continually sell out increasingly large venues in an era where that's become more and more difficult to do.
When it comes to EDM, it's all about the live show. Albums function almost in a secondary fashion with their most important role being to promote a live experience based on music but also upon over the top energy and an amazing light show, giving the concertgoer a full live experience, worth every penny, that appeals to nearly all of the senses. And as Lalli notes, Big Gigantic is ready to up the ante once again when it comes to that stage show. "We have a whole new light rig, a whole new stage rig that we’re bringing in and we’re debuting in Chicago. Like last year [at the Riv], we debuted the rig that we had this year. So we’re doing that again. We’ve got just the whole nine for the New Year's show. Tell everybody to get ready for an insane, insane night New Year's Eve. It’s gonna be a good one."
New Year's Eve with Big Gigantic _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Live at the Aragon Ballroom
1106 W. Lawrence Ave.
Doors open at 8PM
Show starts at 9PM
Griz and Main Focus open