Local Natives by Bryan Sheffield

After settling down to work on the follow-up to their first album Gorilla Manor, Local Natives were handpicked by The National to support them on a few North American tour dates in fall 2011. They had recently returned home to Los Angeles after being on the road since the debut’s release, but still felt compelled to take The National up on their offer. “They’re one of those bands we could never say no to,” says co-frontman Ryan Hahn.

Mutual respect and admiration led to intentions of working together, and ultimately resulted in The National’s Aaron Dessner producing Local Natives’ recent release, Hummingbird. After turning a rented one-bedroom house into a live-in rehearsal space in their Silver Lake ’hood, they completed writing and demoing then headed east to meet Dessner for recording. Working in professional studios in Brooklyn and Montreal was a big change for the band, coming from the straightforward set-up they used for Gorilla Manor.

“We wanted to push ourselves and try something new,” recalls Hahn. That’s why Dessner’s hand proved to be pivotal as they experimented with different sounds. “He felt like this older brother who we could bounce ideas off of and be really honest with.”

Hummingbird may be an ideal progression from where they left off, but in seven years, a band can go through a lot. During extensive touring, they cut ties with bassist Andy Hamm in 2011, but rolled through the setback and split bass duties amongst themselves. Then, with the daunting task of following up an incredible debut, they put their trust in each other and collaboratively wrote another album, the title of which comes from its track “Colombia.”

“The hummingbird represents the dichotomy of being very fragile yet being strong and soaring,” Hahn says. “It just symbolizes everything for us.”

With the record in the bag, the band is about to return to their comfort zone. “I really do feel like our band’s at its best in a live setting,” says Hanh.

“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve spent that many years touring and building this up one fan at a time. We’re happy and satisfied to be a band that can feel like, every step of the way, we’re earning it.”

This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of AUX Magazine. Download and subscribe for free in the App Store.

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