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Music Lovers Find Sanctuary with Local Natives

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Local Natives  are based in Los Angeles after migrating from Orange County. The band 'Local Natives' at the First Unitarian Church. Photo: Diane Cooneyopened for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros last fall at the First Unitarian Church,  where they returned Friday, August 6th as headliners. I had the opportunity to speak with Taylor Rice, guitarist and one of the vocalists before the show.

Local Natives first got some Philadelphia love after emailing Bruce Warren, Program Director and On Air host at XPN, who also features the band on his Some Velvet blog, where he often posts about them. “He’s been one of our first early supporters, I definitely think XPN has been really helpful for us in Philly.”

Disclaimer: I’m also a XPN member and volunteer.

When I mentioned to Taylor that the show has sold out two months ago, he laughed, “It’s so super crazy.” He continues, “Philly’s just been ravenous in their support of us…it’s been really awesome.”

While we know that Philadelphia music fans are a loyal, discerning lot, I was curious about the audiences from other countries. Local Natives headlined in Europe this past winter. Rice explains, “It really varies much more from subculture to subculture… you can’t break it down. On the coasts, a lot of times they will be a little bit more cool, more mellow. In Paris, for example, they crowd is super attentive always. They are really very quiet when they watch you play. So when we first played there, we thought we’re playing our first song and thought they weren’t into it….. But after every song finished, they were up and you know applause and be super super supportive that way and then silent during the quiet parts.”

Raymond Richards produced their album, Gorilla Manor, at his studio, Red Rockets Glare. Mr. Rice shares how they selected Richards, “We didn’t have a lot of money. We did want to do it ourselves, we weren’t looking, you know, for a label or anything. We felt that it was important to do it on our own.” Another LA band recommended Richards, so Mr. Rice contacted all the bands that had worked with Richards previously, fifteen of whom got back to him.

He recalls, “They said, ‘Work with Raymond – this is the best person I’ve ever worked with’. He came so highly recommended by so many people that have worked with him. We took a chance on him, you know we met him and his personality is so great.”

“We’ve been doing the band thing - not super seriously - but you know, pretty steadily part time for a while, and it became clear to us, if we wanted to try and live our dream, we had to take it seriously, and do everything ourselves…. We really had that attitude, we do all our own artwork, for example, and every decision really comes from the band …. It’s a very collaborative effort,” he states.

The amount of work and care that went into this record is evident – it’s truly an impressive, thoughtful, debut.

Later that evening, Local Natives performed their show in the Sanctuary, the beautiful main room of the church. By day, the venue is an active Church – the first Unitarian one built in the country. There is also space downstairs for smaller shows. The line wrapped around the building, and the crowd waiting patiently got a preview of what was to come as the sound check carried down Chestnut Street. Fortunately, I ended up in the second row pew, which gave me a great view of the opening band, We Barbarians, who are also from LA. The trio – David Quon, Derek Vanheule, Nathan Warkentin delivered a lot of sound.

Local Natives came and filled the stage, as Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, mandolin, vocals), Taylor, Kelsey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar) and Andy Hamm (bass, backing vocals) lined up across the front of the stage and drummer Matt Frazier tucked in the back. Their songs are a mix of seventies inspired harmonies, punctuated by polyrhythmic percussion. Other folks have compared them to Grizzly Bear – and, alas, I have not seen then live yet (Coachella traffic disaster) … I suspect it’s the harmonies they have in common – but Local Natives rock out with faster tempos than Grizzly Bear. Their sunny melodies are inspired by their hometown. The band took turns playing the extra drum, keyboards and guitars, and their line up allowed their three and occasionally four-part harmonies to cover the audience in sound.

It truly was a wonderful night, in what Mr. Rice describes as “that amazing room."

Contact Diane Cooney at DC@dianecooney.com