An Interview with Kelcey Ayer and Matt Frazier of Local Natives (13/02/13)

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We caught up with Kelcey Ayer and Matt Frazier of Local Natives before their Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms show to discuss the new album, production, food, and a whole lot of T.V. (mostly removed for your benefit).

Jan: So, Fallon, I just saw that. How was that?

Kelcey: Really, really great.

Jan: You just kind of jumped up there, I wasn’t really expecting that.

Kelcey: They don’t promote it that much, it’s usually just on the internet the day after and people kind of see it.

Jan: When was your music video [for Heavy Feet]released?

Matt: This morning, no, yesterday! I lost track of days.

Jan: What was behind the music video [shown at the bottom]?

Kelcey: It was this guy, Ben Reed, that pitched the idea, and it was the most intriguing one we had submitted.

Jan: How did he pitch that to you?

Kelcey: Really well actually, he told the whole story.
Matt: We all thought it was a true story, the way he pitched it he had done fact checking and it was really in depth and this whole thorough story. We totally bought it even though he totally made it up. We really liked his treatment.

Jan: How did you guys find the upgrade after ‘Gorilla Manor’? If you guys want to call it that. I saw a Prophet 08 out there. Was that a moogerfooger I saw out there as well?

Kelcey: No, just the Prophet 08, and my Nord stage 2, and the Korg microsampler… yeah we’ve got extra-
Matt: We just kind of expanded a little bit on what we already had.

Jan: Is that something you guys really wanted to do, or ‘okay let’s do more stuff now’?

Matt: Just trying new instruments, and when writing we thought ‘this stuff is working’, and it just sort of happened that way. It wasn’t ‘we have to get this!’ It was natural.

Jan: How was it working with Aaron Dessner [Producer, and member of The National], did he change the dynamic at all? I know you guys have a very team based approach to writing, how did that change when Aaron came into the mix. I know you guys were friends.

Kelcey: Sure. We weren’t super close, but we were close enough to feel comfortable asking if he wanted to help out, and he was great at having one foot in the creative process and one foot out so he gave us some perspective. We often overthink things, so he helped us step back and see the forest for the trees and say ‘don’t worry about this mistake, it’s awesome, leave it in.’
There are parts I wanted to change and now looking back it works so well.
We respected his opinion so it was cool having him around to bounce ideas off of.

Jan: This is a bit of a controversial question, but what would you guys say to the people who have mentioned your influences maybe being detrimental, because I know that could be very annoying.

Kelcey: Which influences?

Jan: There are comparisons that get thrown out, just because of the producer people often immediately say ‘they were influenced by The National’

Kelcey: That’s probably the most annoying one
Matt: I think it’s just hard for people to separate the fact we worked with Aaron, they go into it with a different mind-set and nit-pick it. We wrote about 90% of the songs before.
Kelcey: Writing is the melodies and drum parts too, we had most of that written before we started working with Aaron. Aaron was really good with helping us finish that last 10% of the writing. His knowledge of different guitar tones, and from an engineering stand point, he’d just been doing it for so long that maybe the tones might be more similar, as he’s been producing The National stuff.

Jan: Yeah, it’s like if you look at Nigel Godrich, everything he produces sounds dense and gets compared to Radiohead.

Kelcey: People are going to say what they’re going to say, and there’s nothing we can do. It’s annoying but yeah. We knew going into it we were going to get that sort of blow back, but after a while I think that’s going to die down and the songs will show for themselves because we put a lot of time into this and we’re really proud of it. It’s not a National rip off or something like that.

Jan: I know that when you guys played in London there were some impromptu showings

Matt: Yeah we did one in Hoxton Square, and we just tweeted it out that afternoon

Tom: I saw the one in France where you were on a merry-go-round. That was amazing. ‘Airplanes’ maybe?

Kelcey: Yeah, it was ‘Wide Eyes’ for la blogotheque.

Tom: So are you planning on doing anything like that again soon?

Kelcey: Yeah, we’re always writing smaller acoustic versions of the songs and we have a bunch of them for this record. We actually did a blogotheque session, one of those ones where it’s like a concert in front of people… I don’t know what they’re called?
Matt: It’s a French phrase, but the translation is ‘pocket party’.
Kelcey: So we did one of those and that’s coming out pretty soon. We always love doing stuff outside and spontaneous shit.
[The video has since been released and can be found here]

Tom: Okay. Tourism and travelling often show up in the lyrics. What are your feelings towards that, do they influence your writing much?

Kelcey: Yeah, we always write about experience and what we’ve been through, so that definitely has its place. It’s mainly travelling through touring so you just pick up little bits along the way from different cities you get to experience. It’s hard because you don’t get to experience the actual city as much as you’d like because all you know about it is maybe the venue and a place you ate at next to the venue. It’s hard.

Tom: Have you had a favourite venue or setting you’ve played?

Kelcey: Umm, I like that question better than ‘favourite city’, so I’m glad you asked it.
Favourite venue…

Tom: Or any kind of setting, a festival even.

Kelcey: Well actually the very first festival we ever did anywhere was Latitude, and that was one of my favourite ones, because, I don’t know, my wife is all about being green and recycling, so that whole thing is there and that’s cool. But the setting is really beautiful, it’s all foresty.
Tom: Yeah, they have a stage set up in the woods
Kelcey: That’s the one that we played, in the middle of the woods.
Matt: It was awesome.
Kelcey: Really cool. I really loved that festival. What about a venue that you really liked a lot? I always think of the Rotunde in Brussels
Matt: Shepherd’s Bush Empire we’ve played a couple of times and that’s a pretty memorable experience.
Kelcey: A beautiful theatre, it’s amazing. Recently we did The Fox Theatre in Oakland, that place was really amazing. It was a theatre in the ‘40s and it closed in like ’68, then about 40 years later they renovated it and started doing shows again, it’s really cool there.

Jan: A few alternative questions, just because we have to. Favourite animal.

Kelcey: I bet you’d love for us to say gorilla, WELL IT’S NOT MY FAVOURITE!
Jan: I was not expecting that at all
Kelcey: Well it’s not… I love the idea of an albatross, a giant bird.
Matt: A giant squid.
Tom: That’s pretty scary.
Jan: What, an albatross?
Tom: No, the squid. The albatross is pretty formidable though, it just spends all its time over the ocean.
Kelcey: Yeah, it can go for miles and miles without landing, it’s crazy man.

Jan: The first thing you guys do when you get to the UK is…

[Kelcey is holding something back, grinning]
Matt: What were you gonna say?
Kelcey: Well… we really like GBK, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, it’s like a chain of burgers. It was the first good meal that we had here.
Matt: It’s not that it’s mesmerising or anything, it’s just that it’s nostalgic for us because the first time we ever came out here it was right around the corner from where we were staying and we stumbled across it. There are some outside of London.
Jan: Objectively though, how good is it?
Kelcey: It is really good! It’s a really good burger.
Matt: I don’t know if it’s travel worthy though.
Kelcey: It’s a really good burger, it’s a good ordering system. It’s not the best burger on the planet, but it’s okay.
Tom: So where’s your favourite place on the planet?
Kelcey: We’re always thinking of Paseo in Seattle.
Matt: There’s this place in Seattle, there’s this hole in the wall, and they make these pulled pork Cuban sandwiches. They’re incredible. We’ll make a point and drive out the way to get them whenever we can. It’s the kind of place that’s only open for hours and don’t really give a fuck.
Kelcey: Sometimes they’re closed-
Matt: Or they run out of sandwiches, but when you do get it it’s so worth it.

Jan: On tour, what’s a T.V. show or a movie that you guys can sit around, or something you do often on tour to kick back and relax.

Kelcey: Well, the relaxing one is for us all to just watch Seinfeld.
Jan: You guys just went up. In the UK they just don’t get it. If I’m to reference anything they just look at me funny.
Kelcey: Don’t be discouraged!
Jan: I keep trying, but they keep putting me down.
Kelcey: You have ones you really like that I don’t really get.
Jan: They don’t know who Fallon is either, which perplexed me because I love SNL, but then I just went through talk show hosts from the states… Conan? No idea.
Kelcey: It’s not a part of the culture at all over here, right? I mean, there’s Jools Holland, Zane Lowe.
Tom: Yeah, Zane Lowe is radio. There are only a couple of shows on T.V. where music is a heavy feature.
Kelcey: We were over in the states, it was like early 2009, and somebody was like ‘Zane Lowe’s gonna play your song!’ and we were like ‘Who the fuck is Zane Lowe?’
Tom: You did a 6music live session with Lauren Laverne for Hummingbird. How was that? I like her show.
Kelcey: Yeah, she was cool! Really nice. It sounded good I think.
Matt: Yeah, they’ve been really good to us, so I’m stoked to do that stuff. Back to the things we watch, everyone except for Ryan is super into Breaking Bad.
Kelcey: Yes!
Jan: Yes!
Tom: Yes!
Jan: You guys finished it?
Matt: We’re all caught up.
Kelcey: It’s so genius how they string along the story line between Walter and Hank.
Jan: It’s not like the person is blissfully unaware. In this show it just makes sense he wouldn’t know.
Kelcey: Right. He’s the least likely suspect. And the…
*removed for spoilers*
Right out of nowhere! Damn. We’ll see how he ends it. It’s gonna be awesome.

Tom: I hate to break the flow but I’ve actually got one more question. This goes back to your first album, you said that you really wanted to make sure it sounded great live. Hummingbird is a lot more experimental. Are there any songs which are hard to replicate live?

Kelcey: We’ve actually been able to successfully pull off every song.

Matt: The only one that was kind of an oddball, I think, would be for me, personally, was ‘Three Months’, because it’s all drum samples that Ryan pieced together from old Mo Town songs, so interpreting that into a live setting was interesting. It’s all on the SPDS pad, it’s like loops playing the loops. It’s a fun experience. It’s a little awkward, but we’ve got it now.

Tom: Has that changed the way you interpret and perform any of the songs from ‘Gorilla Manor’?

Kelcey: We haven’t really changed too much, just small tiny things.
Matt: More like atmosphere, nothing crazy.
Jan: On your first album you had almost no reverb, it sounded fresh.
Kelcey: Yeah, we wrote all of the songs in a room together, and that’s how we recorded them. This time around we wanted to throw that idea out and worry about the record and not worry about live.
Tom: I think that’s a good way to go about it.
Kelcey: Yeah, because it’s such a different beast live. Some things recorded don’t work out so well live and you change it anyway, so you’re adapting live anyway.

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