ACL Music Fest Saturday Interview
A fan letter to SXSW and David Byrne
Local Natives4:45pm, Austin Ventures stage
"The first success for our band came from South by Southwest 2009, so Austin is this amazing city!" enthuses Local Natives' Taylor Rice, walking outside his L.A. abode ("I'm at the rarest of places – home!") to avoid a dead cell zone inside. "We didn't have an album, and the week before South by '09, we got our official showcase. As a result of that, we went overseas, signing in the UK first and touring. In February 2010, our album came out. We came home from a headline tour in Europe and the album was out, so the first thing we did was play South by Southwest 2010 – nine shows in three days! So, my impression of Austin couldn't be any better!"
Austin embraced Local Natives too, thanks to the SoCal quintet's infectious, percussive blend of Afrobeat and indie rock on their critically adored album on Frenchkiss, Gorilla Manor. Likewise, the flirtatious radio play of a lesser-known Talking Heads cover ("Warning Sign"), which was never intended for release, gave the debut additional cachet.
"What was interesting to us was to take a song from a band we love like that and really flip it, make it our own. We started off with open harmonies, left the bassline, and had to change those David Byrne yelps into three-part harmony. It became a live staple for us.
"Amazingly, we heard that David Byrne had heard the song. We were playing the Bowery Ballroom and got in touch with him. He sat in the balcony watching the show. I was so nervous for that! I dedicated the song to him, and he came back after and said hi to everyone. He was exactly what you hope meeting a hero is like. He'd ridden his bike there by himself. It was so surreal, a real pinch-yourself moment, like: 'Wow! Our music brought us here!'"