Five Questions with Local Natives

L.A.-based Local Natives got their start in Orange County where Taylor Rice (vocals/guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals/keys/percussion) and Ryan Hahn (vocals/guitar) went to high school together. These days, they live in the Silver Lake neighborhood, known for its wide range of ethnicities and social classes. And hipsters. All of which probably influenced Local Natives’ (completed by the addition of drummer Matt Frazier) eclectic/artistic/rhythmic/sweet-yet-cool sound.

The band’s sophomore album Hummingbird, debuted at #12 on Billboard’s Top 200; they recently performed on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and have been selling out shows across the country. Including their Tuesday, March 19 stop at The Orange Peel. In advance of that show, Rice took a moment to talk to Xpress about the band’s visual artwork, the intimidation factor of the second album, and where they’re looking forward to playing overseas.

Pictured: Swiss Alps photo stop, on the drive between Munich and Milan. Courtesy of Local Natives.

Mountain Xpress: You all have great photos on your Facebook and Tumblr pages. Is someone in the band (or with the band) a photographer? Do you think about documenting this adventure that you’re on?
Taylor Rice: Everyone’s a photographer with varying degrees of ability or talent. The photos come from all of us. It can be harder, but I think it’s more important to be in the moment and enjoy what is right in front of you than to document it. The opening line from Amok is “look out of the window, what’s passing you by,” which seems poignant from the perspective of a traveling musician. We drove through the Swiss Alps today on our way to Milan on a perfect clear winter day. We did take some photos (which didn’t do much to capture it), but I was aware to take it in without trying to put it in a little digital box.

I’ve read that Silver Lake is ethnically and artistically eclectic — in what ways has that environment impacted your sound?
The culture of Silverlake is creativity. Everyone is making something they want to share. It only strikes me as strange when I’m not in a place like that, [that] actually most people think it’s crazy to be creative rather than productive. 

Was there an intimidation factor to recording your sophomore album? And what allowed you to go deeper with Hummingbird than with your debut, Gorilla Manor?
It was definitely strange to start writing with the subtext that there were people waiting to hear what we came up with. (It isn’t like that on your first record: you make it hoping someone will hear it.) We dealt with that by unplugging, stopping touring, and really isolating ourselves and experimenting. Hummingbird is a more expansive record because our lives expanded over the last two years. We had the so many insanely incredible experiences together, like blinding euphoria, but we also had the hardest two years we’ve ever gone through.

You did your own artwork for Hummingbird. Does someone in the band have a background in visual art? And how did you decide on that particular image?
Matt’s day job was working as a graphic designer for magazines before we started touring full time. We all weigh in, though, and control the design of the band democratically, like how we make the music. The cover image was an accidental capturing of a moment of the four of us. Ryan took the photo, and then Kelcey, Matt and I are in it. We were climbing onto the roof of our practice space to take some photos and Kelcey almost fell off the edge trying to get up. It’s sort of like a metaphor for the record and where we were as a band making Hummingbird. There was a struggle, but we’re smiling through it, and came out feeling closer and happier than we ever have.

You recently announced UK tour dates. Any place that you’re especially looking forward to returning to, or a new place you’re excited about exploring?
Playing Brixton in London is like fulfilling a dream I’ve had since we first came over. London felt like a home away from home when we were touring with Gorilla Manor, so I feel like playing Brixton makes our hypothetical British parents very proud.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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