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Breaking: Local Natives

March 17, 2010 12:49 PM ET

Who: A Los Angeles-based art-folk quintet who broke out big at last year's South by Southwest and are poised to make an even bigger splash when they rock a marathon nine gigs in three days this week at the fest. After SXSW, the group heads out on their first major headlining tour, with stops at Coachella in April. "We were just on our first headlining tour in Europe and we were nervous that no one would come out to see us," says bassist Andy Hamm. "But there were a lot of people at all the shows and they were totally great."

Sound: Sprawling, gorgeous indie pop that mixes Fleet Foxes' penchant for multi-part harmonies with jittery, post-punk guitars and grooves. "Wide Eyes" is a reverb-dunked anthem that almost sounds like Simon and Garfunkel fronting a Britpop band. And the bouncy, sprawling rocker "Airplanes" is singer Kelcey Ayer's tribute to his grandfather, a former airplane pilot who passed away before Ayer was born. "Everyone thinks that track is about some girl that Kelcey misses a lot but it's definitely not the case," says Hamm. "It's about an old man."

Vital Stats:
• Local Natives' debut is titled Gorilla Manor after the house where all the bandmates lived and recorded in L.A. — imagine an indie-rock version of Entourage. "We wanted to pay homage to living together and writing together every day," says Hamm. "But then the other side is that it's still five dudes living together, having house parties or getting into arguments about who has to take the trash out." So which Local Native is the sloppiest? "[Singer-guitarist] Taylor [Rice] is the dirtiest," says Hamm. "Most of the time we're like, 'Taylor, you didn't clean up your shit again!' "
• After doing a performance for Daytrotter, which is based in Rock Island, Illinois, Local Natives have made made fans out of folks in the heartland. While visiting rural Illinois, the band performed a series of shows in farmers' barns, which they dubbed "barnstormings." Turns out, they're the perfect place to put on an indie-rock gig. "We played this one eight-sided barn that was all reverb-y — it was such a great experience," says Hamm. "And all these folks came out from I don't know where — but they reacted well I thought."
•On Gorilla Manor, Local Natives offer up a killer version of the Talking Heads' classic "Warning Sign," expanding David Byrne's jagged art-rock into a breathtaking anthem worthy of a church choir. "We were trying to take it to a new level," says Hamm. "We wanted it to be something that had a Local Natives style to it, but we still wanted to be respectful to the Talking Heads."

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Song Stories

“Road to Nowhere”

Talking Heads | 1985

A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

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