Almost a year ago today, like many music fans around the world I was eagerly anticipating the annual SXSW festival and what new delights it would serve up for the ears.
Normally there are a good few bands that spring up and in the months following it I find myself spending an inordinate amount of cash in Avalanche snapping up their albums.
However, last year there was only one band that caught my attention. At around 3am one morning I was listening to BBC 6 Music (fingers crossed by the time this goes to press that common sense has prevailed and it is still on air!) and they began interviewing a chap in the street in Austin, Texas waxing lyrical about a band he had seen the night before. He was on his way to see them again, in a church I think, and that they were the best outfit he had seen in a long time. The DJ then proceeded to play a track by them, the song was ‘World News’ and the band was Local Natives.
Fast forward a year and I am standing in the King Tuts corridor with Kelsey (vocals/percussion/guitar) and Matt (drums/vocals) from the band. The “chap in the street” turns out to be someone they knew – “Yeah, that was James our press guy, he obviously did a good job,” says Kelsey with a smile. That may be the case but when I heard the song, I knew I was listening to a band that I would fall in love with.
On their SXSW experience:
“We had been to Austin before to play a show, but never to SXSW. We heard it was super chaotic and you just had to play as much as possible, so we registered to play an official showcase but didn’t hear back. So we ended up networking with people who write blogs and stuff and before we knew it, we had 9 shows booked over the four days!
We were always of the mindset that we had to build a fanbase in the States from the inside out, but by show number 8 or 9 at South by we were meeting a lot people from the UK and Europe who were showing an interest. It all happened so fast and literally 2 or 3 months later we were in London playing some shows.”
Fledgling acts flying the flag for Scotland this year at the showcase include Tommy Reilly and Unicorn Kid. The band was quick to offer advice to other artists heading out there this year.
“You don’t really need a special showcase to do well at SXSW. We played some tiny bike shop with like a keg in the corner that would fit about 50 people max. That’s where NME saw us which led to them covering us and then asking us to do their tour.”
After SXSW the band had to set about recording that all-important debut album. Despite the hype generated about the band at the festival, they plumped for a fellow local native in LA called Raymond Richards, who runs Red Rock Records out of his garage, to be at the helm.
“We didn’t really have a lot of money or equipment or know how so we asked a bunch of bands in the area who we respected and everything pointed towards Raymond. He turned out to be the perfect choice, he’s a great guy.”
The album released in November last year is called ‘Gorilla Manor’ (so named after the house in which the band live together). It is a wonderfully crafted first offering which has drawn comparisons to the likes of Fleet Foxes and Arcade Fire. You cannot fail to hear the influence of the Seattle bands’ harmonies, but they in turn take influence from The Beach Boys in particular. The band are quick to point out their own influences, and when asked what records they were likely to listen to from their parents record collection their answers included “Simon and Garfunkel or Peter Paul and Mary” which made perfect sense to me. The album is a lot heavier in parts than you would expect, and that may be someway due to the bands initial experience with live music.
Kelsey reminisces “My first gig was while I was in seventh grade and it was the Family Values tour which comprised of Staind and Limp Bizkit”. Matt adds: “Mine was probably a local hardcore band from Corona, my hometown – possibly a band called The Bled; I was in 9th grade and used to have to sneak out my window to go see a band”.
Add to this bass player Andy, who used to get hassle at school for being into metal, and you wonder how they became the indie folk outfit formerly known as Cavil At Rest.
The world certainly is a better place for them pursuing this venture, and they both have fond memories of their first visit to Glasgow last October on the NME tour. Kelsey reminisces: “We ended up in Sleazys after the show; I grossed everyone out the next morning when I told them I had tried deep fried pizza – I actually quite liked it too!”
Matt adds: “I was really excited about coming to Scotland because my family are of Scottish descent. I traced our ancestry back to, have you heard of Airdrie?! I didn’t make it there to visit but I did manage a trip to Culross.”
Thankfully the next few months will see them visit more glamorous locations as they are set to play a headline show at the Shepherds Bush Empire, and make what is sure to be the first of many festival appearances at Coachella.
“We aren’t sure what other festivals we are playing yet. We played Latitude last year and that was one of our best moments so far as a band. We played on the Sunrise stage in the woods and pulled a really good crowd. Afterwards our manager came running in to the dressing room and was like ‘Wow, you guys nailed it!’. We all kind of looked at that as being quite a special moment.”
And a special band they are too. If you find yourself in Avalanche Records (as I do often) trying to remember which bands’ album you had thought of buying, then do your ears and soul a favour and pick up a copy of Gorilla Manor, you certainly won’t regret it.