New band of the day – No 560: Local Natives

One of this year's SXSW hits, this 'vocal group' are like Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire in one hairy package

Hometown: Silverlake, USA.

The lineup: Matt Frazier (drums), Andy Hamm (bassist), Ryan Hahn (guitar, vocals), Taylor Rice (vocals, guitar), Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards).

The background: Local Natives are almost too good to be true. Whether by default or design – and they would have to be pretty calculating to have planned it – they have qualities in common with three of the most highly acclaimed American bands of the last few years. They have the rhythmic lightness of Vampire Weekend, the hippie-barbershop harmonies of Fleet Foxes and the sense of the stately and dramatic, elegiac and epic that you get from the music of Arcade Fire. This means that sometimes you might consider Local Natives (is that a tautology or are they just pleased to see us?) to be a little pat, their songs almost too conveniently contemporary in the way that they tick all the boxes; or you might simply be grateful that you're getting the best of three great bands in one neat – hairy, bearded – package.

The latter view seems to have been the one held by attendees of the recent SXSW, many of whom judged Local Natives, who used to be called Cavil At Rest, to have been one of the hits of the festival, if not the hit. This must have been good news for the band, who are currently unsigned and share a house in Silverlake, Los Angeles; a situation that probably won't continue for much longer, unless they like being permanently at close quarters. They sound as though they do, so impressively do their voices merge, achieving a warm intimacy, or do we mean intimate warmth (hey, we can do tautologies, too). They call themselves a vocal group not a guitar band and apparently spend more time arranging their harmonies than anything else, and you get the impression that Rice, Ayer and Hahn all could be lead singers in their own right. But they don't neglect the songcraft: songs such as Airplanes are immediately likeable albeit quite intricately constructed, with dips and dives and shifts of tempo, but they generally build towards an indie-orchestral climax whose message would appear to be: life is complicated but joyous! They even manage to make Talking Heads' Warning Sign sound like a jolly prayer. And if you happen to divine a little contrivance and feel as though you are being pushed towards certain emotions by five particularly intelligent young musicians, then maybe that's just a tribute to their proficiency and powers of persuasion, to their skill and control.

The buzz: "Sounds like a double soy mocha Starbucks Fleet Foxes, or a Band of Horses if they were dreamed up by cynical fiftysomething fat cats."

The truth: They're the Weekend Foxes, A Fleet of Arcade Vampires On Fire …

Most likely to: Practise three-part harmonies over breakfast.

Least likely to: Change their name back to Cavil At Rest.

What to buy: The limited-edition seven-inch single, Sun Hands b/w Cards + Quarters (Live), is released by Chess Club on 13 July. Debut album Gorilla Manor will follow soon after.

File next to: Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses, Blind Pilot, Grizzly Bear.


Tomorrow's new band: Yuksek.


Paul Lester

The GuardianTramp

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