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Catching up with Local Natives ahead of Splendour in the Grass

Words by Eliza Sholly

Local charm.

If reading this article is the first you’ve heard of Californian quintet Local Natives, then I’ll allow guitarist and singer Taylor Rice to do the introductions for me.

“Picture a ’60s band, with tonnes of harmonies, who performs in the future. That’s us.” And while I was in fact acquainted with them prior to our phone call, his description feels pretty bang on.

Comprised of Taylor and bandmates Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Matt Frazier and Nik Ewing, Local Natives play the kind of chilled out, indie rock music that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Spotify playlists of both your grandma and your coolest friend. Right now, the group’s celebrating a brand new album release, plus a festival tour that will see them impress Australian crowds at this year’s Splendour in the Grass.

The album in question, Violet Street, bops harder than it has any right to. “This is the most exciting record that we have ever made,” Taylor tells me. “In a lot of ways it’s a return to us, and what it felt like to make our very first music as a band.” The album’s three-part harmonies are augmented by loops on tape, physically spliced and transformed by hand – a real testament to the innovative tactics of producer Shawn Everett, whose Grammy-award winning name you may have heard before. “Something you hope for as a band is to work with someone who can instigate you at your absolute best, and Shawn just really did that for us.”

Since their first release in 2009, the band has had a consistent string of well-received albums. And while he describes Violet Street as the band’s “most experimental record,” Taylor affirms that there are definitely some tumultuous thematics.

“It’s sort of joyful and loving, in the midst of a lot of despair. A lot of the songs are about our own identity, and what makes us, us.” The first two singles (and accompanying music videos) from the album, ‘Café Amarillo’ and ‘When Am I Gonna Lose You’, are quintessential Local Natives. Expect lush guitars, pop vocals and the kinds of iridescent harmonies that road trips are made of. Speaking of the tracks, Taylor affirmed my suspicions. “Together they really feel like you’re driving around California, or along the coast, and we just thought that was a cool representation of us.”

For many however, the current social and political climates in the US make it a place we’d rather not like to picture ourselves. Taylor, a vocal campaigner for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election, gets that. “In this super chaotic time where the world feels fragile, and really not what we all thought it was going to feel like, what are the things that really pull you in, and make you feel hopeful?” For him, it’s finding optimism, in the face of despair. “You know that feeling of shelter you get from your loved ones? A lot of the album is really about grabbing onto all that, right in the midst of darkness.”

As for their Splendour in the Grass shows, Taylor says the band is “super excited” to come back Down Under. “When we played Laneway Festival a few years ago, we made like 1,000 friends. Everyone was so nice and we seriously couldn’t believe it. We were like, ‘every single person in Australia is SO nice, really!?’ It seemed ridiculous. And it’s been several years since then, so we’re just really excited to come back.”

As we began wrapping up, and I made a mental note to add Local Natives to my Splendour itinerary, Taylor excitedly interrupted me; “I just thought of something funny I want to mention.” “Do you know Cub Sport?” he began, referring of course to the alt-pop group from Brisbane. “Well, I was outside walking my dog, on my street in Silver Lake, and I saw a band were loading up their van, so I started chatting with them.

“They were super sweet, and introduced themselves as Cub Sport, saying they had a show in town. I checked them out because I hadn’t heard of them, and they were amazing. It was amazing – such a random encounter, in my street. So crazy.”

I smiled as we hung up, drawing a parallel between the anecdote he had just told me, and Local Natives themselves. Both somewhat unexpected, but very, very welcome indeed.

thelocalnatives.com

Violet Street is out April 26 via Caroline Australia.

This article was originally published in Fashion Journal 189. You can read it here.

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