Q&A: Local Natives
By Spencer Flanagan on July 7, 2010
Whether it’s designing their own MySpace page and official website to designing the art for their concert posters to releasing their self-funded debut album, Gorilla Manor, completely on their own, the guys of Los Angeles-based band Local Natives are extremely hands on when it comes to their music and have learned to not wait around for anyone.
Since the release of Gorilla Manor, Local Natives have received tons of praises, signed with an indie label and toured endlessly. The band is currently finishing up its European tour in time to make it back to the states for this year's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago on July 18.
Taylor Rice, one of the founding members of Local Natives, took a few minutes before getting ready to play another show in Italy to talk to FILTER about the band’s success, the release of its debut album and thoughts on being called a “West Coast Grizzly Bear.”
How do you like touring through Europe? Is it a lot different than touring here in the states?
Taylor Rice: Yeah it’s a lot different. In the states, you know, you take the van and go from state to state and it doesn’t change very drastically from one place to the next but it’s quite different here. Like, we were in Paris three days ago and Amsterdam the day before that and we’ve been in Italy the past few days. We’re just rolling over into all these different countries that have completely different cultures and languages and everything. It’s pretty cool, I think.
Does the name Local Natives have any significance behind it or is it just completely random?
It’s one of those things where you’re picking out a band name and Local Natives popped up and we were arguing about it and talking about it and in the end we chose Local Natives because it did, I think in some ways, capture the essence and spirit of our band. Our band is super collaborative, I think much more than most bands are in terms of not only the writing process but everything that we do. It’s really a democracy and we all rely on each other quite a bit so I think that we were all excited about it.
Also, the name of our album is Gorilla Manor and kind of the story behind that was that was the nickname we had for our house and we all moved in together and that had been such a pivotal point for us all hunkering down and changing the way that we made music together and ending up, I think, finding each other musically that we ended up naming the album after it.
I read that Gorilla Manor was self-funded. Was that a conscious decision or is that just how it played out?
It’s not like we were turning down label offers at that point so in that way it just kind of happened but at the same time it was a very conscious choice. We learned not to wait for anybody to do anything for us, including making the record. So that was a very conscious decision and then even after we had self-funded the record we were doing everything on our own. We waited quite a long time before we even decided on a manager, a booking agent and finally a label... We were definitely very hard working and even now that we do have a label and people to help us with that aspect of the music we’re extremely hands on. That’s the band we are. We’re a big pain in the ass for anyone to have to work with but that’s just the nature that we are. For example we do our artwork for all the posters, we’re designing the art for our website and our MySpace so I think it was a pretty active choice for us that we really wanted to do things our own way and we were all very committed to that.
Do you think you feel a greater sense of gratification having released the album completely on your own as opposed to having help fund it?
I think that not having a big budget to record on handed to us was really important for us, especially for our first record. It was an important part of our really having to say, “This is everything we believe in. We’re giving everything we have. We’re giving all of our money. We might not have enough money to eat or drink but we’re putting it together and we’re going to the studio.” I think that kind of DIY spirit was important for us and I think we are very proud of that having been our experience.
If you could go back and rerecord Gorilla Manor is there anything you would change or do differently?
Oh yeah. Hundreds and hundreds of things. Not in a bad way. I’m very proud of the record we made, especially considering it was our first stab at making a record. We didn’t have very much money so I’m very proud of it, but that’s just the nature of who we are as a band – it’s a collaborative thing… Looking back at this album, yeah there are definitely things I wish we would have had more time on and maybe a little more money and experimented with more production, you know, maybe get some more horns on there or whatever. I really have a lot of ideas but it’s kind of OK. I think I’ve just learned to accept that that’s kind of the process. I’m looking forward to making our second album and having a little bit more freedom and a little bit more time in the studio to experiment with a couple things.
Have you guys already started working on your second album?
Yeah we have started working on it. Everyone in the band has a lot of ideas. I know I have a bunch that I’m really excited about and we’ve kicked some stuff around but the nature of the band is that it’s not just one guy who’s finishing a song. That’s not the way our band works. I think it will be really important for us when we can take a break from touring, like we did with the first album, to isolate ourselves and turn off our cell phones and turn off our computers and just get the creative juices flowing and be in a house or a studio together for a month. I think that’s how our band works best so I’m really excited. I don’t think the record will really begin to take shape until we have that isolated time away from a touring schedule.
I read on Pitchfork that they referred to you guys a sort of “West Coast Grizzly Bear.” How does a comparison like that feel?
It feels great. My initial reaction is that’s an incredible thing to hear because I hold Grizzly Bear as such a higher god. They’re such an amazing band and we’re all huge fans of them so to be compared to them, it’s very flattering. It feels flattering, but at the same time I don’t know how much I would really agree with that verbatim. We kind of understand what they’re getting at – I think our sound has a little bit more of a California, West Coast feel to it. I think there’s a lot more than Grizzly Bear so I don’t know. I just look at references as an unnecessary part of any journalistic enterprise. You can’t just say, “There’s this new band and they’re amazing.” “What do they sound like?” “Well, it doesn’t sound like anything.” People just don’t really accept that.
How does it feel to have your debut album be so well received?
It’s really incredible. The journey of our album is interesting because it actually came out in Europe first. We signed with a label in the UK as a result by playing SXSW in 2009. We came over to the UK because we got lots of press. It was just the weirdest thing in the world, but the whole UK music industry basically comes to SXSW and we played nine shows and we were an unsigned band and we started to get emails and some attention from over there, but things moved very quickly and we released the album in November of 2009 in the UK and then in January of this year in the rest of Europe. Then we did that first headlining tour in Europe before our album even came out in the U.S. and that was incredible in and of itself. I mean we were playing in Sweden where none of us had ever been in our lives playing two sold out shows and that was kind of the story all over Europe and it got to the point where we started to hope, “Man I really hope the U.S. kind of catches on as well.” I mean we weren’t really complaining, but it was just like, what’s the reaction is going to be like back home and then the album came out actually while we were still on our tour. It was so incredibly mind-blowing and it surpassed, I think, all of our wildest expectations. And, you know, we got to play Coachella and Sasquatch and the crowd just everywhere were really receptive and really incredible so I think we’re definitely riding the high and just really excited. F