Interview : Local Natives

20 Jan

By Anne T. Donahue
After garnering publicity following their nine-show appearance at SXSW in 2009, Los Angeles-based Local Natives earned a devoted following in the UK, being signed to Infectious Records where they released their debut album, Gorilla Manor, to critical acclaim late last year.  After being signed to US label Frenchkiss, the band is slated to release their LP on February 16 and have scheduled a North American tour for the spring.  Consisting of Taylor Rice (guitar/vocalists), Kelcey Ayer (vocals/keyboard/percussion), Ryan Hahn (guitar/vocals), Andy Hamm (bass guitar) and Matt Frazier (drums), the Local Natives have earned comparisons to the Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes, yet have chosen to remain humble and driven in regards to their sound, success and their future.  Ayer spoke to Dirtbag Journalism about the past year, the hype and all that follows, while maintaining the realism that will undoubtedly cement the band as one to watch in 2010.
Dirtbag Journalism:  Both your music and album art have unique artistic qualities, yet your sound is still incredibly accessible.  What prompted your choice to straddle both the relatable (through sound) and unconventional (through art)?
Kelcey Ayer:  I think that’s just the type of music we all like; songs that stick in your head and grab you, but aren’t a flash in the pan.  I really respect those artists that can find that perfect medium of being edgy and innovative and still hook you in [for] four minutes, which is definitely the course we have tried to take with our songwriting.
DJ:  Both critics and listeners have drawn parallels between your music and the likes of Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes – all very talented and well-renowned bands.  Although comparisons often fail to do justice, what are your thoughts on already being regarded as a substantial and important addition to the independent music scene?
KA:  Flattered. Extremely flattered.  I mean, we’re all big fans of those bands, so to be put in the same sentence is really mind-blowing to me.
DJ:  Though Gorilla Manor has yet to be released in North America, its reception by critics in the UK has been warm and well-received.  What were your hopes for the record prior to release?  Was the hype following SXSW intimidating or motivating?
KA:  Taylor and Ryan have played together since junior high, and the rest of us have been in and out of countless other groups for years, so all of us have played music for a while now with the same hope of creating something we felt passionately about.  Things have happened very naturally from there; fall of ’08 we recorded some songs we liked, started playing them around, and people seemed to enjoy it, so we started to tour.  By the time things started going well at SXSW, we definitely felt ready for the next step.  Any sort of hype that made it our way as a result was more exciting than anything.
DJ:  What prompted your decision to release the album in Europe prior to North America?  Or was it strictly due to being signed to Infectious Records before Frenchkiss?
KA:  Like you said earlier, the UK was definitely into us after SXSW, and I guess since it’s a much smaller country than the US, things tend to spread quicker there.  The states were much slower, and we were pretty antsy to release the record anywhere, so it just made sense.  It was a “strike when the iron’s hot” type of thing.
DJ:  What do you consider the biggest differences between the North American and European markets?  Is there a difference in regards to live shows?
KA:   It’s hard to really say, but it seems as though they just freaking live and breathe music.  Glastonbury was sold out last September and the concert isn’t until June, so that’s got to say something.  And as far as the live shows go, I’ve gotten that question a bunch now and honestly, the crowds are pretty similar no matter where we go.  Despite language barriers, cultural differences or whatever, I think people understand music as a language, so everyone responds rather similarly.
DJ:  What are you enjoying most about the album release and extensive tour?  How do you hope things transition following the release of Gorilla Manor in North America?
KA:  I’m actually pretty excited for the American release because then I’ll actually be able to gauge the types of things we’ll be doing.  I didn’t grow up in England or France, so having released the record over there and be doing radio sessions or TV appearances doesn’t have as much of an impact on me.  But if we ever did a Tonight Show over here, I’d be freaking the fuck out.

Posted by : Anne T Donahue

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