Local Natives, have released “I Saw You Close Your Eyes”, the track is off their current release Sunlit Youth. The five-piece from Los Angeles featuring Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, Nik Ewing, and Matt Frazier have since created a series of different cathartic chapters informed by their constantly changing surroundings.
The band’s second album, 2013’s brooding Hummingbird, was born out of a period of darkness, a time spanning loss, grief and change. It was, as Rice calls it, an “existential nightmare” and a difficult writing process, but is remembered fondly by its authors as a beautiful and honest representation of who and where the band was at the time. After a multi-year tour that required the group to relive the dark introspection night after night within the explosive enthusiasm of their stage show,
“Coming out of Hummingbird, I think we took our time,” Rice says. “Part of that was to hit a reset, but also the whole process of this new album was very different. We made sure we were connecting to the joyfulness of making music and what inspired us, and we let that lead us. These songs have this outward effusiveness to them. We threw out our band rulebook and tried to push our dynamics and to think differently.”
The first step in this leap of faith was their songwriting process. As opposed to culling song ideas from jamming together as a group as in the past, the band’s core trio of songwriters Rice, Ayer, and Hahn each produced songs on their own more frequently than ever before, rendering each writer prolific and vastly increasing the number of songs brought to the group space. “That just made us so much more productive,” Rice says. “It was more fun and more free. We wrote fifty songs for this album. I think the record shows that it was chosen from a much larger batch of songs.”
“It took us a second to get used to the idea that no matter how much you slam your head against the wall, a song isn’t going to be great unless everything truly comes together,” Ayer says. “We just focused on the good ideas and knew what to chase. I think getting better at writing songs means knowing what to grab and what to throw away. It’s better to see potential. This record is definitely a testament for us that if you write fifty songs, you’re gonna get ten or twelve that you really love.”
The album-opener “Villainy” signifies the band’s new energy and huge ambitions. As Rice sings “I want to start again / sunset’s new babbling man,” electronic notes sputter and swirl, rising and setting as drums pound and keys light the path. It heralds more of a focus in that energy–something the band has had in spades since the beginning–than a change in direction, and the way it reaches beyond the rafters and straight into the sun points the way for the tracks to follow.
As Hahn says, “We’ve gotten older and gotten better at our instruments. There’s a confidence in that, and a confidence to be selfish. You start thinking, ‘What do I want to hear?’ Forget about what we’ve done and what people expect. This is a song that I would want to hear. Selfishly, within the band, if we like this, it doesn’t matter if anyone else does. ‘Villainy’ was born out of listening to sounds that I would have never listened to for Gorilla Manor. We just wanted all the new stuff to have a different energy, and to challenge ourselves to do something different each time.”
“The record is optimistic and does suggest this feeling that we–as individuals, as society–have the power to take life wherever we want. It’s exuberant and joyful but I think we have a self-awareness in this world now that you can’t have when you’re twenty years old and making your first record. We’re realising that there’s a cyclical nature to it all and there’s always a new perspective. I think it’s this optimistic vision of how the world works, and this album is about facing those realities. A concept like ‘Fountain of Youth’ isn’t an individual, selfish desire to live forever, it’s more the kind of regenerative way that the world is made over and over again. We can do our small part, even if you don’t know how it’s going to affect the change. That is what optimism and changing the world into what you want is. It’s a metaphor. We could connect each of these songs to that feeling of empowerment. ‘Sunlit Youth’ evokes that feeling. It feels like a nice wrapping-up of this trilogy of who we are: these Southern California kids who grew up feeling like the world was this endless possibility. We make music for a living. It’s the most insane thing that any of us would have imagined.”