Imagine backpacking through Europe, roadtripping the United States, meeting hundreds of new people on a daily basis, and living in a house with five of your best friends. And the best part—you’ve already graduated college. The Local Natives have been living every student’s dream after last year’s whirlwind performances at the South by Southwest Music Festival. Three of the five band mates started playing together in high school under the name of Cavil at the Rest, their musical bonds lasted through college and the guys decided to pursue a rockstar career path. The five-piece from Silver Lake, California, signed with the independent label Frenchkiss Records last November and don’t have any plans of slowing down. Guitarist Ryan Hahn caught up with College magazine about homesickness, the band “bromance” and tour life in between shows in California.
CM: You, Kelcey Ayer and Taylor Rice all went to neighboring high schools. How long have you officially been playing together? How did you manage to stay together through going to different colleges?
RH: We started playing garage band stuff in 8th grade through high school, so over eight years. For us it was something different. We were really passionate about it and we had something special. One of the main criteria was how are we going to be close enough to get together to play shows. Kelcey [singer-keyboardist] went to UCLA. His dad was a pilot so he was flying down three times a month to practice and play shows.
CM: How did you meet Andy Hamm and Matt Frazier to round out the band?
RH: Andy we met through friends-of-friends, after trying out a few guys almost five years ago. Matt we found after trying out like a million drummers. He was number 10 or 11 and he was the last one. It was perfect, definitely love at first sight.
CM: Your first album, Gorilla Manor, is named after your house. That’s a great house name, who came up with it?
RH: No one person officially named it. It was a silly nickname [but] it embodied what was going on there—the perfect image of us being professional adults and at the same time we stay up until crazy hours and goof off.
CM: Are you guys still living together when you aren’t touring?
RH: Yes and no, we all lived in one house but slowly moved out. And we’ve been on tour so much we are going to get rid of it because we’re never home.
CM: What’s the wildest thing to happen to you on tour?
RH: We got to meet David Byrne from the Talking Heads. He came to our show in New York and was singing along to our songs and we covered one of his songs. It was hard to believe it was really happening.
CM: How did you deal with the pressure of your first SXSW performances? You guys performed nine shows in three days—what was that like?
RH: My brother plays football and he was talking about hell week, it felt a lot like that. I’ve never played football but I think it would be a lot like that. It was what we were looking forward to for a long, long time. Everyone was really focused on performing really well. No one was partying.
CM: You guy did a lot of grassroots PR in the beginning. What were the most effective marketing tools?
RH: The main thing was doing everything ourselves. We didn’t need a record label or a PR person. We are making direct connection to people ourselves. Blogs are a huge outlet. We all read blogs and meet blog fans. That’s the first big step, sending demos to the blogs we read and see if they could help us out.
CM: You guys do all your own graphics, artwork and some videos—how do you get inspired.
RH: There’s never a set way, never a formula. We each inspire each other when we work on stuff like that. We push each other to take ideas and make them better with each other.
CM: So is there anything you guys don’t do?
RH: Everything we can do, we want to do. If we could make music videos we would. That’s what we have the least amount of control over.
CM: Since there is so much collaboration are there certain songs you can call your own, or do they all target a wider, universal truth?
RH: “Cubism Dream” was a personal one for Kelcey and he had a lot of things hashed out. It was about a long distance relationship and trying to make it work. At the shows, you can really see people made that song their own and really connected with it.
CM: You guys do a ton of traveling, ever get homesick? How do you deal with long plane rides and travel down time?
RH: We’re still learning that. Three guys have girlfriends and whenever the girls can, they come out to meet us. You call home, you call your brothers trying to keep it as normal as possible—like you have a regular daytime job at home.
CM: If not music, then…?
RH: I majored in adverstising and graphic design at Pepperdine so I’d probably be pursuing advertising in some degree. I’d probably be getting people coffee at this point.
Image courtesy of tellallyourfriendspr.com.