GIVERS Next time try wearing some pants in your band photo, okay?
DAVID BELISLE

FOR A BAND THAT formed in the wake of a national tragedy, Givers' music is remarkably optimistic. Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco were living together as students at the University of New Orleans when Katrina hit, which forced them back to their hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. While in New Orleans they had shyly begun to play music together, and once displaced back to Lafayette, the seeds for Givers took root.

"I'd sung backup in a couple other outfits before this, and I sang growing up in church," Lamson says. "Taylor was more of a closet/shower singer, so he had never really done that in public or onstage or anything. He and I would sing by ourselves in our apartment, and that was the most beautiful part of our relationship—just forcing each other to step out of our boundaries and sing. He was the main person that was encouraging me to sing, and I think I was the same to him. We just really encouraged each other to do that and be fearless in that."

Givers' first full-length album, In Light, is thick, bright, and packed with joy, felt in Guarisco's winding guitar and Josh LeBlanc's elastic bass lines. Lamson and Guarisco's wonderfully emotive vocals sit atop the constantly shifting, dense, fluid rhythms that flow from the band seemingly effortlessly.

"Louisiana was the backbone of that sound," Lamson says. "A lot of the music there is Cajun and zydeco, which has deep roots in West African rhythms and Haitian rhythms, so there's a lot of focus on the rhythm and the vibe and the feeling. Taylor played in a zydeco band, I had sat in playing drums on some Cajun recordings, and Josh is a classically trained trumpeter, so everybody was bringing different elements. You could call it a melting pot of inspiration. There wasn't really a time when we said, 'Okay we're gonna sound like this,' you know? It was really natural."

There's the bouncing sing-along of "Up Up Up"—which is reminiscent of a much, much better Rusted Root—and there's the astonishingly emotional "Atlantic," led by Lamson's ukulele and remarkable voice, which cracks winningly under the song's power. Elsewhere on In Light are spacey synths, light flashes of reggae, and Celtic-sounding flutes, and it all gels together marvelously. It's because Givers have created music that's surprisingly malleable, and its pliancy makes it completely, cheerfully defiant of genre descriptors. iTunes automatically files In Light under the increasingly irrelevant catchall of "indie rock," but even that is a poor fit. As Lamson suggests, their specific role within the current crop of young touring bands hasn't exactly presented itself, not that they're bothered by it.

"That's such a weird thing, you know? Indie rock... there is no such thing in Lafayette," she says. "There are bands where people would be like, 'They're more like rock, they don't sound like Cajun or zydeco.' But there's no 'indie scene,' you know? Not necessarily that we're ignorant or anything—I have the internet, I know! But it's a new perspective that was given to us when we started traveling, as I hope traveling would do to anybody. I don't really know how other bands view us. 'Puzzled,' that's a good word. There's a curiosity, and I guess because of our lack of 'coolness,' we're in a state of youthfulness, I guess, that's infectious. Every band we tour with, we end up hanging out with and becoming family."


Read the rest of the Mercury's Officially Unofficial Guide to MusicfestNW