FFS Interview: Local Natives

Local Natives are playing a sold out show at Hoxton Bar and Grill tonight. Then they’ll be jetting off around Europe before returning to the UK for a tour in February (details on their MySpace). FFS chatted to the LA 5-piece about their incredible debut Gorilla Manor last time they were in the UK, and what utter gents they were.

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Local Natives L-R: Taylor, Matt, Andy, Ryan, Kelcey

FFS: I saw you playing as secret guests at the Rockfeedback boat show that Peggy Sue headlined. How was that show for you?
Taylor: It was really cool to play a stripped down show like that. It wasn’t what we do 99% of the time.
FFS: What’s different?
Taylor: Well it’s more electric and there’s more drums…
Kelcey: I play drums next to my keyboard
Matt: He plays a full set
FFS: I saw you playing your keyboard stand, but you have a full set normally and your keyboard?
Kelcey: Yes…
FFS: Wow
Kelcey: Nonononono! It’s just bigger!
Taylor: He’s Octopus man!

FFS: The first time I ever heard of you was the cover you did of Cecilia, which was on YouTube. You were playing a tree weren’t you?
Kelcey: Yeah, Matt played a tree…
Ryan: That was our backyard, we’d been using that song to warm up before shows just vocaly we did it in all of 15 minutes. Just with Taylor’s digital camera and we didn’t really think too much about it other than it would be fun to put up… and now everyone’s seen it, it’s crazy.
FFS: Was it around the same time as SXSW?
Kelcey: It was the year before, I think.
FFS: Did you cover Paul Simon because he’s a big influence?
Ryan: literaly it was so off the cuff we were just like it’s a cool song lets just do it for fun
FFS: You made it your own, though, did you
Andy: I guess it’s different because we’re playing on stuff thats surrounding us
Matt: it kind of worked for us too because of the three part harmony and the multiple percussion.
Taylor: we just did it in literally five seconds,
ALL: literally 5 seconds? it’s a three minute song…!

FFS: SXSW seems to be when you blew up over here. People who went over came back raving about you. Was that your first bit of major exposure?
Andy: It was a definite big step for us
FFS: How long had the band been together before that?
Ryan: We hadn’t even released a record, we burned a few EPs – like five songs a couple of demos – and handed them out and we just drove out there not really knowing exactly what to expect, we’d never been to SXSW. We played nine shows – most of them were just little rinkydink shows in the middle of the day – and it kind of grew, every show there was more and more people it was really surprising to us at least to be talking to people from England over in Austin Texas, it was crazy.
FFS: So your reputation grew just over the period of SXSW?
Ryan: Yeah.
Kelcey: We booked eight shows then we added a ninth show the week of the event and when we went to play at the venue all these people filled the whole place and everyone was saying it was a lot of people from the UK. Everyone came to the show and we didn’t even post anything it was really neat to see.
FFS: Did you meet other bands there?
Kelcey: We actually met Wild Beasts. We were looking for a booking agent, and we were looking at their booking agent and then Andy found out about the band and said “hey you should check out this band they’re really cool” and so we listened to them a couple of weeks before the festival and then randomly we played at a bike shop and earlier on in the day we saw a band taking photographs and it turned out to be them, and later on they said they really liked our show.
Taylor: It’s been this cool thing where we now have this friendship with them, and we talk every now and then online and we really want to play with them sometime.
FFS: Peggy Sue recommended you via their blog after SXSW, and you played with them the first time you were over in England. Did you meet them in Texas?
Ryan: Yeah we met them at SXSW that was the weird thing, or I did at least…
Andy: We played with them at the Borderline.
Ryan: …but she came up after the Wave Show and was just like ‘I’m nobody but I’m a fan’ …
Taylor: They’re awesome, they’re really cool.
FFS: It seemed to be a lot the bands who came back talking about you, as well as writers and industry people.
Ryan: That’s cool.
Andy: Yeah that’s the best!
Kelcey: That’s awesome I didn’t know that.

FFS: Where did the sound that you make come from? Is it something that happened naturally or something that you thought about?
Matt: It was definitely a natural progression because we’ve been playing together the five of us for about four years, we’d been fumbling around as a band for a bit and had some older material. It kind of evolved into what it is now it was never a concious thing where we said “we have to have 2 drums, 3 singers…” you know it was never like that. we write the music that we like. We were jamming with different rhythms and stuff.
FFS:  What did you sound like at the start?
Taylor: Kind of a bit more guitar-based, kind of like a guitar indie band.
Ryan: It shifted towards the vocals and the rhythms more and the guitar is almost just supporting what the rhythms and the vocals are doing.

FFS: What is the LA scene like?
Matt: there’s definitely a lot of great bands coming out of LA now
Taylor: It’s pretty eclectic
FFS: Do you end up playing with the same bands again and again?
Kelcey: We’ve found bands that we’re really good friends with, we just did this tour with Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes and Fools Gold. For like a month all round the nation. They’re all from LA, friends of ours now that we’ve met and hung out with. Some of the Fools Gold guys are in Foreign Born, another LA band.
Taylor: We were lucky enough to do two residencies this year in Silver Lake Lounge in February and Space Lounge in August and what’s cool about that is that you kind of get to curate it and book the bands and there were 9 shows at these 2 venues where we got to pick pretty much three band every night. we’re actually kind of new to LA, we just moved there.
FFS: So you’re LA based, not born and bred. How did you all meet each other?
Taylor: Me Ryan and Kelsey met in junior high and high school so the three of us have been playing together for eight years. And then Matt’s also from So-Cal, Andy’s from California. We all met in Southern California.

FFS: You said you recorded Cecila in your backyard. Did you live together?
Taylor: Yeah, we still do.
FFS: How is that, do you all get along together?
Matt: We all live in a van together essentially.. it works out great we’re able to be productive and write in the house and do band related stuff
FFS: You can see if anyone’s not practicing as well…
Andy: Yeah… “Ryan why aren’t you doing your modes?!”
Ryan: I’m sorry I’m sorry…
Kelcey: We’ve been really lucky to have been really good friends with each other. Besides these two, the only way that we met each other is through music and just wanting to find people to play with and it just turns out that we all get along super well. It’s pretty odd.
Taylor: Living together definitely had a large impact on the style of music… our style of music is very collaborative and communal and I think that kind of stemmed from being together all of the time
FFS: I was going to ask you how you write your music
Taylor: it’s a really song by song basis … but it can start with anything, it can be a guitar riff and a melody on piano and we basically all jam on it and mold it all together for weeks on end … you’re not confined to your instrument. LIke Andy plays bass but he’ll give tons of input on the drums or whatever. There’s not a lot of boundaries when we’re writing
FFS: do you switch instruments when you play
Ryan: yeah, we get to do that a few times during our normal set and that’s kind of exciting.
FFS: Has everyone ended up on the instrument they feel they’re best that?
Ryan: I think we’re all where we should be
Taylor: Kelsey was our keyboard player now but he was a drummer first and then a guitar player.  He’s really great at all of those but I think he’s now just been doing it so much that…
Matt: He is the octopus man…
Taylor: With his WHOLE drum set under the keyboard.
Ryan: What sound would an octopus make?
Kelsey: They have beaks
Ryan: They have beaks all up in their heads, all up in them
Kelcey: Beaks all up in your heads… save yo’ dollars sucker fools
Descends into octupus-related madness…
Matt: It’s been a long week…

FFS: You used to be called Cavil at Rest, why did you change it?
Ryan: I think cos we’d been evolving and fumbling around as a band and just doing it part time, everyone was in school or had jobs and finally we were like guys let’s try to make this a full time thing and just go for it I guess everyone quit what they were doing and we wrote a ton of new songs
FFS: really you just quit your jobs?
Taylor: It was ideal timing really, these guys finished school, Andy got fired from his job…
Ryan…that’s because we went on tour for a month
Andy: I’m a hard fucking worker man
Taylor: write ‘at this point andy started crying’
Ryan: It was more like a mindset shift, we realised that it was a new band entirely
Taylor: when we were recording the album and started to hear it  back and that when we were like OK things have come together we have to do this now. We needed to step apart and form something new.

FFS: Gorilla Manor was so well received in the UK, has it had the same reception in the US?
Taylor: It’s not out yet. It comes out in February
Kelcey: Things started moving so much quicker over here after SXSW a couple of people were talking in the states but everyone was really into it over here. A couple of BBC Radio DJs were spinning it so we decided to come over here. It just happened a lot quicker here…
FFS: Word spreads faster here cos it’s not very big…
Kelcey: Yeah, it’s a smaller thing and the US is so huge it takes a lot more time to get everybody talking. All the lables over here were talking about  releasing something here first. And we found Infectious and thats how that happened.
FFS: So you’re ready to go in the US. Will you do it state-by-state or…?
Kelcey: It’s nationwide, it’s probably Canada and the US
Taylor: We just signed a couple of weeks ago in the US to French Kiss Records and we’re releasing the album on February 16th so we’re very excited about that.
FFS: Will that be accompanied by a tour?
Taylor: what’s happening is we’re back here in January and we’re playing Hoxton Bar and Grill on the 19th and then we do a Europe tour straight through towards the end of February then  come back and do our UK tour end of February through beginning of March we play Heaven on March 2nd, that’s our other London show. We’ll go back to the states for SXSW and then we’ll tour the states in March.
FFS: Have you been around the UK already?
Taylor: we did the NME radar tour which went all over the UK, we played 15 markets or something,
Ryan: we got to go to Ireland for the first time too. That wasn’t part of it but it helped us get there.
FFS: so you’ve already done it…
Kelcey: we’re not doing it again… no… we are doing it again. In February.

FFS: You’ve had loads of blog coverage over here, do you think that’s a better way of finding out about new music than magazines or TV or radio?
Andy: I don’t know if we think one’s better than the other we’ve never had any PR working for us until a few month ago. We look at blogs when we’re finding out about new music so we sent our music out to blogs when we first wrote the album and it stemmed for that. that’s what we look to, you know, last night we were looking up all the new videos on music blogs…
FFS: do you think blogging has taken the power from the few people on the radio or in magazines?
Taylor: I totally agree
Kelcey: it’s the new frontier… and it’s started by kids, you know, anybody can start a blog and say who their favourite band is at the moment.
Matt: I love the honesty to it. I love that most of the time I can go to a smaller blog and read about a band and know that it’s not because some PR person’s in their ear but this person genuinely loves this band.
Kelcey: there’s no PR campaign – there’s no press release that they’re copying and pasting from.

FFS: What do you think of the ubiquitous comparisons you’re getting to Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire? Is that flattering or irritating?
Kelcey: It’s extremely flattering…
Matt: Those are all great bands so it’s awesome that we’re getting compared to great musicians.   It’s the wording – as long as it’s comparisons and not “they’re a  rip off”. I mean people are always looking for something familiar to latch on to to compare someone to when they’re introducing new  music and the harmony thing’s so people latch onto Fleet Foxes. We want to be known for being unique and doing our own thing not just holed into this group of bands.
Ryan: I’m confident that if people give the record a chance they’ll see that those comparisons only work so far, to get you to listen to a new band cos you’re like oh I like those band so I’ll check them out..  but when they listen they’re like “I see maybe, but there’s so much more going on here…”
FFS: It’s a nice set of bands.
Kelcey: at least it’s not like they sound like Paramore
Matt: It’s a pretty solid three

FFS: what was the best thing that happened to you in 2009?
Taylor: My favourite show was playing Latitude.  There’s this smaller stage that’s in the woods
Kelcey: It’s called the Sunrise stage, that’s the name of the stage
Taylor: It’s a really gorgeous backdrop and it’s quite beautiful and it was our last show on our first trip over here and we were kind of axious that no-one was going to be there. And we started playing and the tent just started to fill up and by the 2nd or 3rd song it was really full and for me it was a landmark, exciting moment. Just for me personally at least.
Ryan: I’d definitely say that. That whole weekend was amazing.

FFS: So you’ve got more touring lined up for 2010
Matt: Yeah we’re going to go straight all next year.
Ryan: This year’s been crazy right but next year’s even more…
Matt: We love touring, you know some bands are like ‘oh you have to tour’ and who knows maybe it changes after you’ve toured for three years, but we all genuinely love touring and travelling.
FFS: But when you’re touring for a really long stretch don’t you miss the folks back home?
Kelcey: I miss everybody’s girlfriends!
Matt: Yeah we’re all still getting used to the whole being away thing, I guess you kind of learn as you go. We’re all really excited and our girlfriends and families are all really supportive. So it’s great to have those people back home cheering us on.

Local Natives are touring the UK in February, playing Bristol Thekla on 24th Feb, Nottingham Rescue Rooms on 25th, Brighton Concorde II on 26th, Leeds Brundenell on 27th, Norwich Arts Centre on 28th, London Heaven on 2nd March, Birmingham Academy 3 on 3rd, Manhester Club Academy on 4th, Glasgow King Tuts on 5th, Newcastle Academy 2 on 6th, Dublin Academy 2 on 10th and Belfast Limelight on 11th.

Their debut album Gorilla Manor is amazing, and out now. Don’t take our word for it, though. Listen on Spotify, then go and buy it from your local independent record store.

You can find the band on twitter if you’re that kind of folk-fan: @localnatives.

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