Music Profiles: Local Natives – a band making music all their own

Local Natives Music Profile

Image credit: Nan Palmero

No Majesty Music Profiles takes a look at artists’ careers from start to present, with the aim of documenting their impact on music culture.

Hailing from what sounds like the most quintessentially Western American hometown; Silverlake, Los Angeles, Local Natives are a group of five who make gorgeously Californian beachy indie music. Their harmonies strike the perfect balance between nostalgia and modernity, providing the ideal soundtrack to an imagined true American road trip, along costal highways and evenings, round campfires on the beach. 

Local Natives have garnered comparisons to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, but the music the band makes is really all their own. Punchy gang vocals and precise, haunting harmonies collide with clever percussion and rhythmic bass lines to create music that is experimental yet catchy, bright yet often melancholic. 

The band makes music that is looking less for fame and more for creative freedom: they’ve supported The National and Grizzly Bear on tour and in a similar DIY vein to these bands, Local Natives is a completely collaborative group. They write their songs together, they make their album artwork together, every band member is multi-talented; able to pick up drumsticks, a guitar pick, a mic.

Local Natives at Melt Festival in 2013

Local Natives at Melt! Festival in 2013.

The band started life as a group called Cavil at Rest, a high school band consisting of most of the lasting members of Local Natives. The only song that has transcended the mists of time from that era to now is “Sun Hands”, a rollicking, drum-heavy, instantly recognisable party piece known by fans as the song that Taylor crowd surfs to when the band plays live- which is often; they’ve been known to play as many as 188 shows in a year.

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Following the departure of original member Andy Hamm after their first record, Gorilla Manor, in 2011, the band recruited bassist (and vocalist and keys player) Nik Ewing in 2012 to join Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Matt Frazier. Since then, the band as released 3 more albums and played countless shows around the world. 

Most recently, Local Natives released their fourth record, Violet Street. The record is full of experimental instrumentals and more of the sacred-sounding harmonies that the band is known for, but the record that is the most moving is arguably their second; Hummingbird. Written and recorded following the departure of Andy Hamm and including a spine-tingling track called “Colombia”; Kelcey’s ode to his mother who passed away, the record is melancholy, emotionally intelligent and like wrapping up in a blanket as waves crash at your door and a storm rages outside. 

Local Natives

The band is known for recognising fans at their shows and for inviting the crowd to the bar downstairs for a beer. They are friendly and funny and they must be one of the most wholesome touring rock bands around: posting pictures of their dogs, kids, wives and trips to Disney World when they’re not touring. And although they write songs about the apocalypse (“Megaton Mile”), when they perform them, they sound as catchy and melodic as their songs about falling in love (“Who Knows, Who Cares?”). 

Local Natives are a band that embraces the modern; they released all the stems to their songs from their Hummingbird record and from Sunlit Youth and invited fans to remix their work. But at the same time, they keep a firm grasp on the old school, Californian melancholic beach vibes that characterise their music, and keep their millennial fan base, who came up on One Tree Hill and The OC, Death Cab For Cutie and The Shins, coming back for more. 

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Leah Welch

Leah is Culture Editor @ No Majesty. Leah is a literature graduate from Bristol, likes include: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, My So Called Life, Goodfellas, and Ally McBeal.