Leah Hamer || November 11th
On Tuesday night, around 300 million Americans went to sleep with the knowledge that Donald Trump would be the 45th President of the United States. On Wednesday morning, five Americans on tour in England would wake up and feel the repercussion of the news.
‘We’re going to go home to a very different world…’ Local Natives guitarist Ryan Hahn told me the night before the news broke, whilst we sat in a chilly green room in Manchester’s Academy 2. As steam from Ryan’s Starbucks rose, his phone buzzed, ‘Sorry, my dad has just voted. I’m half tempted to ask who he voted for but I kind of don’t want to know.’ The tone in his voice made it very apparent which candidate Ryan was loyal to, although the results were out of his hands whilst stuck with me in rainy Manchester. ‘I’m a little anxious. It feels like a decision between sanity and insanity.’
Blissfully unaware of the results to come, we swiftly moved on to more musical matters. I visited the indie five-piece on their final UK tour date, ‘We really do like coming to England. We have a special connection because we toured here before people really knew us in the US, so in a way it’s like coming home.’
Ryan has always looked towards Manchester as the ultimate city of indie music, ‘I remember growing up and idolising cities like Manchester, because I was obsessed with Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, I remember when we got here for the first time being like wow this is where Oasis would hang out.’
The real home for Ryan, Taylor, Kelcey, Matt and Nik, however, is sunny California, where the band first blossomed when Ryan and Taylor met in Junior High. They started out by playing self-booked tours at small restaurants in Orange County before working their way up the ranks to play the little clubs in Los Angeles. Since finding their footing in the indie-sphere, Ryan can’t help but feel that the scene they grew up with has since disintegrated. There were so many bands that we used to play with but I don’t even know if they’re still together, it feels weird going home now. It felt cohesive before, now everything seems separated and detached…I think less people are making music with other people, it’s more of a bedroom thing now.’
Local Natives are one Hollywood band that have withstood the test of time, having just released their third album, Sunlit Youth, in September. ‘We’re the most proud of this record, there’s always anxiety normally, but not with this. We’re so confident, it was almost like we don’t even care what anyone else thinks.’
Sunlit Youth is vastly different to their previous work and has incorporated several changes in production, ‘We never want to repeat ourselves. It’s boring for everybody and us. We just started writing in different ways, splitting off into different groups, instead of just sitting in a room with all five of us which always produces a certain sound, so we switched things up on purpose. I would give myself little changes, no guitars in this song, no samples, only bass and drums, just tie my hands and see what comes out. Everything’s different, for example, a song like Dark Days has so much space, whereas on our first record we were too afraid to do that. We didn’t have to overthink it, it came naturally, following the energy rather than try to ring it out. If a song is going to work, it will work.’
After spending most of his career with a complete love of touring, and a hatred of the studio, the tables have turned for Ryan recently, ‘The studio felt claustrophobic and confining. I liked playing on stage, recording never had the same energy but now I’ve really learned to love the studio as I’ve learned about engineering. Touring is harder now, I love the hour and a half we’re on stage. I don’t love the travelling, it destroys you.’ He laughs.
He says this as a coughing fit emerges through his smile. ‘We tour in such a different way to other bands. We just go forever, it would be so much easier if did it month by month, but now we’re in our twelfth week and everyone is sick. There’s a rumour going round that the tour manager has called a doctor in to give us all B-12 shots.’
The life of a band on tour can be a struggle- you are thousands of miles away from your home, without any control of matters that are occurring there, and you’re always ill…mega ill, but it is worth it for the hour and a half that you are heroes on stage, as Local Natives did that night.