Ahead of their headline set at our very own Southampton University, I managed to have a quick chat with front man Taylor Rice of Local Natives. Here he explains how the band work best as a collaborative force, their upcoming tour and their writing process.
Does playing at Southampton remind you of your uni days?
I did walk around. I woke up and I didn’t know where I was and everybody had gone so I just took a walk around and saw all these students so yeah it does make me think of my college days.
Is it surreal coming back to that environment?
Yeah, I have pretty positive nostalgic feelings. I kind of miss it. In a way I maybe long for it.
Were you involved much with music at your college?
Not super specifically. Me and the guys have been playing since high school so we kept the band going all through college but not everybody went to the same college. I went to UCLA. It’s pretty crazy, I would commute three times a week to practise or we’d have shows. The band did play at some college events. I didn’t study music or anything though.
When you recorded your album you all lived together. Did you find that experience helped you to make better music?
You would think there would be times when you just need space but being in a band like ours… we’re really collaborative and during that time it was really awesome. Everybody was really excited. We’d been in a band for a while but we all just really wanted to do this and have this be our career. There wasn’t very much personal space but everybody was okay with that. It felt like this communal existence and we were all on the same page. We had the piano in the corner of the room and somebody would be jamming and someone would come over and join. We would play eight or ten hours a day. Our writing process would be that we’d either break off into small groups or alone and then come back together. It was a nice whirlwind of exchange.
For me, your signature sound is the use of your voices and the way you all create harmonies together. Is this something you work really hard on or is it a more natural process for you?
I think it’s both. It began for us in this natural way. We did really love a bunch of 60s harmony bands when we were in high school so that was an influence but also there are three of us that are song writers and we all wanted to sing and the only way we can do that is to all sing together. None of us really trained or anything I think we just found how our voices worked together by singing together over the course of eight years.
So, with your song writing is it a collective process?
It always starts out personally. Usually someone will come to the table with a song, usually a pretty skeletal structure. Then it goes into the band dynamic and then everybody starts getting their hands on it and pushing it so it just moulds into different directions. You feel very personal about your song and you don’t want somebody to take your vision or not take your vision the way that you want it to be seen. I feel that we learned that our band is at it’s best when we allow everyone to have their influences and take songs places that we didn’t think they would end up.
With you guys being so close, do you still get nervous bringing new songs to the table?
Yeah, it’s strange for us. We’re as close as people can be without being blood relatives. It still is a very fragile ego thing. Our band is definitely a balance of egos. There are absolutely fragile moments when we’re sharing with each other and you feel kind of vulnerable and naked out on a limb.
What do you take your inspiration from when writing?
I think from the emotional basis the writing for all of us tends to be very personal. We haven’t really been weaving narratives, it’s pretty direct from our lives. Definitely Hummingbird was no different. It’s a very personal record for us. It came out of this crazy time where we had experienced the most insane, wonderful joyful things, then there was also some really unexpected tragedy that was mixed in. The album was poled out of both ends that were vastly different sides of the spectrum emotionally.
So, you’re heading off on loads of different places on tour. What city are you most looking forward to playing at?
Amsterdam is a very special place for me because my sister lived there for several years. She’s married to a Dutch guy so I actually saw her in Amsterdam more than my family in California while we were touring for Gorilla Manor. I also got to celebrate my birthday there this year. We’re playing Paradiso and it’s this very old very famous epically beautiful theatre. We’ve always played the small room upstairs but now we’re playing in the big room which will be awesome.
Why did you decide to make the video for single ‘Ceilings’ a tour video?
We were originally making a music video and it fell apart in the last minute so the ‘Ceilings’ video was sort of a back up plan that we had. It was just all the moments in between the festival sets and all the summer shows so we all really loved it. On a tour video you normally see a band on stage doing their thing but in ours I don’t think you see any live footage of us. It’s a tiny little snapshot of what the festival season was like for us.
Have you been able to do any more writing whilst being on tour?
A little bit. It’s been better for writing this time than last. The transition from a van to a bus gives you a little bit more creative space. So that’s been good. The only problem is because of how collaborative we are we can’t really flesh out songs until we’re completely in our own element and we’re able to really work off each other outside of a couple of minutes of sound check. At the beginning of next year we’re gonna go back into our studio and get things going again. Everyone is very excited.
Do you find your songs develop and change when you’re touring and constantly playing them live?
We try to keep an open mind and always keep working on the set. If you look at the recorded versions compared to our live show the songs have definitely breathed a bit and taken on a life of their own. We try to let the live setting shape them as we tour.
Do you have a favourite song to play on tour?
It usually changes with the audience. Two songs that we weren’t playing really at all at the beginning are Mount Washington and Wooly Mammoth and now we play them together and its become one of the most fun parts of the set.
Do you enjoy doing acoustic sets?
Yeah definitely. It’s really rewarding and fun. We usually switch up the arrangement and try to do something different. We’ve done that with most of our songs now.
Local Natives are currently touring Europe.