Taking giant steps to fame

If you’ve turned on a television in the last year, you’ve probably glimpsed Young the Giant.

The Irvine natives have played on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"and “Later with Jools Holland” in the U.K.

Rock music enthusiasts might also recognize the band from a slightly more prominent gig this past summer at the MTV Video Music Awards, when Jared Leto and Zoe Saldana introduced them to the stage.

For many who grew up in the 1980s, ‘90s and ‘00s, the VMAs are a summer standard. Teens huddle around the TV, popcorn in hand, and judge the biggest music names in the industry.

François Comtois, drummer and vocalist, said it made the experience all the more surreal.

“I remember feeling really, really nervous for the dress rehearsal,” he said. “We had a bunch of our friends and family come on stage with us. That put us at ease. When it actually happened and we were surrounded by Kanye andJay-Z— it was a joyful time for us.”

The band rewarded lucky fans by dancing onstage with them at the awards show, which revealed their ability to make an internationally-viewed TV performance look like an intimate show at a friend’s home.

The band — composed of Sameer Gadhia, 22, Jacob Tilley, 22, Eric Cannata, 21, Payam Doostzadeh, 22, and Comtois, 23 — all attended high school in Irvine. They are about to begin a six-month tour on Feb. 8, which will stretch from San Francisco to Toronto.

They’ll play Soma in San Diego on Feb. 10 followed by The Wiltern in Los Angeles on Feb. 11 and 12. All three shows are sold out.

Comtois, who attended UC Irvine, said the band formerly known as “The Jakes” decided to give music a go in 2009. During that year the band had performed at South by Southwest, had songs play on KROQ and shows such as “The Real World: Brooklyn,” and A&E’s"The Beast” used their music.

The band members dropped out of their respective colleges — Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, Cal State Long Beach and UCI — all aiming to return.

Shortly thereafter, they went on tour with Minus the Bear and Steel Train.

“I was a huge fan of Minus the Bear in high school so when we got word of that I was geeking out a bit,” Comtois said.

They’ve played with the Futureheads, Neon Trees and Everest.

Morrissey, The Smiths frontman, called Young the Giant one of his favorite bands.

Comtois says although the band enjoys the appreciation, its members try not to take it all too seriously.

“It validates you a little bit but we try not to take too much thought in what anyone says about us,” he said.

What is it about their music that grabs fans?

“I think we try to be very honest about who we are,” he said. “We try to portray ourselves as who we actually are… as human beings.”

Although most fans are current with their self-titled debut album, which was released last year, the band will start recording its next album in the fall, which will be released in spring 2013.

Until recently they’ve been holed up in their Mt. Washington home, writing music and jamming.

“The next album is going to reflect how we’ve grown — our experiences since then, who we’ve known and met,” Comtois said, citing the fact they were still teens when they wrote hits such as “My Body.” “Hopefully it ends up sounding a little bit more mature, a little bit more eclectic.”

Familiar faces in their “The Jakes” days at local hot spots such as Detroit Bar and Chain Reaction, Comtois said the band will do a show in Orange County soon.

They were here in December, performing at the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana. Proceeds benefited the Irvine Public Schools Foundation and Comtois said they raised about $30,000.

“I moved to Orange County when I was 15 so I spent some formative years becoming an adult in Orange County,” said Comtois, who went to Northwood High School. “As music was concerned, the music programs at each of our high schools were really formative in creating an actual passion (in us) for music.”

Twitter: @joannaclay