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This article is from Issue 61: Jan/Feb 2013

At Home With Local Natives

The break-out indie quartet is back with a new twist.

Deep in the heart of Los Angeles’ Echo Park district, perched at the top of a long driveway, sits a small, nondescript house. From the street, it would be easy to overlook—the structure blends into the surrounding businesses, and even the U.S. Postal Service has been known to give it a miss. It’s an odd home for the nexus of an indie music sensation, but that’s exactly what it is. Welcome to Gorilla Manor, headquarters of LA’s folk-pop revolutionaries, the Local Natives.

Gorilla Manor is the house in which the band’s debut was recorded, and it served as its namesake. On the strength of that album’s lush tapestry of swelling vocal harmonies, frenetic percussion and jittery folk sensibility, the band (made up of Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Matt Frazier) found themselves on the road for the better part of three years, enjoying that rarest of vehicles to stardom: the rocket.

The album was a rarity—a debut that sounded like the band had been together for ages. It had a polished song cycle that sounded both playful and composed. It was one of 2010’s absolute best.

The success of Gorilla Manor netted the Local Natives their own studio setup, high profile gigs at the likes of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and gushing fans in the ranks of Arcade Fire and The National.

And the first stop to crafting a follow-up was to throw out the playbook that had worked so well on the first go-round.

"There are a lot of factors that went into making this record a very clear step forward from Gorilla Manor."
—Kelcey Ayer

“The last thing we wanted was to remake the same record that we had already made,” says keyboardist/vocalist Kelcey Ayer. “We’re, on some level, conscious of that, but on another, I think it was just what happened naturally, as our songwriting has developed a lot over the last couple of years. The methodology was completely different this time, as well, and I think there are a lot of factors that went into making this record a very clear step forward from Gorilla Manor.

It’s natural for bands to want to take forward steps on sophomore efforts, but fans aren’t always so eager to take those steps with them. One of the strengths of Gorilla Manor was how homespun the whole thing felt. The album had a clarity of vision that’s rare in bands who’ve got a lot longer discography list than the Local Natives.

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