You would think that following the huge, surprising success of Silver Lake indie rock outfit Local Natives’ 2010 debut album Gorilla Manor, the four-piece would be riding high into its sophomore album. But the passing of Kelcey Ayer’s mother and the severed relationship with former bassist Andy Hamm had the band feeling quite the opposite.
A sadder, darker tone took hold of the songs offered in Hummingbird when it hit shelves earlier this year, but the songs have taken on a lighter form as the band finds a silver lining for having made it through it all.
“This album is very cathartic for us. Playing even the sadder songs live, there’s a joyful, celebratory quality to them,” multi-instrumentalist Ryan Hahn said. “Internally, it feels like we made it through, and it’s nice to be on the other side and feel stronger for it.”
It was that power found in baring vulnerable emotions that inspired the more grounded lyrics and album’s title, which was pulled from the track “Colombia.”
“The theme of that song speaks to the record as a whole, ‘Hummingbird’ being this dichotomy of delicateness and strength at the same time,” Hahn said. “It seemed to encompass the record as a whole and the expanse of emotions in it.”
What could have been a shipwreck turned into smooth sailing, thanks in part to producer Aaron Dessner, who has steadied similarly stormy waters in his time with beloved Brooklyn band (and masters of serious emotion) The National, who became a close friend of Local Natives during a tour together.
“In a way, there was an older brother feel. He could help us relate and maybe keep the dynamic less tense than it could have gotten at times. It really helped us keep things in perspective,” Hahn said. “He was more experienced in the studio than any of us were. It just kind of clicked, and it was nice having a fifth person in the room [whom] we respected and could bounce ideas off of.”
But the true musical release might have come when the band’s refusal to let outside expectations and pressures shape what the album would become.
“We’re all of the mindset of writing a record we are happy with
and proud of,” Hahn said. “That’s all you can do, to make something
you’re stoked on. It’s hard enough to do already, pleasing four
different songwriters, so you can’t worry about the rest.”
The period leading into Local Natives’ third album looks to be briefer, with songwriting well underway, even in the midst of persistent touring — which includes Monday’s show at Diamond Ballroom — and festival dates all year.
“Even now, writing these songs, it’ll be different than Hummingbird or Gorilla Manor,” Hahn said. “Each record feels like a time and place, and I feel, personally, that we’re in such better places and the vibe in the band is so good, the songs are going to be reflective of that. We are all really energized and excited to get working on the third record.”