story / Anne Walls
photo/ Bryan Sheffield
Additional Reporting by Christopher Weintrob
You’ve heard this tale before: the breakout band with the melodies and lyrics that catch on like wildfire are pressured to put out an “even better” sophomore album and they choke. Or phone it in. Or worst of all, issue a collection of remixes.
But the boys of Southern California-based Local Natives are writing a new ending to this tale. It goes something like this: the critically-acclaimed band holes up in their Los Angeles bungalow, writing and creating while at the same time going through some profoundly dark days, both as a band and individually, before teaming up with a prolific producer who also happens to be front man of The National, and together this group of long-time friends puts out a rich, complex, and weighty sophomore album.
Like that ending? Good, because that’s exactly what happened for Taylor Rice and the boys of Local Natives. The band’s second record, Hummingbird, is a masterpiece; a lush, emotional, mature collection of songs about heartbreak, elation, and all the places in between.
Ladygunn sat down with singer/guitarist Taylor Rice to talk about growing up in SoCal, playing the Walt Disney Music Hall, and where to find the most perfect sand in the world.
You’re known as an “LA band,” but how do you think growing up in Orange County has affected your sound? As a fellow OC kid, I know growing up there always made me feel like I was fighting against a lot of preconceived notions about myself.
TAYLOR RICE: Orange County is a pretty severe bubble. I actually really loved growing up there; it’s sort of a suburban paradise for a kid, but it can be challengingly narrow. That’s part of what united Kelcey, Ryan, and I about living there together. Musically, we were super into the punk scene and At the Drive In was our favorite band.
How would you describe the role of [The National’s] Aaron Dessner in the making of Hummingbird? I know he plays on some tracks, but as far as the dynamic of the band – was his role restricted to being a producer of the music, or did he also take on a mentoring-type role?
TR: Aaron was great as a very capable soundboard and friend. What made working with him go so well is his understanding of band dynamic and ego, having to deal with that himself for so long. He never tried to push us anywhere and always let us hold the reigns, but since we respect him as a songwriter and an all-around super awesome dude who’s gone through what we’re going through, he did take on a mentor-type role at times.
The new album has a different production feel than Gorilla Manor. Was this something you intentionally set out to do, or was this develop during the recording of the album?
TR: We built out our own studio in Silverlake where we wrote and recorded for about 8 months before going to Brooklyn. During that time is when we experimented and found the space and sound of Hummingbird. Aaron [Dessner] is a genius in the studio, and we learned so much from him about how to record.
Your sound seems somewhat removed from many of the other bands coming out of SoCal these days like No Age, Wavves, Best Coast, and others with a more punk-derived sound. How do you feel like your sound reflects your geography, especially in contrast to these other bands?
The first music I ever remember hearing was a cassette tape of The Beach Boys in my dad’s Volvo. Growing up in Southern California, listening to harmony bands ended up sticking with us more than the punk/hardcore phase we all went through in high school.
What was it like playing with LA Symphony for the shows in 2011 at the Wall Disney Concert Hall? Did that experience influence the songwriting and sound of the new record?
TR: That was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I went to college at UCLA and took an architecture course my senior year that led us on a trip to the Disney Concert Hall. I fell in love with it first as a building, and then got to hear a master organist practicing inside, and I couldn’t breathe. So, it was essentially the fulfillment of my life dream. But we actually stayed away from when writing Hummingbird. We have all the sheet music that we wrote though, so maybe we’ll bring the orchestra back again sometime.
Did you guys like living in Brooklyn while you were recording?
TR: I love Brooklyn. Where else can you find so many poor artists paying so much rent for such a tiny allotment of space? You’ve got to have a lot of drive and nerve to live there, which I’m attracted to. We stayed pretty holed up in Ditmas Park, at Aaron’s house. The neighborhood has a real family vibe. We’d eat at The Farm on Adderley every day, go to Sycamore Bar to hang, and be at Aaron or his siblings’ houses. All those locations were within a two-minute walk.
If you could do whatever you wanted for a day – I mean you were completely and utterly limitless – what would you do?
TR: Go to Tulum, Mexico. We went there for a tour and I fell in love a little bit. It has amazing food, a really bright moon, and perfect sand. That place is magic.
North American Tour Dates
09/20/13 Royal Oak, MI @ Royal Oak Music Theatre*
09/21/13 Toronto, ON @ Kool Haus*
09/23/13 Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live*
09/24/13 New York, NY @ Terminal 5*
9/25/12 New York, NY @ Terminal 5 #
09/27/13 Montreal, QC @ Metropolis*
09/28/13 Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory*
09/30/13 Atlanta, GA @ The Tabernacle*
10/01/13 Birmingham, AL @ Iron City*
10/02/13 New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina’s Uptown*
10/04-6/13 Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Music Festival
10/06/13 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom*
10/07/13 Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom *
10/08/13 Dallas, TX @ House of Blues*
10/09/13 Houston, TX @ House of Blues*
10/11-13/13 Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Music Festival
* with Wild Nothing
# with Lucius