It took seven years of consistent Texas touring, but Local Natives are a sustainably sourced startup, earning a big stage ACL gig the old-fashion way.
“Just looping around,” singer Taylor Rice says at Zilker Park. The five-piece Los Angeles band spent the week between Austin City Limits engagements doing as such–playing concerts in New Orleans and Houston. That’s common for bands wiring tours between the festival, but in 2009 the band arrived at South by Southwest and got stuck performing 11 shows in a weekend.
“We were driving out like we were going to the holy land,” says guitarist Ryan Hahn, before remembering one particularly nuts afternoon. “[We’re] walking down Sixth Street holding our amps, playing the next show, then having like a half hour before the next one.”
Even then, however, the band could tell the overdrive gigs were paying off.
“Every single show had more and more people at it,” Rice says.
Now the band has a tour bus, and Rice says he had time to walk around ACL and catch Miike Snow, Haim, and LCD Soundsystem last Sunday. “We used to always be on the same circuit,” he says of Miike Snow.
Local Natives are touring behind last month’s “Sunlit Youth,” a poignant, politically fused new record. Whereas 2013’s “Hummingbird,” boasting aching ballads and winter tones, disseminated slowly, the new album is lively and built for large-scale crowds.
“When we put out our last record ‘Hummingbird,’ it was actually quite a long time before those songs felt comfortable,” Rice says. “That albums a little bit darker, and maybe more of a grower… It felt like to us there wasn’t tons of enthusiasm at the time.”
One month into the new release, Rice says the enthusiasm is palpable onstage: “It feels like they know all these news songs.”
The band’s most blatantly political statement to date, the song “Fountain of Youth” features a nod to “Mrs. President.” The band has been actively encouraging fans to get registered to vote, though stopping short of blatantly stumping for Hillary Clinton.
“We’re still kind of discussing the line,” Rice says. “If you play the song it feels obvious to me where our stances lie… When you [get partisan] you put people who have made their minds up on the defensive.”
But Rice says that simply encouraging voter turnout is the “best possibility to making somebody feel open-minded.”
It’s a timely pivot for a rock band bursting with post-blog chops. For Local Natives, ACL is where the fun starts.