The Local Natives are a band in a precarious position. They started out as high school friends in Los Angeles and are now one of the most popular bands in the world. Yet, their sound was so specific in the past, that its possible you might not have heard of them.
Their sound is what you would imagine popular music might be filled with, but as the case often is, the highest-level art is the toughest to understand – and these guys create high level music. The Local Natives have massive hit songs like “Dark Days”, “Coins”, and most recently, “When Am I Going To Lose You”, off their most recent full length LP, Violet Street.
Violet Street is a sonic masterpiece and I am surprised I hadn’t heard it earlier. The album is flawless in sound. It plays out like a movie, with seamless track-to-track transitions bringing you into new parts of a world that the band created. The Local Natives do an incredible job at mixing complex layers into an easy to listen to sound. Listeners with an open mind will have no problems enjoying the sweet, warm music that this band has been able to create with their latest record. Taylor Rice [vocals, guitar], Kelcey Ayer [vocals, keys, percussion, guitar], Ryan Hahn [guitar, keys, mandolin, vocals], Matt Frazier [drums], and Nik Ewing [bass, keys, vocals] all participate in the creation of their songs. Ryan told us that their processes are communal, and we can’t help but believe that’s why their music sounds the way that it does. It is so rich, that full emotional commitment from each band member is the only explanation.
As we talked further though, we learned that their community isn’t limited to just the 5 of them. As a part of their love for collaboration, the Local Natives are known for sharing the stems to their work. For the past several years, producers and fans alike have had the opportunity to work their own takes on the band’s music. This year, the Local Natives are releasing Violet Street Remixes – a project that is exclusively comprised of some of the best takes on the album’s original tracks. The project features work from Dot Da Genius, DJDS, Nick Waterhouse as well as many other talented DJ’s and producers. We hopped on a call with on of the bands founding members, Ryan Hahn, to discuss the bands upbringing and how excited they were about this project, set to release May 1st, 2020.
When did the Local Natives come together as a band?
We’ve been together for a while. I met a lot of the guys in junior high school, but we started Local Natives a little over ten years ago. We started playing music all together. We all started playing music and then immediately, as soon as we could, tried to start a band, even before we kinda knew what we were doing, playing house parties and the stuff like that, and then we immediately became obsessed with it – just started chugging to do the “band” thing, y’know? We stayed together through college and everything, and as soon as we were able to, we kind of like booked our own tours and just kind of hustled as much as we could. We put our first album out in 2010 basically, and have been going strong since.
How would you describe your earliest sound?
I think the thing that really kicked us off was like 60’s psych-rock, that was kind of like the catalyst for not necessarily the type of music we write, but in terms of like singing together, y’know? All the harmonies were such a big part of what we did. We also joke that everyone wanted to sing, so instead of like strong arming and having a lead singer, we kind of just all sang at the same time. It kind of helped create the sound. It also helped create the way we write songs. We’re really communal, its very like kinda democratic, y’now? We’re all super involved in it so it’s not just the project of like one guy, so we’re definitely like y’know a “band” in that sense.
How would you describe your sound to someone hearing about you now?
That’s always like the hardest question. At the end of the day, we’re a band of guys who play live instruments and y’know, we really enjoy the live shows part of it. We don’t really play to tracks or anything like that. We like the energy of playing off each other. That said, y’know, we’re constantly evolving, and I’d like to think that our record that we just put out last year, sounds like us. Y’know a big step forward and a big evolution from where we started. We’ve incorporated all sorts of different elements, whether its like sampling or a lot of different like electronic elements – and bringing in as many influences in as we can. So yeah, we feel like our sound is growing.
I heard you experimented with a lot of new recording processes on Violet Street, can you talk about that?
Yeah, so the producer we worked with on this last record, Shawn Everett, he’s a wizard. He’s from Toronto as well! We worked with him briefly for a couple songs on our third album, just more as an engineer, and it’s hard to really capture like his essence and his vibe of when you go to his studio. It’s not like being in any other studio in the world, its just this bizarre like giant warehouse with just gear and just stuff everywhere – it really feels like you’re inside a mad scientist’s laboratory. It’s just such a creative vibe, and to really match with our energy, we set up in like a room, and he would just record us, and then chop up those jams – really quickly, actually, and make completely new parts. Then we would play those parts and its just this weird like experimental mixture of live analogue, plus like crazy digital, y’know, autotune melodyne manipulation and yeah. It was definitely like the ideal recording scenario for us.
What made you guys want to explore the sound you did with Violet Street?
It’s just been a slow progression. We’ve always been a live band, but also over the years I’ve taken to like production on my own and a lot… I’ve spent a lot of time learning production, and on tour, working on Ableton and stuff, just creating a lot of different like sonics and things you just can’t do just sitting down with guitars, y’know? I think that process kind of just instilled its way into our normal song writing so its kind of been like a combination of the different processes over the last like 3 records that kind of informed Violet Street and what we’re doing even now. Like we’re working on new songs together remotely.
I know you guys have released remixes of your songs in the past, was that something you always wanted to do as a band?
It’s kind of like that spirit of community. It’s always really inspiring to see songs that you know inside and out kind of take on new life, and go in different directions that you couldn’t have predicted. And, y’know, bands that we loved growing up, like Radiohead put out their stems for songs back in the day and let their fans kind of chop them up, and like released ownership of it. I don’t know, it just feels like it’s like the spirit of making music really y’know? Like we did that on our first two records, we just released all the stems on SoundCloud and like tons of people took them in all sorts of different directions y’know? Whether it be bigger artists like ODESSA hitting us up like “Hey we used like a vocal stem on this one song is that cool?”, or you go on SoundCloud and see our stems kind of popping up in different places – it’s really exciting. I think this is the first time that we had like officially sanctioned like a remix for like every song on the album… It’s been awesome.
Did you have any opinions on how you wanted these upcoming remixes to turn out? Did you work with any of the producers/DJ’s personally?
No, honestly, just in that same spirit we let people run wild with it. Every remix kind of feels different in that way. Like, you got this one for Karriem Riggins, this really rad, just like – obviously the drumming, and singing that’s got that like stone throw vibe to it, and then there’s this one from two of the guys kind of from that Tame Impala camp in Australia, Gum and Ginoli. [They] did this one remix of this wild psych-rock journey. And we even have Dot Da Genius! He did one and like took this really raddy rock song we had and like flipped it in the most interesting way… Yeah, all the songs are like really interesting to me.
Can you describe what you hope this Remixes album will do for you guys as a band?
Mainly what I’m most excited about is reaching people that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have heard our music – it’s like we’re re-contextualizing it and just like broadening it so that more people can find something that they like. I think that it’ll be really cool.
We had a great time talking to Ryan about the project, because even though he helped create the original stems, he was a fan just like us when it came to the remixes. We thought the diversity in sound direction was dope and praised the artists involved for being able to take a finished song and turn it into a something completely different.
Our personal favourite remixes include Dot Da Genius’ take on “Shy”, Beacon’s remix of “Someday Now”, and every variation of “When Am I Going To Lose You”.
Check out the Violet Street Remixes available on all platforms – and while you’re at it give the original project a listen too. We love sharing dope finds with you, hopefully you’re ready to hear it!