When Revue got ahold of Local Natives' Taylor Rice, he was at home in Los Angeles, catching his breath after finding himself “caught in the vortex” of making the acclaimed indie band’s forthcoming new record.
It’s a change of pace for the band, which usually spends summers travelling nonstop on the festival circuit — drawing massive crowds at huge outings like Coachella and Lollapalooza — or jet setting to exotic locales all around the world in search of elusive inspiration.
This time around, the band decided to live up to its name by staying close to home. The members scaled back their touring schedule to just a small handful of special appearances (including headlining the Audiotree Music Festival in Kalamazoo on Sept. 22) and just focused on embracing being a band.
Known for the propulsive power of multi-part percussion and soul-lifting harmonies, Local Natives has earned near-universal accolades from the likes of Pitchfork, NPR, Rolling Stone and more. Together for more than a decade and going on four LPs, this marks the first time the band will have recorded at home since making its self-funded debut, Gorilla Manor, back in 2009.
“The vibe of the record is very L.A.,” Rice said of the band’s upcoming fourth LP. “(It has) a little bit of a ’70s jam band feel to it, just a little bit, for us. And we’re embracing some things about Local Natives — like the drums and big harmonies — that are core to us, but we don’t always put at the forefront. Those things we just let fly on this record.”
Having spent the majority of this year working on the new record, Rice added that’s he excited to start playing some of the new songs live, and hinted that the band might have time to rehearse a few before its show in West Michigan.
“In the studio, you’re creating this thing from your collective minds and sense of aesthetic, and you’re trying to capture so many things into a three-and-a-half or four or five minute song, and live, all of those considerations are gone,” Rice said of how audiences have helped shape the band’s unique path to success. “When we play in concert, the exchange and the communication between the band and the audience is the most important thing.
“There’s a song on our second record called Columbia, and it’s the emotional centerpiece of that record,” he added. “It’s a really emotional, cathartic song for the band, and we strip it way more down live. (Vocalist/keyboardist) Kelcey (Ayer) and I will start the song with just a piano and a guitar, and the two of us singing for most of the song. We took that song smaller because it seemed to reach farther. But often there are other songs where we need to play this faster, or we need to play this up much larger or bigger.”
As Local Natives’ reach has expanded, the band felt compelled to express its political passions, in 2016 bringing along the nonprofit organization HeadCount on tour to help register people to vote. The band also performed at several campaign events around the country, and Rice even found himself meeting former President Obama at an emotional White House Christmas dinner during the last month of his presidency in 2016.
“Most of our fans tend to be in a demographic that probably agrees with us,” Rice said. “But a lot of the country is really divided, and we do have fans that don’t agree with the political things that we were saying. And there’s not a lot of space for things that bring people who are really diametrically opposed together, and music is one of those things. So there’s pluses and minuses to it. But during the (2016) election and during the whole last album cycle, it was just opening the floodgates for us.
“That was the first time that we spoke out politically and publically. The writing is always very personal, and because it’s such a huge part of our lives, every album is political in that way. There is no exception to that.”
Audiotree Music Festival –
Saturday night headlining set
Arcadia Creek Festival Place, 145 E. Water St., Kalamazoo
Sept. 22, gates open 12 p.m., $45-$135