Local Natives did something very different for their fourth studio album, Violet Street, which dropped on Friday (April 26). While on the surface, it checks the band’s usual boxes of soaring harmonies and neo-psychedelic groove, the process of getting to the final product is unlike anything they’ve done before.
Violet Street is the band’s most collaborative album to date. The fivesome returned to the methods and sounds of their 2009 debut Gorilla Manor, but this time, following some tumultuous relationships during the Sunlit Youth era, they’ve grown as friends and musicians, and became open to the idea of being fully vulnerable and candid in a musical space.
“We set up this microphone in the middle of the room and we all ran around it screaming and banging on drums and random things,” vocalist Taylor Rice explained as one of the wildest techniques the band tried in the recording process. “And we really got carried away with it and went crazy and everyone was laughing in a heap on the floor at the end. It was this ridiculous moment.”
“Just making cacophony and that ends up making this beautiful pad in the song ‘Vogue,'” Ryan Hahn mirrored. “It was very different for us. We are a band who is usually very intentional and we orchestrate everything down to a T. “
In line with experimental albums of the past (think the Abbey Road employees twirling chains in a tin bath to create the water sounds on the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”), Local Natives spent about a year on the record with producer Shawn Everett, who has worked with high-profile artists such as Kacey Musgraves and The War on Drugs, in a Los Angeles Arts District warehouse studio. The group ended up developing the ultimate expressive, creative space where literally any idea is worth giving a shot. The album is a nod to this total artistic freedom and to the studio where it happened, located fittingly on Violet Street.
“We were really influenced by Brian Eno and how he made records for the Talking Heads,” Hahn explained. “There was some crazy action with looping different pieces of tape and then running them throughout the room at different speeds. There was just this constant feeling of, ‘Let’s do things a weird way.’”
“It was a really amazing mix of this old school thing of a band being in a room creating together,” Rice added. “But there’s also nothing retro at all about the record or about the process of making it. It was done with all of these modern tools and technology. So there’s this awesome marriage between those two things.”
In simplest terms, making Violet Street sounded like it was a lot of fun. From channeling a “haunted Hawaiian party” for the tropicalic “Someday Now,” to tapping into a jungle swamp mixed with “Tusk”-inspired horns for the dense track, “Shy,” Local Natives’ anything-goes mindset allowed for the group to enjoy themselves, explore parts of their psyche they might not have ever stepped foot into, and widen their sonic palette to lengths uncommon in the music landscape this year.
But from all the record-making chaos came serenity and a harmonious sounding album, which is exactly what the band intended. “This spiraling chaos that we turned into a beautiful thing, we were discussing that a lot of the lyrics also come from that place,” Rice explained. “The world is really crazy and intense around us right now. Where do you find the things that are very peaceful and beautiful in this world?”
“Lyrically, the one thread between all ten tracks is shelter,” he continued in a statement. “Of course, we have relationships with our significant others, but we also find shelter in community, friendships, and the band. They are at the heart of Violet Street.”
Listen to Violet Street, and check out the list of the band’s upcoming tour dates below.