Local Natives: From Abandoned Bungalow to Australian Tour
January 24th 2013
When Gorilla Manor dropped back in late 2009, Local Natives – a relatively unknown LA rock band at the time – garnered immediate recognition and plenty of fans worldwide. Their music pulsated with youth, discovery and yearning. And now it is us who are yearning – hungrily awaiting more from the LA four-piece.
Fortunately the wait is over, as the lads are hitting our shores in May! In the meantime, it would be wise to get acquainted with their highly anticipated sophomore album Hummingbird: an album that is crafted and considered; its content shaped by the electrifying highs and ineffable lows experienced by the band over the last few years.
The Flog’s Edwina Hagon caught up with lead singer, Kelcey Ayer, to further unearth the kinetic force behind this stellar album.
FBi: Hi Kelcey! How are you, what have you been up to?
Kelcey Ayer: Yeah good – we’ve just been getting ready for the upcoming tour this week; it was a good warm up run that we had last November/December, and we’re just getting ready for the album to come out.
Yes – we are really excited about the upcoming release of Hummingbird, as well as your Australian tour in May! Are you feeling ready?
We’re really excited to come back. We got, pretty much, all the new songs ‘live’ ready on the last short tour that we did, so I think we’re good to go. We’re just excited to start playing it for people who’ve heard it.
You toured extensively for your debut album Gorilla Manor – is there anything that you plan to do differently this time around?
We’re really stoked on these new songs and this new direction that we’re going in, so I’m excited to see what we can do live – definitely more electronic to replicate what we did on the record. We were jamming on some old songs last night and trying to revamp them and make a different version, so that’s exciting.
I read that after returning home, you transformed an abandoned bungalow in Silver Lake into a rehearsal space and studio – sounds cool but also a little spooky – what was the space like?
It wasn’t spooky, it was just gross. It had mould in it, vines growing in it and the foundation is totally messed up, like the walls: some don’t totally connect and it’s just a weird room, but we got it cleaned up and the landlord helped us – I think he pitied us. He used to be a musician out of Ireland and owns a bunch of properties around LA… he helped us get it into useable shape. It was awesome!
You wrote close to where you live, and then recorded on the other side of the country in Brooklyn – was this tactical in any way: beginning at home and then recording somewhere out of your comfort zone?
Yeah that was totally the intent – we didn’t want to get completely off the radar in a more rural area; we wanted to stay urban but not in LA.
We started talking to Aaron [Dessner] about him helping us record the record – he has his own studio that he built out a few years back to record The National stuff – and so we recorded most of it there. We started in Montreal because we knew of this really great studio and this really great engineer that we worked with, and so we did drums and bass and live stuff in this big room, and then went to Ditmus Park in Brooklyn to do all the rest of the over dub stuff.
You worked with Aaron Dessner, you toured with him and you also lived with him- you must be like family now – could you tell me a little about the experience?
It was really great. We met him when we toured with The National for a few shows at the end of 2011 – he ended up being a really nice guy; all the guys in The National are really great people.
We started joking around about maybe doing something together and then we finally ‘pulled the trigger’ and got together and started writing with him in the room. It clicked pretty immediately ‘cause I think he comes from such a similar place as us and has been doing it for so much longer than us – that it was great to have him there to be the voice of reason, or the sense of wisdom…
We had a lot of ‘family dinners’ and talks – they’re lovely people.
Do you feel as though you challenged yourselves more on this album?
Yeah definitely… that first record was just about: ‘ok, let’s just do something that we like’, but then this record – it was more of a conscious effort of: ‘ok… this is what we’ve done; now let’s do something a little different.’ We really respect artists that move in one direction or another from album to album.
The band’s trajectory since Gorilla Manor has been one of ‘highest highs and lowest lows’ are you able to tell me how the album and a particular couple of tracks mirror this range of emotion and why?
That is a really accurate depiction of the last few years because we had some really great things happen for us and then some really trying things… when you’ve gone through something really hard and you’ve survived – you take that, and you learn from it, and it really makes you all the better for it. So, I think that’s the ‘high’ that we get from it, and it shows itself in the sense of the songs not being completely sorrowful and downtrodden: there is a current of some sort of grace or something in there that we still wanted to hang on to.
‘Three Months’ and ‘Columbia’ were interesting ones for us to work on – with them being so personal to me – because they’re about the passing of my mother back in 2011, which was a really hard thing to go through.
Are you able to list a personal favourite track on the album?
I really love ‘Black Spot’. That was a really interesting case for us as a band as we take a long, long time writing songs… for ‘Black Spot’ we went up to Joshua Tree for a week, and at the beginning of the week we started working on this song, and by the end of the day we pretty much had it done. We’d never done that: where we had something together that quickly and had everyone agree on it – so that was a really amazing feeling.
At the end of the day we try to write pop music and ‘Black Spot’ is definitely the antipodes of something that is ‘poppy’… so it’s just funny that it is on there at all – I feel like that’s a triumph.
Have there been any artists that have caught your attention lately?
We were trying to not listen to new music while we were making the record, so when we finally wrapped it up, was when the Frank Ocean album dropped. I don’t really listen to music like that at all but I was so drawn to it. It just seemed like such a fresh take on that style of music and that ended up being one of my favourite records of last year – which was kind of surprising.
How about Aussie music?
We all really freaked out over that latest Tame Impala record.
Hummingbird is out on Friday January 25th 2013 through Liberator Music/Infectious Music
WHO: Local Natives (Presented by FBi)
WHEN: Wednesday 15 May (presale Tues 29 Jan, public Fri 1 Feb)
WHERE: Metro Theatre
HOW MUCH: $60 + bf (ticketek)
Read more from Edwina Hagon