Ryan Hahn of Local Natives believes the youth have the key to happiness and progress.
At some point in our lives, we all learn the value of youthfulness. To live in a state of unbridled hope and expectation with the feeling that you can do anything you set your mind to is something we should all strive for. With their third studio album Sunlit Youth, Local Natives have harnessed the concept of youthfulness, and used it to fuel their artistic process.
The Civic Theatre will host the Los Angeles band this Friday.
"Sea of Years" was the first song written for Sunlit Youth, and when they came up with it toward the end of 2014, it started a transition from the melancholy of their previous album, Hummingbird. When recording this song, the band felt an overwhelmingly positive vibe in the studio. According to guitarist Ryan Hahn, the sound was "triumphant and optimistic." This was a feeling Local Natives liked, and they knew they had found their new favorite flavor. The song set the tone for the rest of the album.
The word 'Youth' in the album's title is interpreted differently by the band members. Hahn connects it to a sense of optimism brought on by progressive activism in forms older generations are less likely to participate in--on social media and other forms of protest. Others in the band think of “youth” more figuratively. The sun up shows in the lyrics throughout the album, and according to Hahn, “The sun as a metaphor is something most people can relate to in some way”. They have let the sun be a driving force in their lyrics by speaking of its absence in rough times, and of its warmth and light through joyful times.
Local Natives found youth again as a band with the production of Sunlit Youth. The band members spent their actual youth completely dedicated to the band, which exposed them to many different countries and people all over the world. According to Hahn, "When we visited a new country, people would always ask if we were influenced by growing up in California sunshine, and we always said no because we never really thought about it like that. Only after coming back from touring for Hummingbird in cold and dark places, we felt the sunshine and thought, Wow, we really do feel influenced by where we are from and where we live and this sunshine."
He says that the writing of Sunlit Youth was a nostalgic experience and gave them a sense of pride for Los Angeles. Hahn recalled an international fan asking about how "World News" on their first album, Gorilla Manor, mentions listening to the news while in traffic in L.A. The fan could not relate to that because it was specific to Los Angeles, but it was also a glimpse of how their background would unintentionally shine through in their music. Once they realized they had a strong and positive foundation in their hometown, members of Local Natives found themselves able to create more confident and uplifting music that reflected the pride they felt for their own lives.
For years, Local Natives wrote by the tried-and-true method of getting together and working songs out in a garage, rehearsal space or studio. Writing for Sunlit Youth was different, though. For it, the band broke up into small groups, which broadened the creative horizons of the band as a whole. It allowed each band member to put a more personal and artistically precise touch on a track.
Experimentation with new instruments and new techniques also the writing process gave the songs and unexpected lightheartedness that the band enjoyed and embraced. Hahn plays guitar, but with "Villainy," he wrote the first Local Natives track that does not include guitar. "I wrote the track on a short plane ride, and originally was unsure if the track would be suited for Local Natives," he says. However, the band welcomed the new song, and they agreed that it didn't need guitar.
Local Natives feel motivated by the courage and vitality they see in today's youth. Last weekend at the ACL Festival in Austin, singer Taylor Rice encouraged those in the audience to register to vote, and he made his politics clear when he sarcastically wrote “Make America Afraid Again” on his guitar. “I think there’s more reason to be optimistic than cynical,” he said from the stage. “You can help push the decision forward and make a change in the world.”
That kind of optimism shows up throughout Sunlit Youth and particularly “Fountain of Youth,” which speaks to the importance of encouraging and admiring the youth, who inspire the best kind of change.