When Clash turns up to see Local Natives play live we’re met by a badly deployed state trooper roadblock.
The venue in which they’ve just picked up their instruments is awash with fans making it impossible to even broach the notion of entry of the saturated Cedar Courtyard in downtown Austin.
“That’s the normal deal now, yeah: police roadblocks outside our gigs,” mocks Ryan Hahn, while his band mate and singer Taylor Rice cheekily concurs: “Yep! Standard procedure now.” They are making light of the propensity of unwelcome five-o, sarcastically pretending there’d been no flashing lights - but you get the impression that this is now the norm as Local Native’s second album ‘Hummingbird’ has seen them mature into one of America’s fastest growing stocks on the indie rock market.
That’s not the only thing that’s changed: they’ve radically grown up as players. “As musicians there was a lot of shifts on the new album,” explains Taylor. “There’s a lot of space on there and it’s a more direct record than before. It’s definitely more personal for us as a record. It’s based on where we are and where we’ve been over the last two years - and that’s what the record is for us.”
Rewind to 2010 and Local Natives were an LA band who’d just managed to extract the ‘Gorilla Manor’ album from their party house in Silver Lake, LA. The kind of house no parent wants their child to go, a drop-in zone of hedonists and musicians; a twenty-four-hour party cradle and a crucible of creativity that gave them the thrust to become one of the most hyped acts of SXSW three years ago.
Ryan points out, however, how organic the current change has been. Choosing instead a quiet studio space in Silver Lake, a “fortuitous spot” at which to draw a line under ‘Gorilla Manor’, from here their music making just filled their new space naturally. “There was no big conversations about album architecture,” reveals Ryan. “We just wanted to do things that were new and not fall back on what WAS. It really felt that we could take our music where we wanted: more sparse, more delicate, more personal, more bombastic, more strange. It felt great. We could do anything as long as we were challenging ourselves.”
Tracks on ‘Hummingbird’ such as ‘Black Spot’ and ‘Colombia’ are intensely personal and clearly display a great leap in song writing. ‘Colombia’ is directly an ode to the passing of second singer Kelcey Ayer’s mother, exposing the three years on the road with Local Natives have seen the boys grow up fast.
“‘Breakers’ is another good example of a song that went through so many inclination of feelings of being at odds with yourself,” Taylor quietly continues. “Or these moments where you’re talking yourself away from life. This feeling of being out of control, and that stemmed from all of us feeling this at different times. Or relationships play a big part, and how they can fall apart in front of you against every wish in your body.”
And, as the US clamours for Local Natives to step into the unfilled shoes of LA’s next, most pined-for indie heroes, Taylor is bashfully keen to avoid the media construct of being fast tracked. Much US music press seem incapable of using the name Local Natives without also deploying the words Grizzly Bear, The National and Fleet Foxes: “There’s the thing that every new band needs to be compared to old bands so people understand them,” agrees Taylor before they rush off for another show. “However, it could be worse right? We could be compared to all these bands that we think suck! But there seems to be an inherent laziness in those comments. I think it’s apparent that our records are shooting off in their own directions.”
Words: Matthew Bennett
Photography: Laura Coulson
This article appears in the May 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.