Samantha Booth speaks to Local Natives guitarist, Ryan Hahn about Italian beaches, Llandow harriers and the recent released second album, Hummingbird.
What has been the general reaction to Hummingbird so far?
So far, it’s been a great reaction. It’s always like with a new album, you’ve got to give people time to get to know the songs but I think we’ve been really, really happy with the way people are responding. In my mind, this new album is different and step in a direction that we wanted to go, so it’s cool for fans to come along with you on that ride. Dublin has been the best gig we’ve done so far. Everyone was singing along and there were a lot of drunk people I think. We are really happy with that.
Many bands stick to their own instruments and roles in the band. Do you think this is true of Local Natives? What is the band dynamic like?
It sort of depends on what song. Me, Kelsey and Taylor all write and we either demo it out on our own and show the guys or we’ll come up with a guitar riff or something along those lines. Our band is so collaborative. On a given song, just because I’m playing guitar live, when we are writing it, I could be playing drums and Kelsey playing guitar and Taylor on piano. Hodgepodge for us and it’s fun.
What is your favourite song on the album and did you write any of them yourself?
I wrote a good number of songs on the album. I have a soft spot for You and I, just because it’s a song that took us a long time to write and when we finally cracked the code on it, there was so much energy and we got so excited by it that we wrote a bunch of songs after that because we were in such good spirits.
During the production of Hummingbird, you worked with The Nationals, Arron Dessner. What was it like working with him?
He’s such a great guy. When we toured together, he reached out and we were hanging out every night. We were talking and drinking and it was an immediate friendship. There was a lot of mutual respect. Obviously, we are massive fans of The National, but he would talk about our band as if he was truly a fan and was really passionate about working with us. It was awesome.
How was it having someone taking over a part of the creative element of the album?
We wrote all of the songs before we got him involved, but having him around we were always really wary about letting someone in on the process, like having another cook in the kitchen. But it was cool because he could talk us off ledges and stuff because you can get so in your own head. He can say “this is rad guys, stop worrying” which is obviously incredible helpful. He also got us out of our comfort zones, to try new things especially with my guitar. He helped us to stop being perfectionists about stuff.
What is your favourite touring memory?
We’ve had some really good times. We did a show in New York once that was on Governors Islandwhich is an island just off of Manhattan, and the only way to get there is that you have to take the ferry. This show was like 2,000 people so it was a really big show for us at the time. And it sold out and I remember thinking that these people have travelled across the water to come and see us it was such an amazing night.
I always think about this time we played on a beach in Italy. It was in a city that we had never heard of and when we got there we were “where’s the stage?” and we looked it was on the sand and then we played when the sun was setting. Unexpected shows are always the ones that we seem to remember.
The music videos tend to be quite abstract, especially the most recent video for Heavy Feet featuring the Llandow Visually Impaired Harriers. Who comes up with the ideas for videos?
All of them were outside directors except for the Breakers video. That one, we had some other guy who was going to do it but at the last minute it fell through so we knew we had to do it ourselves. We wanted to juxtapose this song with this documentary concept and you never see music videos like that where it’s this faux documentary. The talking sandwich just makes us crease on the floor laughing whenever we see it. We have a weird sense of humour so maybe that’s why we liked it.
What was your favourite video to film?
I think Breakers, definitely. It was kind of stressful as we did it in like two days and we were making it up as we go along. It was fun to say “Today, I’m going to push you down the stairs” and then we were filming in slow motion. And, “Matt we are going to put you in that spacesuit”. It was just so much fun.
Your favourite band and acts at the moment?
I’ve been really into the London act, King Krule and I’m such a fan of his music and I feel like I tell everyone I meet about him. He’s great and he’s playing Primavera and I’d love to see him there as I’ve never seen him live before. Tame Impala are awesome too, I’ve been listening to them a lot. They are so psychedelic a
Bands that you’d want to play with or support?
I have all of these outlandish dreams to play with David Bowie. I think it would be really interesting to collaborate with somebody on something. I don’t know exactly who or what. To support The National was awesome. There are so many bands that we couldn’t say no to, like Arcade Fire who asked us on tour in 2011 and we were about to start our new album and we couldn’t say no. Those bands are huge but they’ve done it on their own terms with compromising music so it’s awesome to see them do so well.
Hummingbird is out now.