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The Local Natives’ Kelcey Ayer: ‘I’m Surprised We Finished Twelve Songs in Four Years’

Since last year's South by Southwest, where they broke out from their adopted scene in Silver Lake, L.A., the Local Natives have become some of indiedom's brightest young stars. Their debut, Gorilla Manor, a dizzying combination of four-part harmonies and giddy rhythms, won rave reviews, and next month, once they're done touring Europe, they'll play the Coachella festival in California. We caught up with singer-keyboardist Kelcey Ayer to talk about the band’s quick rise and what they owe to their nerdy tendencies .

You’re known for being an extremely hardworking band — are you getting any rest now that you have a label and management?
We’ve always been super-big computer nerds and we’re always on blogs and the Internet. We have a lot of fun with the dorky business aspects of being in a band. That came out of necessity because it’s hard to get people onboard with your vision and your music, so we spent the beginning of last year and the year before that doing everything ourselves and cultivating the contacts we made at shows. Now we have a label, a manager, and a booking agent — all these people that help us do what we were doing, but on a much larger level — and we’re finding it a bit difficult to give over the reins and to play well with others [laughs].

You broke out at South by Southwest. How did that happen?
We didn’t have any management at that point, but we had decided to get serious [as a band], so we thought it was the next logical step. We had been told not to expect to get any recognition in the midst of this clusterfuck of bands, to just go and try to play as many shows as possible. By the last show, which we really hadn’t promoted anywhere, there were all these U.K. industry people that had heard of us through word of mouth, and it was packed with all these people with funny accents. It was a wild thing to see. It was mostly when the U.K. people went back and started spreading the word about us that we quickly became a really cool story. They told people, “This is the band we discovered,” and we ended up being that band. It was very helpful.

What’s songwriting like for you all?
We do put a lot of effort into working out the harmonies; it’s a love of that wall of sound that we like in bands that have influenced us a great deal — like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, four voices becoming one voice.

Do you get along during the process?
It can be a tug of war; it can be a yelling match. Everyone can get heated about it because everybody’s super passionate about it. It takes us a while to finish one song. I’m actually surprised that we finished twelve songs in four years, if that says anything about it.

Photo: DP