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Local Natives

Local Natives

Monday 9th August, 2010 12:59PM

There are vicarious thrills to be had just from talking to Matt Frazier, drummer of Los Angeles group Local Natives. He and his band mates are currently teetering on the cusp of something big, something they have been working towards since before their band even existed. Namely: to be musicians; writing, recording and touring, with little else to have to concentrate on from one day to the next. Late at night, in a hotel room in Berlin, Frazier is talking about how it all came to be and why it might be about to get a whole lot better when their debut album Gorilla Manor is released in the US later this month.

You’re touring around Europe at the moment. What’s that experience been like?

This is our first time doing an extensive European tour. It’s been amazing. And cold, that’s for sure. Apparently Europe has decided to have its coldest winter in like 20 years, so the drives between cities have been a little hairy. The roads are pretty snowy, but that aside it’s been really great. Fortunately the record has been out for a little while here and so people are recognising the music and really latching onto it. A couple of the shows have even been sold out. Just the overall response has been really great. So it’s very exciting.

How are you making your way around?

At the moment we’re touring in a sprinter, like a small van. It fits all of our equipment, all of us, our tour manager and our sound guy and that’s about it. It’s very cosy, but unfortunately it’s very cold because the heating isn’t the best.

Has language been a barrier for you over there?

It’s definitely a different experience playing in countries where English is not the first language. I was telling someone the other day that I feel somewhat uneducated when I come out here because it seems like everyone has a basic grasp of English no matter what country I’m in. And I don’t know a lick of German or Italian when we’re out here. I feel like I should. But there haven’t been any crazy barriers yet. The crowds are great.

Is being able to do these kinds of tours a dream come true for you?

This has always been an ambition for us. We’ve been musicians in some capacity our entire lives. A couple of the guys have been playing together for close to eight years. We’ve all had our own musical endeavours, playing in different bands and trying to make it work somehow, but nothing ever stuck. When the five of us came together about four years ago it just clicked. I still pinch myself because I’m out here in these European countries and I’m just playing music. It’s definitely always been something that we wanted to do, just tour and wake up each day and literally just worry about being musicians and being in a band. I feel so lucky to be doing this.

You and Andy [Hamm, bassist] were the last to join the band, is that right?

Yeah, Andy joined the band about five years ago and I joined about four years ago. The others already knew each other of course before we joined, but the band itself; I think back four years ago and it was a very different band musically and aesthetically. It hadn’t evolved into what it is now. It took two to three years of us playing together and getting to know each other as individuals and musicians to really kind of catch a groove and figure out what we really wanted to do and what really worked for this band. We’re all very like minded and we had the same goal in mind, we just didn’t really know how to go about it. Once we had been playing together for a while and the music started making sense and it seemed right, that’s when we dove in and started recording what is Gorilla Manor now.

And it wasn’t until then that you became Local Natives?

Yeah, it was during that recording process. It was a really important time for the band because it was when we put everything else aside and said “we have this album full of material and we’ve got to just give this a shot because the timing is absolutely perfect”. Because some of us were able to put aside jobs and put aside school and we were really proud of what we’d come up with musically. We’d never had a full album worth of material before and so we realised that we had something entirely different on our hands and we thought a new name was in order. That’s why we decided to change it.

You attended South By Southwest last year and you’re attending again this year. How do you think it’ll be different?

In some ways I guess the focus of our first trip there was just to go and play the best show that we could possibly play. I think that’s always the focus when we go and play a show or a festival. Just play to the best of our abilities given the environment. We’ve got a handful of shows booked already for this trip. It’ll be a little different because last year we were pretty much going empty handed, not having management, a label or anything. Now we have a lot of that stuff in place, so the focus is much more about going there and putting on a good show and making sure that people are satisfied when they walk away from seeing us.

The album is already out in the UK, but not the US. What was the decision behind that?

It comes out in about a week and a half in the US. It wasn’t a conscious decision to release it in the UK first [it was released in November]. After we did SXSW things seemed to move a lot faster there and Europe, so it just worked out that way. We actually finished a large chunk of it in 2008. We had what we thought was a completed album. We sat on it for a while and were going to see if we were going to release it ourselves or sign to a label. We didn’t go into recording the album with a set plan, like “okay, we’re going to get signed this month and then release it this month”. We were just waiting to see what happened and see who latched onto it. After SXSW we got some label recognition from overseas and we ended up going back into the studio in July and August of last year. We had three new songs that we’d worked out and we decided that we wanted to add them to the album.

Do you think that your situation will be similar to other bands who become big in the UK before they do at home?

I wouldn’t say that we’re a big band yet. But I guess our situation is somewhat similar to the idea where bands like The Strokes or Kings of Leon got bigger in the UK before the majority of people knew about them in the US. So maybe it’ll be like that for us. I guess it’s heading in that direction so we’ll see.

Have you guys written anything new since finishing your album?

We’ve got some ideas in the works. Just skeletons, nothing even remotely close to being a song. At the moment we’re focussing on touring. We’re still trying to figure out how to be a legitimate touring band I guess, because we’re used to being at home. When we were recording the album, we were based in LA and we could get together each day in our house or our practise studio and just write and record and focus on that. But now, being on the tour, we’re trying to figure out how to do that AND be on the road.

Gareth Meade

Look out for our Gorilla Mannor review coming your way soon.

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