Los Angeles indie rockers Local Natives have been dominating the airwaves in Britain since the release of their 2009 debut, 'Gorilla Manor.' The album charted on the Billboard 200, peaked at No. 3 on the Heatseekers chart, and took the band on tour as far away as Japan.
Four years, later, Local Natives are back with their follow-up release, 'Hummingbird,' which, judging by early reviews, looks to really break the band into stardom. A massive tour, with a stop at Coachella, will help.
We recently caught up with the band's Ryan Hahn and Kelcey Ayer at their latest makeshift studio -- a former storage space in the midst of the hipster-clad streets of L.A. -- to chat about creating 'Hummingbird,' building the ultimate practice space, and being exceptionally thankful that the world didn't end.
RedBullUSA.com: Tell us about your little rehearsal nook. How long have you guys been here?
Kelcey Ayer: Over a year now. I think we found it in May of 2011 so we’ve been here since then.
Ryan Hahn: It was originally a storage space and we converted it into our practice studio. That was quite a process -- learning as we go.
RedBullUSA.com: What tips can you share about soundproofing a room to those at home who may be attempting to build a studio?
Kelcey Ayer: We rose up the floor, which wasn't that expensive. It's just a bunch of two-by-fours and plywood. You can have carpet if you want but you don't need it. That helps a lot. It supposedly traps the bass. Some friends of ours told us about this stuff called QuietRock. It's this condensed soundproofing stuff that you can get at any hardware store.
My proudest accomplishment is putting that QuietRock on the door because I had to cut it out in the shape of the door. It was a functioning door but the foundation of this place is so fucked up that it shifts and one day we just couldn't lock the door anymore. We finally got it locked and were like, “OK, let's just keep it locked.” It was an interesting challenge but I think we're pretty proud that we rose to the occasion.
Ryan Hahn: This was our first time -- all of us -- with power tools. I have these videos on my iPhone of us in the beginning and it looks so sketchy. We're carrying saws and stuff.
RedBullUSA.com: It sounds like you have some great memories with this place.
Ryan Hahn: Oh, yeah. Dating back to the early days of rehearsing in here. I remember that the first time my parents were in the neighborhood, they were like, “Oh, we want to see where you guys spend all your time.” They pulled up, they parked and we're all kind of waiting for them to come inside and between us, across the driveway, two rats ran by and started wrestling in front of my mom and dad and we were just kind of standing there like, “Ahh.” They ran away and my parents are like, “Hi.” It was just perfect. I was like, “I swear we're not living in squalor mom and dad!”
RedBullUSA.com: How would you describe your sound now?
Ryan Hahn: When you're super young and just starting out, there's a lot of, “Oh, I just want to sound like At The Drive In” and that's what we did. Now, we have multiple songwriters and we all have such different musical interests that I think a lot of our music comes from many different angles and it gets distilled through so many different opinions. I like that and I think that it's really diverse. On the new record, I think you can hear a lot of different influences.
"This is a really specialized life and I feel like I don't have any friends anymore because I'm never around. You're just always on the road and you never have time for a real life..." -- Kelcey Ayer
RedBullUSA.com: You had some success early on in the UK. How did that come about?
Ryan Hahn: South by Southwest was a big part of that. We played there in 2009 and all these people at the shows had British accents and they were like, “We're really excited that you guys are being played on Zane Lowe," which is this radio DJ in London. He'd been playing us and some other DJs had been playing us. It was just awesome to think that all the way over there, people were listening to us. We did some of our earliest touring in the UK.
RedBullUSA.com: Have you made it to any other markets yet?
Ryan Hahn: We got to go to Japan and we made it to Australia and I think we're going to go back to both of those places on this run.
RedBullUSA.com: Are the Japanese audiences intense?
Ryan Hahn: It's an interesting thing. They are so respectful and quiet while you're playing it's very attentive. Then they clap and tune in again.
Kelcey Ayer: It's a different kind of energy. I appreciate that kind of stuff. It's like when I got to see Radiohead live. I'm standing there in awe and not cheering excessively. I have to remind myself that just because they're not freaking out, it doesn't mean that they aren't having a really good time enjoying the show.
RedBullUSA.com: Tell me a little about 'Hummingbird.'
Ryan Hahn: I think it's a different record than our first one in the sense that we just tried to experiment and do a lot of new things. I think it's a much deeper record on a lot of levels -- especially emotionally. We went through a lot of things over the past few years and I feel like we put it all out there on this record. For us in a lot of ways, it's a very cathartic album and I think it shows on a lot of the songs. It's just different than the first one.
"I do feel like it's a more honest album and because of that -- we always talk about going through all these emotional dark things and coming through on the other side -- there is a lot of joy..." -- Ryan Hahn
RedBullUSA.com: What were some of those experiences that influenced the album?
Kelcey Ayer: We parted ways with our bass player a few years back, I lost a family member, and we had some weird relationship stuff. This is a really specialized life and I feel like I don't have any friends anymore because I'm never around. You're just always on the road and you never have time for a real life; then if you're off the road longer than three months it feels weird because you have to acclimate. Certain relationships suffer, and it's an adjustment, and growing up really fast in a condensed amount of time.
RedBullUSA.com: Is this a dark reflective album?
Kelcey Ayer: There are some but it is mostly reflective of that time so I think it does probably translate to a darker-feeling record. I always like stuff like that and find joy in that, though.
Ryan Hahn: I feel like in a lot of ways, on the surface level it isn't as much of a happy-go-lucky album, but I do feel like it's a more honest album and because of that -- we always talk about going through all these emotional dark things and coming through on the other side -- there is a lot of joy. Even though there is a lot of darkness, coming through to the other side makes it happy for us.
RedBullUSA.com: We saw on your Facebook that you were thinking about leaking the album back in December in case the world ended...
Ryan Hahn: I think that's the hardest part of the process. You spend all this time writing it and recording it and you have to for whatever reason wait to release it on a specific date. It's just tempting. You just want to show people and put it out there.
Kelcey Ayer: That would be really awful if everything ended and we didn't get to show anybody. That would really suck! Thankfully, that's not the case.