Posts Tagged ‘Kelcey Ayer’

“There are no problems in the studio—there are only a million solutions,” says Local Natives’ Taylor Rice. The singer-songwriter is recounting crucial words of wisdom from producer/ engineer Shawn Everett, the acclaimed sonic guru who shepherded the indie-rock band through the left-field experiments that spawned their fourth LP, Violet Street.

The album, with its lush arrangements and signature three-part vocal harmonies, isn’t exactly a departure: The seductive, Fleetwood Mac-like grooves of “Café Amarillo” and heart-crushing, string-heavy balladry of “Vogue” could have fit snugly on 2013’s Hummingbird. But intimate listens reveal sparks of madness: the bizarre radio sample and ghostly vocal loops that haunt “Tap Dancer” the creaky percussion tracks and abrupt burst of noise in “Shy” and how the drums on “Megaton Mile” gradually decelerate to form the main groove of the atmospheric “Someday Now”.

“As musicians, sometimes you get into this logic puzzle, and you feel like you need to put everything together in this beautiful and wonderful way,” Rice says. “But our energy throughout [Violet Street] was staying connected to the idea that music is this magical thing that emerges more or less spontaneously. There are really no rules at all—and there’s a million ways a song can come together and finish.”

Local Natives planted the first seeds of Violet Street, shortly after their tour supporting Sunlit Youth. Exhausted from the road and ready to unwind at home, the quintet—Rice, fellow singer-songwriters Kelcey Ayer and Ryan Hahn, bassist Nik Ewing and drummer Matt Frazier received an offer to play a wedding in Mexico.

“It was a really intriguing offer, but it was like, ‘No, we have to focus. We’re really excited to be home and writing,’” Rice says. “Then they were like, ‘What if we give you a free month at our compound for a writing session?’ It was such a crazy offer, and we were like, ‘OK, that would make it make sense.’ We played the wedding and came back later and were there for a month. We were in this hut on the beach on the West Coast of Mexico. We were set up in the jungle on the edge of the ocean.”

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They formulated most of their new songs in that month-long retreat, accumulating a collective pile of iPhone recordings. “That’s where we started the writing and got the vibe going for the record,” Rice says. “The biggest difference from before is that we didn’t do any generic pre-production. We can be methodical going into the studio [The National’s] Aaron Dessner was the first to help us crack out of it a bit [when he produced] Hummingbird. Yet, we took it to its most extreme for this album.

That’s also where the madness began. Everett briefly worked with Local Natives as an engineer on Sunlit Youth, leading the band to experiment by recording outside and on the studio roof. And in December, during a test run to lay down some initial ideas at his LA warehouse-studio, he proved just how weird he was willing to get in search of an original idea.

“We had these voice memos from Mexico, and we went in and were like, ‘Here’s ‘Megaton Mile,’ which is this song about the apocalypse, but it has this upbeat vibe like Talking Heads meets The Clash,” Rice says. Picking up on that thread, Everett decided to channel the Talking Heads’ approach on their 1980 track “Once in a Lifetime,” recording eight-bar loops that the band would then “perform” by pushing up the faders in real-time. Rice admits they were a bit skeptical.  But the warped ideas kept producing quality results.

High on the thrill of the tape-loop madness, the band decided to trick out “Megaton Mile” even further by recording the percussive clank of glass Coke bottles, each filled up to achieve the appropriate pitch. “Then Shawn was like, ‘We should just use these drums for the next song [the much slower ‘Someday Now’],’” Ayer says. “And we were like, ‘What are you talking about?’” The producer then calculated how the percussion should be pitched to account for the difference in BPM and key between the two songs, splitting the difference between a music theory test and science project.

At this point, after being blown away by the results of their tinkering, Local Natives knew they’d found the perfect studio shaman to join them down Violet Street. “We all huddled together as a band and went, ‘OK, we have to lock him in as an engineer/ mixer/producer,’” Rice says. “He was game and wanted to do the whole record.”

From there, every day in the studio was built on that sense of childlike exploration. Everett’s bag of tricks included using the randomness of Brian Eno’s “Oblique Strategies” (cards labeled with cryptic suggestions aimed to guide musicians in a new direction), messing around with tape machines and samplers, and performing songs in dozens of styles to see which fit best. (The twitchy, anthemic “Gulf Shores” also existed in a more meditative, piano-heavy version, along with what Ayer calls a “jungle-y, insane, Animal Collective-y version.”)

In this special presentation of The Ringer Room, beloved L.A. band Local Natives perform three tracks from their latest record, ‘Violet Street’ and an old fan favorite from their debut album, ‘Gorilla Manor.’ In this stripped-down setup, these songs take on a new feel, highlighting the band’s signature vocal harmonies and heartfelt songwriting.

Set List: “When Am I Gonna Lose You” 0:07 “Café Amarillo” 4:02 “Megaton Mile” 7:45 “Wide Eyes” 11:17

Rice likes to playfully brag that he was the first band member onboard for that wild ride, with Ayer straggling behind. “I was the first in the band to jump on the Shawn rollercoaster,” he says. “I like razzing Kelcey about it now because he was the one dragging his feet, like, ‘I don’t know—we should just record it in a normal way.

“He’s right,” Ayer admits, fake-threatening his bandmate with a fight. “Shawn is so brilliant, but he has all these tangential ideas, . There were a bunch of times early on where I was like, ‘This is awesome,’ but he wanted to go further. I’d be like, ‘I don’t want to fuck with this thing we just did that’s so rad.’ I’d just want to work on a song in a normal way, and he never wanted to do that.  Earlier on, we were pitching the songs, and he’s like, ‘We should record everyone’s instruments into the sampler, and everyone will play different samplers into the tape machine.’ I’m like, ‘Ugh, let us just play it!’ But whenever I’d get frustrated, everyone would be like, ‘No, no, let’s just try it.’ It ended up taking me a little longer but, after like four or five instances of doing that—and the end product being undeniably amazing.

Everett’s exploratory approach befitted a band desperate to record as a unit, to veer away from the fractured process that birthed Sunlit Youth.

“There’s an interesting cause and effect constantly happening,” Ayer says. “After Hummingbird, everyone was ready to feel really happy and fun again, so we wanted to lean poppier and a bit brighter. There were a lot of people in different rooms, producing songs and bringing them to the band. But we did that, and we were ready to be more of a band again. There was some sort of pendulum swing back [with Violet Street]. First and foremost, we just wanted to play together again.”

“There was a pendulum swing,” Rice confirms. “And we did have all these conversations before, even when starting to write the record, of, ‘Guys, let’s return to something that’s all five of us in a room performing off of each other, all the musicians in one space.’ That’s a big opposite of Sunlit Youth, where we wanted to be completely free of that. The other part of it was just pure luck that we were working with an absolute mastermind, genius producer.”

Both Rice and Ayer estimate that over 90 percent of their far-out experiments wound up on the album, but one notable exception is “Munich I,” a sprawling, eight-minute instrumental jam that was too unwieldy to crack the LP’s compact tracklist. In order to facilitate new ideas for the song, Everett pulled up the Radiooooo app, which generates random music after users select a country, decade and mood.

“We set up live in the room, playing off each other,” Rice says.  We’d listen to the song for like 30 seconds to get the vibe then play for five minutes. We had the sweetest jam ever we couldn’t even believe it was us. It’s this incredibly ambitious project we were so in love with, but we just couldn’t make it work. It’s still alive somewhere in the back of our minds.”

“He’s a workaholic doing 14-hour days every day,” Rice says. “We forced him to go on vacation during the record. I booked his flight and accommodations in Greece. A lot of producers are like, ‘Here’s my huge bag of tricks,’ but Shawn always wants to try something he’s never done—possibly something nobody’s ever done.” Crucially, Local Natives weren’t just screwing around without a plan. They were armed with the hookiest, most poignant songs in their catalouge including “When Am I Gonna Lose You,” a number Rice wrote for his future wife in the early stages of their relationship.

“It’s probably the one I was most lost in the deep, epic journey of,” Rice says. “I think I drove the other bandmates a little nuts, but Shawn went with me. We explored 40 versions of the song before we hit the final one. Originally it was a slow, sad, very weepy acoustic song. A dark LA Fleetwood Mac vibe was one of the guideposts we had aesthetically. I thought it would be this slow ballad, and it turned into a driving groover on day one.

“Lyrically, it [came from the idea of ] having this incredible thing in your life that feels too good to be true,” he adds. “It’s a pretty sad name and idea for a love song, but it’s the idea that fate is going to intervene or I’m gonna mess it up. The whole thing takes place in Big Sur, and I heard the final mix of it driving up the 1 on [the Pacific Coast Highway] to Big Sur with my wife, whom I married in August of 2018. We heard it together for the first time, and that’s where the story in the song had begun. That was a really surreal, insane moment.”

Violet Streetis the polar opposite of Sunlit Youth’s gleaming, stadium-friendly tunes it’s grimier, darker and, like the recording process itself, full of fascinating detours. As Ayer reflects, it’s closer to the type of music they’ve always envisioned making.

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Kelcey Ayer (Local Natives vocalist, pianist, and one of the band’s primary songwriters) has announced his debut solo album under the name “Jaws of Love”,and shared the project’s first single, also titled “Jaws of Love.” The album is titled “Tasha Sits Close to the Piano” released last September via House Arrest. Listen to “Jaws of Love” below .

As Local Natives were getting ready to record Sunlit Youth via Loma Vista and Infectious Music), Ayer laid down the initial tracks over the course of three days in the same Electro-Vox studio in Los Angeles that Local Natives recorded in. Engineer Michael Harris and mixer Cian Riordan were involved. Ayer later finished the album with Local Natives‘ drummer Matt Frazier. The Tasha Sits Close to the Piano album title was suggested by Ayer’s wife and named after their dog, Tasha. Jaws of Love. made its live debut show in September at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

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Ayer had this to say about the album in a press release: “I used to think that in order to write about love, something had to be wrong. I often got my material from pain, or insecurity, or problems – I thought I couldn’t write a good love song because I am in love and it’s going so well. But I’ve grown to realize that even in the most amazing relationships there are turbulent times and misunderstandings that are unavoidable. And that doesn’t mean that anything is doomed, but love is such a complicated thing. The idea of ‘jaws of love’ felt so perfect for this project because it’s all about love’s trials and tribulations.”

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Kelcey Ayer has been one of the vocalists and primary songwriters in the band Local Natives. Now, he’s stepping out on his own as Jaws Of Love. His debut album “Tasha Sits Close To The Piano”, named by his wife after their dog Tasha, is coming in the fall, and today he’s sharing its lead single “Jaws Of Love” which out as a solo piano ballad before gradually unfurling into floaty indie-rock grandeur. “The whole project is me trying to embrace my nuances and indulge in it,” Ayer explains. “It was such an awesome release making these songs, and that let me embrace who I feel like I am. It was wonderful to not have to explain myself to anyone. I have dark piano music in my heart and soul, and Jaws Of Love. is me at my truest

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