Interview: Local Natives

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After touring in Europe for about a month, Local Natives finally have a few weeks to catch their breath before hitting the road again. Their ascent to indie fame has been a quick one. We saw them last year during the CMJ showcase. They performed for a crowd of maybe one hundred. A month ago, we saw them perform on Governors Island in front of a sold out crowd (read the the full review here). Now, it’s time to catch up with singer/guitarist/harmonizer Ryan Hahn.

L4e: Since I last saw you, you’ve been traveling across Europe playing festivals, which was your favorite? How were the fans?

R. H.: Wow, Governors Island feels like forever ago. I mean, since last summer, we’ve played like a hundred shows in Europe. We always have a ton of fun in France. The fans have really taken a liking to us. We played the Way Out West Festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was the coldest it’s been in 50 years, and I’m from California, so I’m definitely not used to that. But the festival itself was great. We played right after Beach House and before Miike Snow. Both are great live.

It’s crazy how big you’ve gotten in Europe.

Yeah, we never planned on that.

So Pitchfork was your first really big US festival. How was that? Did you get a chance to see any bands?

It was great. We were pretty busy but we got to see Bear in Heaven and Surfer Blood. We’ve become good friends with them. They’re really good guys. We actually did an after-party at Pitchfork and it was one of my favorite shows of the past year.

Last year, my friend let me borrow her CMJ pass for a couple of shows at the Delancey. I think we were there to see Freelance Whales and you guys happened to be playing on the roof. A lot’s changed since then. Did you ever think you’d get so big so fast?

Yeah, the show at the Delancey. If I remember that was a pretty off-the-cuff show. We were pretty cracked out after a week of shows and the sound just wasn’t right. But anyway, we’ve been a band for a really long time. I’ve been playing with Taylor for 8 or 9 years. It’s just really hard to believe even back at CMJ how far we’ve come.

Gorilla Manor, your first full-length, debuted after CMJ. I read that it was named after the house you guys lived in while writing the album. It must’ve been pretty fun, living in a house, making music with your friends.

Yeah, it was awesome. It’s about the ridiculousness of gorillas trying to live in this mansion. We were trying to be professional and focus and make music our career, in some sense, but at the same time we were still a bunch of kids. I think it was a pretty fitting name for the house.

Did you all contribute to the writing?

We are a ridiculously collaborative band. We all sat around with guitars making music. It was a really cool time, being together 24 hours a day and just constantly doing band stuff.

Do you have a favorite song from the album?

Yea, “Wide Eyes” is definitely closest to me. I brought the song to the band and it’s the first song on the album. I feel connected to it.

So, the video for “World News,” when did you guys make that? What was the idea behind it?

Wow, we did that a couple of summers ago. I don’t even remember when. We shot it in one day. The idea was to capture, to relive really, a portrait of a gang of people hanging out over a certain period of time. But it was all sort of absurdist. We just put it in the hands of the director, Matthew Lessner.

How did you guys decide to cover “Warning Sign?” It took me a few listens to realize it was a Talking Heads cover.

Originally, we just did it for a live show. It got a really good response. I think most people didn’t even realize it was a Talking Heads original. It gave us a chance to put a spin on a band we really love. It just kept getting a good response during. We never thought it would make the album.

But it was sort of a no-brainer at that point?

Yeah, definitely.

So I have just a couple more questions. You guys are on tour all fall, what are your plans for the winter?

December we’re going go our separate ways, spend some time with family. We’ll hopefully all be able to get some writing done. Then in January we’ll work on a new album.

Do you have any ideas for that?

No, we don’t have much planned or anything written yet.

Last question, do you have any crazy fan stories yet?

Yeah, actually. Just this past week, we were at Redding Festival, walking through the festival grounds, and I got separated from the group. I was walking along, minding my own business when I heard these two drunken Scottish voices. These two hammered dudes came up to me wasted and said, “We love your music!” Then they bear-hugged me and kissed me on the neck. I swear I had a mini-hickey on my neck.

Kathryn Bonacorsi

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