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Local Natives make soaring, sky-scraping harmonies, dreamy orchestral melodies, and throbbing tribal beats that bash their way into your soul. Theirs are songs you can dance to almost as well as you can swoon to them. Drawing a line from the vocal stylings of Crosby Stills Nash & Young and the Zombies through the more esoteric edges of post-punk and Afro-beat, this California five piece have communally crafted a brand of indie rock all their own.
For Local Natives everything is a collaboration, from song writing duties to the band’s self produced artwork. The three part harmonies come courtesy of keyboardist Kelcey Ayer, guitarists Ryan Hahn and Taylor Rice. Then there’s Matt Frazier on drums and Andy Hamm on bass, who look after the band’s equally impressive graphics and artwork.
One of SXSW 2009’s biggest success stories, the band drove for two days to get from Los Angeles to Austin in order to play nine spectacular shows that saw them sprinting, instruments in hand, from one gig to the next. Their hectic schedule paid off as Local Natives left Austin with the attention of the UK music Industry.
Based in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, three of the five-piece originally hail from Orange County. Kelcey, Ryan and Taylor attended neighboring high schools and hooked up with bassist Andy a year after they graduated, later meeting drummer Matt. They’ve been playing – and evolving - together for three years. Last year, however, the band realized that the new songs they were writing were the sounds of a new project entirely.
It was in December 2008 that the band decamped to Silver Lake, where they all live in the same house. But the Silver Lake digs isn’t the first house the band have shared. They lived together in Orange County too, in a place affectionately known as Gorilla Manor. “It was insanely messy and there were always friends over knocking around on guitars or our thrift store piano,” says Ryan, “it was an incredible experience and I’ll never forget that time.” The original Gorilla Manor, where the band wrote the majority of their record, had such an impact that the band has paid tribute to the house by naming their debut album in its honor.
The self-funded Gorilla Manor was recorded by Raymond Richards in West Los Angeles. Richards produced the record with Local Natives in his own Red Rockets Glare Studio.
Featuring twelve sumptuous slices of dappled California sunlight and beguiling percussive rhythms, the album kicks off with the moody, driving, ‘Wide Eyes’. Says Ryan, “It’s about people’s obsession with the miraculous and disastrous…with witnessing extraordinary events”. The effervescent, mandolin boasting ‘Airplanes’ follows, which Kelcey explains is about “longing to have met my grandfather, a great man and pilot, who died before I was born.” Also included is the glorious ‘Sun Hands’, which was released as a limited edition single on Chess Club back in July. According to Taylor, the lyrics describe “that all too familiar feeling of wanting what you can’t have – especially when you once had it.” There’s a cover version in the mix too, a barely recognizable version of Talking Heads’ ‘Warning Sign’. “We’ve basically flipped the song on its head,” says Matt, explaining how they switched David Byrne’s original yelped vocals into a beautiful three-part harmony.