Musical Anthropology with Local Natives



Since their debut album, Gorilla Manor, was released in February, Local Natives have generated more than their fair share of buzz: the album debuted at #3 on the Billboard New Artist Chart and was warmly received by everyone from Pitchfork to the Los Angeles Times. The boys in the band (Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Andy Hamm, and Matt Frazier) spent the bulk of this year touring, but managed to find time to pose for a picture; and Hahn, who plays guitar, keyboards, and mandolin, answered a few questions about touring, the creative process, and what Local Natives do in Italy.

AARON STERN: What are you looking forward to now that the tour has ended?

RYAN HAHN: One last trip overseas before going home to write the next album. Tomorrow we’re heading to France for a short tour with Warpaint. And after that, we’ll be doing our own dates around Europe and the UK for most of November.

STERN: What is the worst question the band has been asked during interviews?

HAHN: It went something like, “So, your album is called Gorilla Manor—would you say that you guys like to monkey around?”

STERN: Would you mind explaining the meaning behind the song “Wide Eyes,” and where were you all when the song was written?

HAHN: I wrote the lyrics after seeing this TV special about a boy in Nepal who allegedly meditated in the jungle for 10 months straight, without eating or drinking or even moving. I already had the chorus line, “Oh to see it with my own eyes,” but the verses came about after watching these thousands of people swarming to witness and study this seemingly miraculous event. It got me thinking about our collective fascination with extraordinary events, both good and bad.

The line “Oh some evil spirit, oh some evil this way comes/They told me how they fear it, now they’re placing it on their tongues” is about phenomena like disaster tourism or rubberneckers on the freeway. It’s interesting to me that we have such a desire to witness out-of-the-ordinary things for ourselves.

We were still all living together in LA when I wrote the song. I remember showing the guys an early demo of it right before we went to the UK for the first time in July of 2009. We jammed on it a few times during that trip and by the time we got home in August we’d decided to hunker down and finish it. Even though our record label already had what they thought was our completed album in their possession, we wanted this new song to make the album. So at the last minute, we went into the studio and recorded it.

STERN: Besides Governor’s Island, what other show stands out for you?

HAHN: Two shows immediately come to mind. The first was in Groningen, Holland where we played as part of a month-long town festival. The stage was built jutting out over a large pond, so that in front of us for about 60 yards was nothing but water. The crowd stood on either side of the pond so that we could only see them in our peripherals.

But despite the strange layout and the cold rain, I remember the crowd being amazing and having a really good time.

The other show was in Ravenna, Italy, literally on the beach. It was at some kind of private beach club called Hana Bi, and we got to spend the whole day drinking and eating and swimming and playing ping-pong. Then at night, we set up our gear on the sand and played a show for a few hundred Italians. It was one of the more surreal moments of the past year.