What started out as a snapshot of the members of Local Natives climbing onto the roof of their practice space turned into the band’s cover art for their latest album Hummingbird.
“It almost happened accidentally,” said Ryan Hahn, the band’s guitarist and keyboardist. “We were just climbing on the roof of the rehearsal space and someone took a picture.”
The band mixed the photograph with the desktop background on one of their computers and haphazardly concocted the album cover for Hummingbird. “We just thought it was a really striking image,” said Hahn. “Matt [Frazier] and I do most of the graphic design and the rest of the band just kind of argue about it until they’re happy with it. It’s a healthy dysfunction.”
The band formed in 2005 in Orange County, Calif., their hometown. “We’ve always been obsessed with music from an early age,” said Hahn. “There was a healthy music scene growing up in California and we were into mostly punk stuff; loud, aggressive, fast music.”
Regardless of their earlier musical influences, Local Natives’ sound is not something that is easily classifiable under one specific genre and Hummingbird proves just that.
Although their debut album Gorilla Manor was praised for its youthful energetic sound, Local Natives have ventured off into new creative territory: the album has been reviewed as being much darker than their first. “The album goes deeper beneath the surface; in a lot of ways it’s more honest, more direct,” said Hahn.
“The image of a hummingbird kind of encapsulates the whole album,” he said. “It’s a little frail creature with hollow bones that also beats its wings a million times a second and is always on the move. We agreed that it really fit the rest of the album.”
The title of the album comes from a lyric in “Colombia”, arguably the most emotionally-charged track on the record, where vocalist and guitarist Kelcey Ayer pays tribute to his late mother.
“There’s a very personal meaning in it,” said Hahn. “It’s a really important emotional song for us, especially for Kelcey. The album is a lot more expanded, with more intimate moments.”
But despite the general tone on the album, the guys from Local Natives are anything but dark and serious. On the rare occasions where the band gets time off from rehearsing or touring, they jump on the opportunity to unwind.
“Whenever I can, I like to go to the beach and surf and hang out with friends,” said Hahn, adding that it was really important to them to stay active. They have also recently discovered the joys of ping pong.
“We’re actually trying to get a league going with other bands, since a lot of bands on tour actually already have ping pong,” laughed Hahn. “We toured with Arcade Fire and they have a team and they’re really really really good!”
Since the tour, Local Natives have been receiving the acknowledgment that the California band so rightly deserves. “We played the Latitude Festival in 2009 and it was our first festival, the first time we ever played in the UK and the first time we played overseas at all,” said Hahn. “We didn’t really expect anyone to be there for us, but we showed up and the tent was just full to the brim and people were just singing along. It was just one of those memorable moments that I think we’ll never really forget.”
This summer, Local Natives will play the Latitude Festival once again along with the Coachella Festival in California, the Governor’s Ball in New York and Bonnaroo in Tennessee; some of the most internationally renowned festivals.
Having recorded part of Hummingbird in Montreal, the guys are eager to play next here next week. “We had an amazing time and it was surprisingly not unbearably cold,” joked Hahn. “We just had so much fun.”
Local Natives play Le National with Superhumanoids on Friday, March 29 at 7:30 p.m. The show is sold out.