Return of the Natives
Local Natives spent much of the past few years on tour with bands from Arcade Fire to The National, taking time and space to develop. “The long run is very important to us,” frontman Taylor Rice tells JIM CARROLL
DID Local Natives ever stop touring? This writer saw them playing a show at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March 2009. For a number of years afterwards, it seemed as if the band were perpetually on the road in a tour bus with a tiger in their tank. They released a fine debut album, Gorilla Manor, but the touring was ceaseless.
“Well, it seemed like that to us too,” laughs frontman Taylor Rice.
The touring did eventually come to a halt so they could write and record their new album, Hummingbird, but Rice knows they did the dog with it.
“Tours just kept happening and we couldn’t say no,” he says. “We didn’t want to say no, to be fair. All these opportunities came along. We got the Arcade Fire tour, and then we got The National tour, all these incredible opportunities that you can’t turn down. We kept going.
“For example, we got offered a show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which I consider to be the most amazing building in Los Angeles. They only ask one or two bands a year to play there with an orchestra and it’s a crazy honour. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was one of my dreams as a musician. We spent a few months working on orchestral versions of the songs for that show.”
Rice refers to Local Natives several times during the course of the interview as a “touring band” and to how fortunate the decade-old band have been in this regard. “It’s an incredible, unique experience. Touring bands like us are so lucky because we get to see dozens, if not hundreds, of bands play from all over the world at these festivals. You pick up ideas and influences being on the road and meeting friends and new friends and just travelling and seeing the world and all these cultures going by your bus window.”
You must have also developed as a band? “Oh, you notice new muscles alright at the end of a two-year tour,” says Rice. “We’ve been playing together over 10 years because we started when we were kids, when we were in high school. I think we’re lucky to have had that time. I see so many bands who get early success and things blow up and they just don’t have the time or space to develop and adjust. Luckily for us, we’ve had the time to do all that over the last decade.”
When the wheels on the tour bus did stop going round and round, the band turned their attentions to a new album. They set up a studio in Silverlake, the Los Angeles hipster ’hood they call home, and spent a year there writing and working on new songs.
When it came time to call on a producer, they plumped for an old touring pal, Aaron Dessner from The National. You might think that this connection came about from weeks on tour together, but Rice begs to differ.