Local Natives have blown onto the scene, in a huge way -- and for good reason. Hailing from sunny Los Angeles, the up-and-coming quintet are redefining the word "collaboration" with their debut album 'Gorilla Manor'. By bringing together wide ranging influences and tastes, they've managed to create some of the freshest, and most unique sounds hitting he airwaves in a long time. But their efforts go beyond that. TMC was able get Local Natives multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hahn on the phone yesterday for a brief discussion of their music and process before they run across to Europe to festival hop for the rest of August.
TMC: You guys played a show last night in Montauk, NY. How was it visiting and playing in a small town that's a limelight for pop culture references?
(laughs) It was pretty cool, it was pretty interesting. Honestly, we’d never been to that part of the country or experienced anything quite like that. It was a unique show.
TMC: Was it a big show? Did a lot of people come out for it?
You know, there actually was a lot of people. I would guess there was maybe around 300 crammed onto this back patio out by the water. So yeah, it ended up being a really good crowd.
TMC: You're about to fly out and head over to Europe again for the rest of August and a handful of festivals. Considering much of your success was launched by a few Britts catching ear of you at SXSW in 2009, do you feel you owe anything to them? Do you play just that little bit harder at shows?
(laughs) Umm, no man. There’s no favoritism. I think we feel really fortunate to be able to travel like we’ve been doin and to experience all these new countries and whatnot. So, I mean, yeah, this whole festival thing is kind of new to us too. Just kind of enjoy it, and try to play our best.
TMC: Good. It’s important to win over all crowds, regardless of continent.
TMC: Gorilla Manor was named after the house you and your band shared in Orange County, where most of the record was written an recorded. Do you think that the insular setting played a big part in it's success and good songcraft? Are you going to go back there for your next record?
Umm, yeah. It definitely played a part in how we learned to write. The process is sort of unique to us; we’re insanely collaborative, you know, to a ridiculous degree. Yeah, I don’t know if we’re gonna be able to do the same house – I’m sure there’s some family living in that house now. But, I think we would like to get away and hole-up some where and try to recreate that atmosphere again. You know, Orange is a lot different than Los Angeles. It’s very quiet, there’s a lot of old people and stuff. We were kind of out of the chaos, and kind of in our own world for a bit. So, hopefully we can do that again.
TMC: So many times artists forget about the visual side of their work. And you just mentioned how collaborative you guys are, including your artwork: packaging, merchandise, advertisements, etc. Do you feel that the bands collective process in creating the artwork together is just as important of a representation of Local Natives as is your music?
Sure, because it’s definitely an extension of our vision and our art. Andy and Matt primarily do most of it, then I also help out. I’ve done some single designs and whatnot. But it’s always like, every ones got their say. Even Kelcey and Taylor who don’t do artwork, are still involved in the process. But yeah, it’s really, really important to us that everything is kind of… I don’t know… cohesive, and presented in a way that represents us well. Again, I feel a lot of people might see us as too involved. I think that a lot of people maybe at our label wish we weren’t such sticklers, but I think we like it that way.
TMC: Absolutely. It gives you control over your art. You've stated that three or four years ago the band went through a shift from being a guitar band, to a vocal band -- and the complex harmonies in your songs attest to that fact. Considering the complexity, have any members of the band been classically trained in music? Or is it all done by ear?
No, yeah. It’s honestly all by ear. I mean, sometimes I think that it may be easier if we knew what we were doing. I don’t know, no one in the band has any classical training. We just kind of tinker, and guess around on the guitar and piano until we think it sounds good. I think there’s something special about that.
TMC: Well, I think it allows you freedom. A lot of classically trained individuals are stuck to the rules and formulas of classical music.
Right, right. And it’s tough cause when you’re trying to explain the parts to another person you’re like, “OK, it goes like this.” Then when someone asks you the name of the chord or something it’s like (laughs). That’s not the way we work, we don’t even know the chords we’re playing.
TMC: Well, goal of music is to create something to listen to, not to have it written on paper.
For sure, for sure.
TMC: Local Natives, in its state as Cavil at Rest, survived through your college years while everyone went to different schools around California. Where did all of you guys go?
Well, I went up to a school in Western LA called Pepperdine. Taylor went to UCLA. Kelcey, actually for the first year was up in San Francisco. Luckily his dad was a pilot, and he could fly down two or three times a month to keep everything going, ya know? We would play shows, and we would rehearse down at my parents house. Even then, it wasn’t Local Natives at that point, but everyone was super dedicated and felt that we had something special enough to keep at it and spend all the time that we were spending on it. Yeah, I think it was important. We all went through our college phase. Taylor and I go to finish, fortunately. But the whole time we were still doing the band and playing doing shows.
TMC: That’s impressive that ya’ll were able to maintain that dedication and keep everything moving forward.
Yeah, it was hard because at that same time Andy and Matt were doing full-time jobs. I remember scheduling, that was always such an ordeal, you know? I think that was one of the bigger incentives for us to move in together. Just being together all the time and not worrying about who’s around when, just cause now the band is full-time.
TMC: Is "Who Knows Who Cares" a reflection on apathy or being content with what’s happening around you, and in your life?
Umm… it’s in reference to the decision that I was just talking about, to go full-time with the band. Obviously, there’s so many risks involved financially that comes to mind. We were all kind of eating peanut butter and jelly and one dollar burritos for a long period of time. Just kind of throwing up your hands, I guess, and giving yourself to the process. “Who Knows Who Cares” is in reference to that. We’re just gonna go for it, and we’re all gonna take the leap together and see how we come out. But, yeah, I guess that’s what that song is specifically in reference to.
TMC: Since we’re The Milk Carton, and our mission is "Music You've Been Missing," are there any artists, friends of yours perhaps, that you think we should check out?
Yeah, definitely. Off the top of my head we have a friend’s band… a bunch of friend’s bands actually, back in LA. The first one would probably be Super Humanoids
. They’re just getting going, and really cool. Another band would be Pepper Rabbit
, we’ve done a few shows with them. And then, Voxhaul Broadcast
. They’ve put out an album, and I think they’re getting their second one ready. I’m really stoked about it. And a band that we’re actually gonna go on tour with in few months called The Union Line
. Yeah, yeah. Definitely check out all those bands.
TMC: We definitely will. Well, I know you guys have a busy schedule and a lot of things to get done before hopping the pond, so I’ll let you get to those. Thanks for chatting with us.
Well, thanks for talking with us.
TMC: Have a great time in Europe and we hope you’ll come back itching to play some more for the U.S. crowd.
Be sure to check out TMC's Album Review of Gorilla Manor!