Live & Direct: Local Natives
Indie rock band Local Natives stopped by the WYEP studios on Saturday, Aug. 26.
Listen to their interview with Kyle Smith and songs from their new album, Time Will Wait For No One, in front of an audience of WYEP members.
Intro: Time Will Wait for No One
1. Just Before The Morning
2. Desert Snow
3. Dark Days
Host: Kyle Smith
Audio Engineers: Tom Hurley & Thomas Cipollone
Videographer/Editor: Thomas Cipollone
Program Director: Liz Felix
VP, Broadcasting: Mike Sauter
Looking for more Live & Direct Sessions? You can find them here.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity
Intro: Time Will Wait for No One
Just Before The Morning
Kyle Smith: Welcome back to Pittsburgh, first of all! Taylor, Kelcey and Ryan are here and they’re going to be answering a few of the questions, but the new album is Time Will Wait For No One, which was the introduction piece that you started off just before the morning. Can you explain a little bit about the theme of the album, and where it came from?
Ryan Hahn: Yeah, I think for us, that lyric was kicking around for a long time. And then as we were working on this album, it just felt like there was so much chaos swirling around us. You know, it was the first time we’d been apart from each other for any extended period of time for, like, basically 10 years. We were living together, touring together. And just like amongst all the chaos and us figuring out what was going on with our relationships in the band and everything, it almost became this mantra of ‘time will wait for no one, but I’ll wait for you.’ And it was this kind of choice we could make to kind of hold on to this thing that we have together, you know, making music together. We’re basically brothers at this point. I’ve known these guys since I was 13. So in a lot of ways it just kind of encapsulated all the emotions and the feelings of that time for us.
Kyle Smith: And this is your fifth studio album, but Violet Street came out back in 2019. I don’t know if there was extensive touring around that record before COVID and the pandemic or not?
Kelcey Ayer: We planned touring, but then we didn’t (laughs).
Kyle Smith: Everything is kind of great until it isn’t, turbulent times for everybody, some turbulent times with bands. Everything is stopped in its place and along with a lot of other things that happened, was there a decision then to kind of restart the band, do a reset before going to the studio or?
Taylor Rice: We kind of worked it out while we were making this record. And I think the beautiful thing for us in the album and in the music is the one thing about kind of like having this forced stop in your life — and I think like almost everybody experiences — was it really made you pause your life and look at everything and kind of reexamine. And in that way, it got to be like a new beginning. And I think in that way it was really beautiful. So over the process of making this album and body of work, we ended up actually making like a ton of new music. We really got to throw assumptions out and everything out and take a moment to look in the mirror there and just like start again — which was like really the amazing aspect of it.
Kyle Smith: Well, that’s great. They’re from Southern California. They’re here in Pittsburgh tonight for a show at Stage AE, Local Natives are here Live and Direct. Where did you find that inspiration, then, for some of the songs on it? Because Just Before the Morning came out quite a while ago before the album was completely conceived, I think it was a single like either early in the year, in 2023. What was the clicking part where you found that inspiration to to put a bunch of music together because it sounds like you recorded a lot?
Kelcey Hahn: Well, we started trying to write over the pandemic and pass things back and forth together over like emails and stuff. And that didn’t work because we’re so much more used to having the immediate feedback of playing together in a room, playing a part, ‘don’t like that,’ play another part, ‘that sounds good.’ That just can’t happen over an email
Taylor Rice: That’s a good description of being in a band. Great summary.
Kelcey Ayer: Yeah (laughs). We had made basically a record in a really tumultuous time, where we’re all kind of fumbling because we’re trying to all recover from what we all went through, which is being in isolation, being in your own head, spiraling out a bit. So making music, we got a bunch of songs done and then we had to kind of do a huge reset. Then went back into the studio and it felt like there’s kind of two halves to this, to all this music we made that we kind of collaged all together. It’s like a lot of before, middle and after of going through this traumatic experience and then coming out the other side.
Kyle Smith: It’s hard to imagine. Being a band is tough enough to tour and prepare and record and be out on the road, and be in close quarters with everybody.
Kelcey Ayer: Being in a band is definitely hard. Yeah. Oh, for sure, Kyle, you’re right.
Kyle Smith: Got to be one of the tougher things to do?
Kelcey Ayer: Well, that’s the hardest relationship to explain to anybody, because, yeah, we are like brothers. We are like best friends. We’re business partners, we’re creative partners. If you’re not just working on your relationships all the time — anyone in a relationship can understand that — you need to keep working on something for it to keep being in a good spot. And then when the pandemic happened, everything’s cut off and you don’t get to have that kind of work. In a band, we found that to be really, really challenging.
Kyle Smith: Well, glad you came out on the other side and you’re smiling. And here we’re grateful that you’re here today performing live for the studio audience and for everybody else. Local Natives, Time Will Wait For No One is the album. How about a couple of songs?
Kyle Smith: Now, this tour is kind of gotten under way in the last few weeks, right?
Taylor Rice: Yes. We’re six shows in and I think, like, three months into this tour. That was a joke. Feels like it’s been three months. It’s just been one week (laughs).
You know, it’s so interesting, switching from regular life to tour life, and you kind of go through a portal into another dimension. But this first 10 days in on tour has been really amazing. It’s the first time we’ve gotten to play the whole new record, playing a lot of these songs live for the first time. And yeah, we’ve, like Ryan said, we met when we were like 13 and 15 years old and just playing live has been such a huge part of our band and of our lives. So it’s just something we really appreciate and love doing a lot.
Kyle Smith: Well, that song NYE has a little bit of a story behind it because from what I understand, a few of you have gotten married over the years?
Taylor Rice: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Local Natives now has a tradition where if somebody gets married from the band, the rest of the band makes up your wedding band. What’s fun about that is whoever’s getting married, we never gets to see us play, you know? You’re always on stage with each other. And so Ryan and I played at Kelcey’s wedding a long time ago. They all played at mine. Then while we’re making this record, Ryan got married. Round of applause for Ryan (claps)! And we’re playing like all of his favorite songs. He had us play Oasis. He had us play Bee Gees. Kelcey had to sing in a very high register for like five minutes.
Kelcey Ayer: I keep getting asked to way out of my range. And it feels — I can’t say no! It’s their wedding. I’m asked to go way out of my range feels and it’s like, I can’t say no.
Taylor Rice: But you sounded great, Kelc, you sounded amazing.
And we play these really fast songs. Like, we played a song by The Strokes.
Kelcey Ayer: Well I got to play bass for the first time, which is really fun. I’m not obviously not playing it now, but I never get to play bass. And we were playing this like fast song and I think Ryan saw us up there playing and just thought, ‘Oh, this would be a cool, like new, maybe different sound for Local Natives.’ And then he wrote NYE.
Kyle Smith: I just heard a new version of it and it’s been kind of refreshing. In the last couple of years when singles or songs come out from bands, they end up working with another vocalist, turn them into a duet, or have a guest. How did you meet Suki Waterhouse? Because she’s on a new version of this song NYE that I just heard the other day.
Taylor Rice: Yeah, working with Suki was amazing. We were just mutual fans of each other. Like, it was that simple and exactly what you just said. We kind of had a concept like, ‘Let’s do we love, kind of doing stripped down acoustic versions of songs.’ And, we were like ‘It’d be so cool to do this song as a duet.’ And yeah, we just basically asked her and she was like, ‘Yeah, I would love to.’
We spent like a day in the studio. We really recorded it live. She was like, ‘Can I just like, sing this like over and over?’ We’re like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to do it live.’ And she was like, ‘Super. Game.’ She was amazing to work with. And she even then came out and we had an L.A. show right before this tour and she came on stage and sang with us, which was cool.
Kyle Smith: I really liked this last record that she did. And when I was back in my home state a few weeks ago visiting, she played a show at a club that I was kind of blown away. So it was cool to see the collaborative work and it’s always great when you kind of connect different bands and incorporate them into your songs.
I guess you guys have done remixes of things and had other guest vocalists before because back in 2016 you put out the song Dark Days, which was, I guess, a strange look ahead to things. But you ended up recording with the guest vocalists at that time, and then a few years later, I guess maybe 2020, when you put out a remix of it with Sylvan Esso.
Kelcey Ayer: Nina Persson from The Cardigans sang on the first on the album version that came out on Sunlit Youth, our third record, and we loved that version so much. But then in 2020 — so we’re friends with Sylvan Esso (their labelmates), and we were going to do Jimmy Kimmel Live and we always like getting other female singers to do the duet part, because we just can’t ask Nina to come out all the time. She lives in Sweden. That’s very far. She’s probably busy. So Amelia was in town from Sylvan Esso and we’re like, ‘Oh, do you want to sing it with us?’ And she kind of rewrote the second verse and did her own take on it. And we loved it so much. We wanted to actually record it and put it out.