Up-and-coming indie starlings Local Natives will bring their sweet melancholic folk to Harrah’s South Shore Room April 13. If you haven’t heard of the Los Angeles-based group, do your homework. You won’t regret it.
Frontman Taylor Rice, keyboarist Kelcey Ayer, guitarist Ryan Hahn and drummer Matt Frazier make up the four-piece. Their most recent album, “Hummingbird,” has set the band up on a solid platform of new sounds for their nation-wide tour.
The new album, their second after 2010’s “Guerilla Manor,” received rave reviews from top music outlets like SPIN.com, Pitchfork and Entertainment Weekly. Many of their dates, not including their South Shore stop, are sold out. And the band is hardly remiss on the summer’s many festival lineups. It’s going to be a great year for these guys.
Guitarist Ryan Hahn took a few minutes to speak with Lake Tahoe Action from his hotel room in Tulsa, Okla.
How’s the tour been so far?
It has been amazing. It’s been a few months now so I like to think we’re in the middle of it. We’re basically going to be on tour all year. We’re enjoying it so far.
What are some of the differences between this tour and the tour for your first album, “Gorilla Manor?”
Now it’s great to be able to play two albums of material. I think it’s nice to have people recognize some of the songs and sing along more. I think there is a lot more confidence in everyone’s playing and maybe a bit more professionalism. We’ve grown to really like touring and I think we’re getting into a nice groove with it.
So you’re not sleeping on strangers’ hardwood floors anymore?
I guess that should be the first thing I should of realized. We’re not doing that anymore. It had its time and place and I’m really glad we did it. But I’m actually talking to you from a hotel room. It’s a nice change.
Are you happy with the way “Hummingbird” has been received?
I’m actually thrilled with it. I think it’s always great when people who listen to your music can kind of join you on that journey of pushing yourself, challenging yourself and doing something different.
Already, though the album has only been out for two months, people are singing along to the new songs. That’s always pretty mind-blowing. So, yeah, we’ve been really happy with it.
Do the album’s great reviews put a lot of pressure on the band to perform?
I don’t think the external pressures factor in as much as our own personal drive. Everyone always wants to move forward. There are multiple songwriters in our band so we’re all constantly trying to impress each other.
That’s the main thing with the new album. We all wanted to feel like we’re growing. There is a bit of ‘we want to do better than the first record.’ But, in that regard, we did try really hard to drown out the external pressures.
The first record seemed to be built on the happy friendship the band shared. How have your relationships with each other changed?
We still hang out an absurd amount even when we’re not doing band stuff. We hang out when we’re at home. We’re still ridiculously collaborative. Every decision is voted on and each song is a joint, collaborative effort. But I think we’ve also grown up a lot.
We’ve realized each other’s strengths. And we’ve learned to rely on each other for different things. It’s that old cliché of feeling like you’re in a marriage. But, ya, I really do feel like we’re stronger than we’ve ever been as a group and as friends. It’s kind of been a really exciting new chapter for everyone. It really feels like we’re in a great place.
Your bassist parted ways with the band last year. Do you think you’ll ever work with another bassist?
I think it’s possible. Right now, we have someone touring with us. It’s been awesome. I think it’s just a matter of time and kind of seeing what happens. We’re open to it.
How was recording in New York rather than your hometown of Los Angeles?
We’d all spent some time on the East Coast, but had never lived there for an extended period. We all definitely call the West Coast home. We wrote everything in California, we spent 10 months writing it in California. When it came time to record it, (moving to New York) just kind of made sense.
(Producer Aaron Dessner) had a studio in his backyard. It was kind of an easy decision. The setup was really relaxed. We lived in (Dessner’s) house. It was just a short walk to go to the studio. The atmosphere was great. We could walk around the neighborhood and go get coffee or go to a park to clear our heads. It didn’t feel like the city.
But it was interesting being away from home for so long. The place was so different than California. But I think we all enjoyed being out of our element a little. It helped us to try a bunch more stuff and put us out of our creative comfort zone.
Were you able to get your Mexican food fix out there?
No, we weren’t. You really can’t find it anywhere else. We tried to get some in Tulsa yesterday and it just wasn’t the same.
Where did the name “Hummingbird” come from?
It came from a lyric in the song “Colombia.” That song has a very personal connection for Kelcey. When it came time to name the record, it kind of just fit.
(The album) has this dichotomy where some moments are just fragile and sparse and delicate, but at the same time it has more bombastic and frenzied moments. We just liked that imagery of a hummingbird beating its wings thousands of times a second and just always having to be on the move.
Part of album’s success seems due to its subtlety. Does the record’s subtleties happen intentionally or is that something that appeared naturally?
All of our favorite records are ones that reward you with repeated listenings. You can kind of peal back layers and dive deeper each time. They reveal themselves slowly. I think with this record, we didn’t want to repeat ourselves.
A lot of the songs on “Gorilla Manor” kind of hit you over the head. They’re more immediate and kind of on the surface. I think with this record we wanted to spend more time crafting different tones and making sure you could sit down with it with headphones and find a lot interesting things. Lyrically, we wanted to dive deeper. Musically, the drumbeats and everything are crafted differently.
It does ask more of somebody to sit down and pay attention to it. I hope it does offer and reveal more the more you listen to it.
What can we look forward to from Local Natives?
We’re always working on stuff. One of our goals is to write more on tour. Even just yesterday Kelcey was showing me some new music. And I’ve been working some new stuff. We just want to keep growing and working on different stuff. It is a little early to think about record three, but I can guarantee it will be something new and different.