Local Natives' Taylor Rice reflects on his band's newfound success

Photo by Kyle Johnson

Local Natives are like a fine German automobile; their musical success has gone from 0 to 60 without so much as blinking an eye.

Turning up the majority of their success at last year's SXSW, the Los Angeles natives did what every emerging band attempts in the sweaty streets of Austin -- they got noticed. Noticed for their oozing harmonics and shaky rhythms, and noticed for their sincerity to soldier through this fine industry with genuine appreciation for good music. And they've leaped into our hearts, as well. Wasn't it only four months ago they played the 400 Bar? Now they're coming back to headline the Mainroom at First Avenue this Friday, October 1.

Bearing substantial success internationally, the rest of us have finally caught on to the Local Natives. Their sound is well kept, with layered guitars, synthy soothing sounds and delicate lyrics. Their folk-pop dynamic is refreshing yet classic, as with their cover of the Talking Head's "Warning Sign."

Gimme Noise had a chance to speak with Taylor Rice of Local Natives as they make their way toward the Twin Cities.

Will you be heading out to SXSW again this year, and do you think you'll need to? It seems at this point you've obtained quite a bit of success already.

No, we're doing ACL [Austin City Limits] though.

You moved up rather quickly from SXSW to ACL.

Definitely, we did SXSW the past two years, and we did nine shows in three days, both years I think. Both South By's were extremely important for us.

Any plans for a new album? I know you're on tour, and we've already got Gorilla Manor... but we're starting to get impatient!

Well you may have to be a little bit patient -- I have no idea how we're going to finalize this. The way that we write, does take some time to finalize. We all have tons of ideas; we've been writing a lot individually on the road. The schedule has been so intense, it's really important for us to all collaborate together, and that's what I think makes our music a little bit, or at least our writing process, different from a lot of bands. If I bring a song to the table, the band will listen to it probably eight times, analyze it and remold. It's a process that none of us will be able to do on our own.

The plan is, we have two tours left; we're doing a headlining tour this fall and that ends in New York in October. Then we go to Europe for one last tour, so by the end of the year, we're going to go home finally, and maybe play the occasional shows. But really dig in and start sharing our ideas and pull up again and really get going on the second album.

Do you guys still own Gorilla Manor, and is that where you guys will head back to when you start recording again?

No not really, the original "Gorilla Manor" was actually in Orange, [CA]. It was the first place we moved into together, and that's where we wrote most of the record. That was a huge turning point for the band; I think that was in 2008. And then we all moved up to LA together, and the Gorilla Manor spirit moved to this house, this is where the last few members moved out. But we've literally been on the road for a year... So we haven't discussed what exactly what we're going to do yet, but like I said it is important that we do it together so there is a slight possibility we'll consider something like that. I know we're going to need a home-base, which we'll spend a lot of time in; all of us in, writing together.

What are your memories of playing the 400 Bar back in May?

I will never forget -- the hottest show in my entire life. I think everyone had to throw away their clothes at the end of that show. It was amazing, we packed that place to the gills. It was awesome, I remember the backstage area is like underneath, kind of the stage of this whole basement. The chorus is going on and we're hearing people stomping, and just the energy was so awesome there. We really love going to Minneapolis, and I can't wait for the next show.

It's really good that the fans here got to see you in that intimate setting, as sweaty as it was. And now you're coming back and you're playing the Mainroom at First Avenue.

We've been doing festivals all summer in Europe, so we've been doing huge stages and it's obviously so different, and it's just like "Oh yeah, but going on after you is the National"... And that's your crowd. When we saw these venues that we were playing, our jaws just kind of dropped open, like awestruck we couldn't really believe that we'd be playing this big show. So yeah, there is a part of me that will miss the sweaty club, but I am also excited to be playing a legendary thing like First Ave; it's an amazing experience.  

You guys blew up fast, how does that make you feel? Worried it will fizzle out?

It's definitely been a fast ride, I don't think it's often that a band goes from headlining shows like the 400 Bar to First Ave that fast. But actually for us it has been a little bit of a longer journey, especially with the nature of our band. We've just had the support, especially with blogs. That's really where it started being spread, and we've really had NPR stations helpful for a while. And so I think while it has spread fast, it's been very gradual for us. We've been on the road for a year and half, and that's where it feels gradual for us. But I think our fans are our real fans -- and it feels like our audience is growing, and people aren't just coming out to the shows because they heard of us as the next coolest thing. I think they're coming out because they really like the music.

What is "Who Knows, Who Cares" really about?

That song is a very just hard song for me personally. It's one that I originally wrote; it's actually the second oldest song on the album. "Sun Hands" is the oldest, and after that is "Who Knows, Who Cares." I actually wrote that song before we all moved to that house in Orange County. And it was just about everyone being on the cusp of really wanting to make this dream of pursuing our music work, and I and everyone in the band felt that we found people that we really loved to collaborate with, and we thought that we found something really special, moving in together and giving it everything we had. And not having any money for food, or anything; it was a sense of liberating and a feeling of giving up. I had just finished up college, and all of my friends were going off and starting new jobs that they were all excited about and I couldn't afford food.

So it was all about making that decision, that leap of faith I guess. That kind of cliché of trusting in what you want to do, and what you're passionate about.  What's cool, it's so surreal to play it, because it's written from a place that's kind of hoping that that stupid decision would pay off. And I've played that song in Japan and all over Europe and it's taken our music and not just that song obviously, but all of our music has taken us so far this last year. This is a really amazing feeling to be doing it, and we actually just filmed the music video for "Who Knows, Who Cares" over the past few days, so I'm really excited.

LOCAL NATIVES play with the Love Language and Union Line tomorrow night, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1, at FIRST AVENUE. 18+. $15. 8 p.m.

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