So, Local Natives! I've written on them before so it's no secret that they are one of my favorite bands. I jumped at the chance to see them live for a second time at one of my favorite venues in the Twin Cities, and I was thrilled to learn they approved an interview for after the show that night.
The show was opened by local band Aero Flynn (who announced it was their first show ever), and Local Natives took the sold-out First Ave mainroom by storm. They balanced the set well, moving back and forth between songs from their hopeful debut Gorilla Manor and the decidedly more melancholy, darker Hummingbird. After being pleaded back on stage by the audience, they finished the set with "Sun Hands" with the audience clapping and sing-yelling along. It was a strong show played to an excited room full of true fans, and the energy in the room was palpable.
After the show, I met them in the band room backstage, where they promptly offered me wine in a Red Solo cup. There were friends sharing their baby pictures with the band members and a half-eaten chocolate cake on the counter. After introducing me to everyone as "the girl from Stereofox" (so official!), Taylor, Kelcey and I found a table in the cleared-out mainroom.
Erin: So in the past year you've done the festival circuit, a European tour, and you're touring in the US right now. This summer you'll be heading back into the festival circuit, right?
Taylor: Yeah, so right now we're on this Kings of Leon tour, and then we have three weeks of headline tour and then just the summer festivals in the US.
E: So, I'm curious - is a regular touring concert different than a festival concert experience?
T: Well, this is a small club that is just packed with fans that have paid for this ticket, to come see you, and it's such an intimate energy and people know the songs, and it's just really fun just have that thing where they know a song and sing along -
Kelcey: Right, and it's so much easier to make the connection with the audience when you guys are so much more on the same page - they know our stuff, and we know that they know this stuff. It feels really good.
T: A festival is more like - it's kind of similar to this Kings of Leon tour, where you play this huge audience and maybe some of them know you and some don't, and you're basically in a battle with them, trying to win them over (laughs) - that's what it feels like, this battle with the audience. And if you can get them in by the end, then you've won the battle!
E: So some competitive juices are flowing!
T: Yeah, it sort of feels that way.
K: You are, during festivals, sort of competing against other bands playing - and it doesn't ever feel literally like a sour, competitive feeling (laughs). But - you are trying to win over people that have never heard your stuff, and it's an introductory experience, so you would treat that set different than this one. In a venue like this, we'll maybe play deeper cuts, slower stuff that we know our fans really enjoy - and to a totally new crowd, we'll cater it to be a more energetic thing.
E: So you guys are pretty successful - you have 351 thousand likes on Facebook...so I don’t know what the cutoff for success for a band is -
K: It just depends at what you look at. Like, are we more successful than we were in high school? Definitely. Are we as successful as Kings of Leon? Definitely not.
E: But what was the moment you realized that Local Natives was a real thing?
T: The year we put out Gorilla Manor [early 2010] was sweet, it was crazy -
K: Wellll, 2009 - cuz we released the record basically everywhere in February 2010. But all of 2009 we were kind of working, promoting and working on the record as well during the year, but we got a booking agent that year, and a manager that year, and we were working towards all these goals that we really wanted to accomplish -
E: So stuff was happening.
K: Yeah. I think 2009, South by Southwest. All the advice we had ever heard was “play as many shows as possible”, just to put you in front of as many people as possible. So we really took that to heart and booked like, nine shows.
E: So after these shows, are you guys just drained or are you ready to party?
T: You know, I'm drained like, all day. Then the show gives you all this energy and I'm all wound up and I can't go to sleep, and I go to bed at like 5am, and it's just kind of a cycle that goes on and on...(laughs) The show is actually the one thing that actually feeds the energy of the touring lifestyle rather than takes away.
K: Yeah, I'm way more tired during the day than after the show.
E: Is there a venue or a festival that you haven't had a chance to play as a band that you want to do?
T: How about the - the Bowl?
K: Yeah, the Hollywood Bowl. It’s kind of my personal goal. It would be really meaningful.
E: Would you ever do the Superbowl?
K: (laughs) You know, there's the world of “music listeners” and there's the rest of the world -
T: It’s just a .. charade. A parade.
K: It would be fun, but - I don't know, it would be like icing on the cake.
T: Icing on the cake?! That's some pretty sweet icing...(laughs)
K: We would be making a lot of decisions differently if we were just trying to be as big as possible. It would be way more pyrotechnics than we'd ever do in our lives (laughs). We feel so fortunate to be as successful as we've been, because we've just been doing the stuff that we've wanted to do.
E: So you've been compared to the National, who you've toured with, and also Fleet Floxes, Arcade Fire - so kind of that indie-folk, sometimes alternative rock sound. But who would you say has been consistently influential to you since the beginning as musicians?
K: You know, it started out with a lot of 60's harmony - The Zombies, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Beatles. Anybody joining voices together in a retro way, we've really dug. And I guess around [Gorilla Manor], we were listening to Broken Social Scene's You Forgot It In People. That was a huge record for all of us. I still go back to that record sometimes and am in awe of what they did; it was almost like they did it on accident. Their other records are great but nothing as magical as that record. They recorded that stuff in just one take. We were still listening to a lot of stuff from high school, stuff that didn't really feed us, and when that came along it was really eye-opening. Taylor and Ryan and myself are the main writers, but we all take influences from different places. But, like - Radiohead, we're all pretty bananas about.
T: For Hummingbird, for me, the record that kind of stood out is Skying, The Horror's record and Third, the Portishead record. Those two were, tonally, the most important records during that writing time. I also went through a really heavy Leonard Cohen phase during that writing time.
K: I had more of a Paul Simon thing going on during the Hummingbird record stuff.
E: The Hummingbird record, it's been talked about a lot, how it has a darker tone and more melancholy overtones; and that had a lot to do with what you were going through as a band and personally. So, "hummingbird" is from the lyric in the song "Colombia" - but what made that analogy more important than any other analogy in the whole record?
T: I think it was kind of two-fold - it did feel kind of like an homage to Kelcey's mom and that was important to us at the time - and still is, but that was so intrinsic to Kelcey, and to us as a band and as a family. The reason I think it worked for the whole record is, I felt like...a hummingbird is kind of this symbol of this dichotomy that resonated with what the record is. Because a hummingbird is this really, really frail, tiny creature with these hollow bones; but it's also this really powerful symbol - but it's such a fragile thing. I think that kind of encapsulated the state that we were in when we were making this record.
E: What are you listening to right now? Can you name a few new artists that you think have some potential?
K: I'm starting to get really into that Future Islands record, Singles.
T: They had this TV debut on Letterman, it was so awesome -
K: He's so theatrical, he's amazing!
T: He really goes for it. We watch it before shows to pump up (laughs).
K: We have these friends, Wild Beasts, they just released this record that we love [Present Tense]. We just really love that band, those dudes and their stuff. I'm also digging Angel Olson's new record [Burn Your Fire For No Witness], I just really feel like it will take her to a much bigger level. It's super vulnerable, seems really down-to-earth - just this stoner chick sounding super awesome.
T: The new War on Drugs record [Lost in the Dream], we're all also super into right now.
K: And this guy Moses Sumney, he's been opening up all our shows. He doesn't have a record out, he's just been getting a lot of notoriety from his live shows, but he's kind of a one man band and he loops his voice, he does some beatboxing - he seems like such a natural-born performer. It's really arresting and effortless.
E: And you guys are working on a new album, right?! Already?
K: Yeah! Basically.
T: Yeah, we have some stuff going. There was such an awesome cheer just from our announcement on stage - just from, "We want to put out a third album!" I love that about Minneapolis. There's a lot of good will here for us.
K: It just makes us so stoked to be doing it all.