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Local Natives find strange music to their liking

Local Natives headlines sold-out gig Vic March 21.

Local Natives headlines a sold-out gig at the Vic on March 21.

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♦ 8 p.m. March 21

♦ The Vic Theatre,
3145 N. Sheffield, Chicago


For indie rockers Local Natives, the stranger the music, the better.

“We’ve experimented with lots of ideas that seemed strange for us, and most of the time those were the ones that felt right,” explains guitarist Taylor Rice.

So as the Los Angeles natives began brainstorming for a follow up to their 2010 widely acclaimed “Gorilla Manor,” the fact that their thoughts kept turning to the symbolism of a delicate and sweet hummingbird never struck the hard-rocking foursome as odd at all.

“Hummingbirds are both these fragile creatures that have to beat their wings hundreds of times a second to stay alive, but are also symbolically very powerful,” says Rice, who will join band mates Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn and Matt Frazier on stage March 21 at the Vic Theatre. “When you see a hummingbird, you usually stop whatever you are doing and watch it with a sense of wonder.”

Indeed, this band seems to have had the same effect on critics and fans alike. Since first getting together in 2008, Local Natives has allowed musical experimentation to lead the way to critical success among an increasingly foggy music industry. Co-produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner, the band’s highly anticipated sophomore album “Hummingbird” was released to rave reviews, and their latest single and accompanying video “Heavy Feet,” is a fan favorite.

But debuting atNo. 12 on Billboard’s Top 200? That shocked them.

“Well, Billboard is still sort of a surreal concept to me,” chuckles Rice. “In high school I wanted to be At The Drive In, and I never thought about anything like record sales. I just wanted to play shows all over the world, which has been the most amazing dream to have come true. This latest record is more direct and personal for us mostly because it comes from the last two years, which for us were both the most amazing and most difficult we’ve gone through.” 

Recently returning from a wildly successful tour overseas, Rice says it’s been cool to see some of the differences in their fans from across the pond.

“Each culture has its own feel,” says Rice. “Some places like Japan or certain territories in France are quite buttoned-up and polite. At first it was off-putting because you don’t think they’re having a good time until the song ends and they erupt. It teaches that there are different ways to connect with an audience. You can have a communion through pure energy, or through a thoughtful attentive chemistry. ”

Indeed, the group’s robust fan support from overseas has played a vital role in the continuing success of the band, which started building steam after a slew of shows at SXSW in 2009.

“[SXSW] brought us overseas before we got going in America,” says Rice. “It was very strange how at each show of nine we played that week, more and more people with British accents kept turning up. It was exciting at the time, we didn’t know who Zane Lowe was, and it just seemed exotic that he was playing an unknown band’s record. We ended up getting signed, playing festivals and sold out shows abroad before we ever did in America.” 

Chicago, specifically, has always had quite a hold on the band emotionally, as it served as the setting for their biggest show ever at Lollapalooza back in 2011. “We played to between 15 and 20 thousand people,” says Rice. “It went by in an instant, but it was the most incredible feeling. I just love the story of Chicago, how the fire created this vacuum where they had to start from scratch and people from all over the country came in to rebuild and make this amalgamation.”

Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.

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