Interview: Local Natives

Features, Interviews, Local Natives — By on September 7, 2010 2:09 pm

I re-he-heally hope that Andy from Local Natives has a Bluetooth, because if not, we were breaking
the law together today, and not in a cool way you want to tell people about when you’re drinking. In a
ticket-getting way.

I got to chat with Andy Hamm, bassist, vocalist, writer, percussionist, etc. etc. etc…(more on that later)
of Local Natives, a folk-ish (although he says that they don’t necessarily consider themselves folk. “I
think every time someone hears a three part harmony, they automatically consider it folk…we’re kind
of all over the place…and still learning what our sound is.”) band based out of LA on the phone today
while he was driving. He kept it together pretty well, and I never heard sirens, so I’m pretty sure he had
a Bluetooth.

Based on popular media, urban legend and stuff I heard from my cousin’s friends, I was under
the impression that Local Natives basically magically became popular overnight, so when Andy
told me it was “actually sort of the opposite,” I was initially surprised. Then he told me how they
actually hit it big, and I’m here to tell you is actually was sort of magical, even if it wasn’t overnight.

The band had been writing and playing for a few years, trying to make their way, and at the point that
it all came to a head, Andy “…was working full time, a couple of guys were in school, another guy was
working full time,” and they were “not happy with solutions from other people…you know, promotions
and other industry crap.” So they decided to move to LA and totally take control of their own destinies.
“We’re a total DIY band,” Andy says, “…online, blogs, artwork…” they basically own it. The bad had
a collection of songs, many of which ended up on their debut album, Gorilla Manor, they decided to
quit jobs and school, they played the “right shows,” and sent their music to the “right people” (he just
said “right,” and I didn’t ask what he meant, because, I mean, they obviously were “right”—look at
them now!), and here they are, just a few years later. So Andy may say “we really got lucky,” but to
me…magic. Basically every guy I went to high school with was in a band that tried to make this happen,
but it didn’t work out for them like it did for Local Natives.

At this point, Andy said something that I could not understand, then “Sorry…I’m driving.” I get it. I’d like
to think he was rushing to some super important recording session just so I could say I was a part of that
drive right before they recorded that song that was THE BIGGEST SONG!!!!, but it was probably to get a
breakfast burrito. It was sort of early.

Another piece of Local Native lore that I’d heard is that they’re really, really collaborative. Not like “we
have a band of five, and everyone is a part of the band!” collaborative…like “everyone does everything
for every song” collaborative. And that is also true. “Yeah, we definitely do it all together…everybody
has a hand in it.” Andy described their creative process just as that—someone comes to the table with
one piece (lyrics, a chord progression, a melody) and from there, they work it out until they have a song.
“It’s like we all have a stake in it…it really increases the level of accomplishment…” since everyone is
involved. At this point, Andy asked “Do you want me to go in here?,” and once I realized he wasn’t talking
to me, I imagined they had just arrived at the super important recording session (or the burrito shop).

As always, I like to hear the stories behind my favorite songs, and I wasn’t disappointed when I asked
about how World News came about. “Actually, it started off almost as a joke,” Andy remembered.
“Kelsey [Ayer, vocalist, keyboard and more] wrote those lyrics,” and they had a melody that Andy
described as “uppity” and like “circus music…” In fact, “I think we called it Circus Time at first.” After
trying to figure out where they were going with the song, they took it into the studio, and Kelsey, Andy
and Matt Frazier (the usual percussionist), were all on drums, and “that’s when we really got it.”

And that really seems to sum up Local Natives—they each bring their own ideas to the table, laugh
about it for a while, take it to the studio, and something amazing comes out. I have a feeling that they
won’t be playing the side tents at festivals for long.

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