Bonhomie and experimenting in Violet Street

Local Natives, an American indie rock band based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, comprise (from far left) Ryan Hahn, Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Nik Ewing, and Matt Frazier.
Local Natives, an American indie rock band based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, comprise (from left) Ryan Hahn, Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Nik Ewing, and Matt Frazier.PHOTO: LOMA VISTA

If there is one word to sum up Los Angeles quintet Local Natives, it would be "chemistry".

Whether it is the infectious energy emanating from their debut Gorilla Manor (2009), the lovely feels in Hummingbird (2013) or the can-do spirit in Sunlit Youth (2016), fans are inevitably swept up in their seamless braiding of heart, voice and melody.

Recalling their gig at the Primavera Sound festival at an idyllic seaside venue in Barcelona in 2017, I cannot help but smile - the band were in sync with one another and with the audience. They were happy to be there and so were we.

Genuine affection is, likewise, in abundance on their fourth album, Violet Street. Producer Shawn Everett, who has done fine work for American rock band Grizzly Bear, blues rockers Alabama Shakes and indie rock band The War On Drugs, taps Local Natives' team dynamics to create a recording environment which encourages all to be free and vulnerable.

You can hear the experimental streak in unexpected opening track Vogue. It starts off delicately, tethered to a mutated violin solo by Arcade Fire's Sarah Neufeld and some spectral harmonising.

This was achieved by Everett placing a microphone in the middle of the room "and we all ran around it screaming and banging on drums and random things", said co-vocalist/guitarist Taylor Rice in an interview. "Everyone just kind of unravelled. We were going so crazy and just landed laughing on the floor."

  • Local Natives, an American indie rock band based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, comprise (from far left) Ryan Hahn, Taylor Rice, Kelcey Ayer, Nik Ewing, and Matt Frazier.

    INDIE ROCK

    VIOLET STREET

    Local Natives

    Loma Vista

    4 stars

This "cacophony" is unusual for "a band who are usually very intentional and orchestrate everything down to a T", he added.

The bonhomie also buoys Cafe Amarillo, an instant singalong about finding shelter from the tragedies and madness of the real world. It pays tribute to people in the band members' lives - wives, girlfriends and one another.

"Digitised and distraught" as the "headline crawls across the screen", co-vocalist Kelcey Ayer sings over ringing guitars and skittering drumwork: "But there's no shelter without you there."

The guys are getting old and settling down - and the concomitant fear of losing loved ones exponentially increases.

The existential conundrum explains When Am I Gonna Lose You, the ballad where the newly hitched Rice repeats the title over gurgling synths and chugging percussion. It is uplifting and on edge at the same time - loss and love informing each other.

Megaton Mile - inspired by a car wash in Los Feliz - is Local Natives' fun song about the end of the world, a zinger whose melodic zest belies the macabre state of affairs: "The seagulls swarm on the railroad/All we could do is watch."

Even as things look bleak, they will always value agency over inertia, human connection over nihilism.

Whether it is the wistful Garden Of Elysian or the pared-down Tap Dancer, Local Natives compel you to hum along and not take anything or anybody for granted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2019, with the headline 'Bonhomie and experimenting in Violet Street'. Print Edition | Subscribe