While knee-deep in their current European tour, The Edge chats with Local Native’s Kelcey Ayer about the trials of touring, DIY albums, working with The National and confusing music journalists.
How’s the current European tour going?
We just got here (Norway) yesterday and I think in the last three weeks I’ve been in Europe, Japan, then Chicago and then back here, so I don’t think my brain or body knows how to feel. I want to get into a sleep schedule but I just haven’t stayed in one place. But we’re staying here for two weeks so that’s good.
Are there any dates you’re looking forward to in particular?
I think a huge one we’re looking forward to playing is Brixton (O2 Academy) – we actually got to play there once in 2009. I remember we were used to playing really small clubs and doing stuff on the fly at that point. But we’d never had to deal with having to play in a five thousand capacity room where we actually have to deal with this giant echo back at us, and I remember the show being awful just because all I heard was Matt’s snare drum, so I was off the whole time, so the experience was just horrifying. But we’re going back now and we have learnt a lot since then and I think it’s going to be great.
You’re playing a lot of small, niche Festivals this year. Do you actively prefer playing them to larger ones?
I mean yeah, obviously when they have such large crowds, the big festivals are cool. But I think it is harder for them to have a real sense of individuality or something that sets them apart, because you definitely lose an amount of intimacy and give it up to have these massive stages. But these small niche festivals can exist in these places where they don’t have to hold one hundred-thousand people, and that lets you hold it somewhere like this tiny festival in Italy and there was like a twelve hundred year old clock-tower behind us. You just remember festivals like that a bit more.
What was it like to have everyone collaborate on every element of your debut ‘Gorilla Manor’?
It hasn’t even really changed, we still are such control freaks and I think whenever you’re talking to an artist they’re going to know how they want their thing to look or sound. So I think we’re happiest when we can do things ourselves and I don’t even know how we’d be able to get in an outside artist for our covers, because we have Matt and Ryan who are both really great graphic designers. I just think that we are so much more stoked that way. But the one thing we haven’t been able to create ourselves have been music videos because of the time and lack of knowledge. But in this record cycle we’ve taken a step in the right direction, because we’ve written two of the three that have been released.
Do you think a DIY album is the best way to go?
Well I think the DIY album is a really good ethos to have, I feel like the second you think that somebody’s going to do something for you or complete strides for you is when you fail, and if we wanted to get anything done we had to do it ourselves. It was really out of necessity; I think that everybody should be working off that ethos.
After Andy left the group in 2011, was building the new studio and recording a new album a way of getting a new start?
We didn’t live together anymore at that point and we weren’t working on new music. We’d moved out of the house we shared during Gorilla Manor. So we needed a headquarters and common space so we could start working on the next album, and that’s when we found this place in Silver Lake (LA) that we’ve been using ever since. Concerning Andy leaving, we would have needed to make the next move regardless.
How did it feel to work with The National’s Aaron Dessner? How did he influence Hummingbird?
I mean it would have been more intimidating if we’d just walked into a room and started working together, but he was a fan of our stuff and we were definitely fans of their music and they’d invited us on tour, so we had got to know them over a couple of weeks. It started off on a friendship, instead of having just a working relationship at the very beginning. Just having that common ground from hanging out together meant that it gelled pretty quickly, he felt like an older brother almost. But we have this tendency to look over every single detail and he would keep trying to instil in us that the album is done when it’s DONE. We could spend hours and hours working on this one part but he kept trying to get us to just record in the moment. We wouldn’t have had Ryan playing a guitar solo if he hadn’t really pushed for it, and I’m glad he did, because it’s sweet.
Your music has been described as psychedelic folk, would you agree with that label?
I definitely would not consider our music to be psychedelic folk, I mean people try to find ways to describe our music and we don’t make it easy. But the mission was never to have a specific sound, but I think it’s always great for a laugh to see how people try to describe it.
Local Natives tour the UK this autumn, with a date at Southampton University Student’s Union on 29th October.