Visiting the Local Natives

The Local Natives are slowly taking over the world. As I catch drummer Matt Frazier in Atlanta, Georgia, they are 8 months into their tour starting from January, with the release of their second album Hummingbird. “We’re playing here tonight actually,” Frazier notes as we make introductions, “it’s all going really good. We had a little time off back in L.A., but we’re back on the road again.” From big summer festivals to smaller theatre gigs, 2013 has been hectic for the band but they’re not looking back. Their sophisticated indie sound and thick vocal harmonies have taken them around the world and back home again. As they prepare for their October tour in the UK, I speak to Frazier about their touring schedule, the gigs they’ve played so far and their changes in style from Gorilla Manor to Hummingbird.

I asked Frazier how he and the other band members were feeling about their UK tour. “We’re excited! This summer we were bouncing all over the place, so we’re looking forward to a proper Local Natives headline tour. Some of the venues in the UK look amazing. We’re bringing out a band called Cloud Control for our support as well.” Cloud Control are an Australian band from Sydney, who’s dreamy weave of psychedelic pop and synthesised keyboards seems well placed for a Local Natives support slot. Their gigs around the UK take place in some broad range of big and small towns, and the band are looking forward to the contrasts this will bring. “Small town versus big town crowds, that’s something I’ve noticed a lot. Once you get into the major cities I always expect crowds to be really mellow. They won’t be as enthusiastic as the small town crowds, where bands don’t play too much.

“I remember the first time we were in Atlanta at a show four years ago. It’s not a big draw for bands like New York is, but the energy in the crowd was so insane! So loud, so over the top, it was just incredible. It’s such an overwhelming experience when shows are like that.”

While on the subject of great gigs, I ask Frazier if the band are looking forward to the Gathering Festival in Oxford on 19th October. “It looks to be a great night, we’re excited to play that festival.” Local Natives headline alongside London Grammar, and have such supports as To Kill a King, Jay Brown and Pyyramids.

Compared to some of their festival slots this summer, the Gathering must look pretty small in comparison, but Frazier and the band don’t seem to mind that at all. “Huge or intimate shows are different things really, both good in their own way. Big festivals are amazing with the huge crowds, but the audience usually won’t be familiar with your music. You can make new fans, and the crowd is really energetic. But a smaller show, in a smaller theatre, is always rewarding. Maybe less rowdy a crowd, but they’re all focussed on the music and the set.”

The beginning of this year saw the release of Local Natives’ second album Hummingbird, the purpose of their tour this year. The album represented a change in approach in writing and recording. “It was very different this time around. We experimented more too, with recording something, looping it and playing back to that.” But even further than just the band’s approach to the album, they were at a completely different place than before the recording of Gorilla Manor. “For the first record, we had already been a band for four years and the majority of the songs were fleshed out already. We had been doing our shitty shows to like 5 or 50 people, and the songs had evolved from that. Everything was figured out ahead of time. But for Hummingbird, we had a smaller amount of time. We knew how the songs were to end up, and the experimenting led to a different sounding record for us.”

The record was produced by Aaron Dessner of The National, who Local Natives met whilst on tour together. I asked Frazier about their working relationship, and he was entirely enthusiastic about him.  “He was amazing! It was a no brainer- he’s from a collaborative band also, so knew when to push and pull us when we needed it.” Local Natives’ sound has been compared to The National, as well as to bands like Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire. While this wasn’t the reason Dessner worked with the band, Frazier didn’t see it as shallow praise. “They’re all amazing bands, so at least we’re not being compared to bands we don’t like.”

With the tour in full swing, I asked Frazier how they react whenever a crowd sing their songs back at them at shows. “That’s something that never gets old, it’s always really awesome. People still care and are liking what we do, so that’s always a plus.” Touring is such a buzz for the band, and Frazier admits that it has always been a dream of the band’s to get a worldwide headlining tour. But, he’s looking forward to time to focus on their next work. “You don’t get to be so creative on the road. You don’t have time to sit down in a studio to work on things. This year has been awesome with the tour, but I’m excited for next year. Slowing down and getting back into the studio, and just standing still for a minute.”

I thank Frazier for his time and wonder where the band will be in 5 years’ time. With two acclaimed albums and a massive tour this year, they could really go anywhere they want to. Frazier and the rest of the band are enthusiastic about their careers and have every right to be. Continuing at this magnitude, they really can take over the world.