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Local Natives’ Taylor Rice Rides for Sufjan, Attempts to End the NYC vs. LA Debate

Full of lush vocal harmonies and ringing guitars, Local Natives’ 2010 debut album, Gorilla Manor, had an unmistakably Californian aura. For the follow-up, though, the Los Angeles foursome decamped to Brooklyn to work with the National’s Aaron Dessner who co-produced the intricate follow-up, Hummingbird (Frenchkiss), at his home studio. In the week before the album’s January 29 release, singer-guitarist Taylor Rice spoke with SPIN about some longstanding favorites and newfound loves.

Leonard Cohen
“I became really obsessed with Leonard Cohen’s music while we were writing and recording [Hummingbird]. I got a book of his poetry and that’s what hooked me. I always knew him as this dark mumbling dude, who was kind of sad, but his way of storytelling is so expansive. For me it tapped into where I think I am in my life now. ‘Avalanche,‘ off of Songs of Love and Hate is so dark and gritty. And the guitar and the strings, how they meld, feels like an avalanche. I’ve fallen in love with that song.”

“I really love [Twin Peaks co-creator] David Lynch. Twin Peaks is one of my favorite series. It’s the surrealism. I also loved The Master. It has that historical element, but also, just the tone of it. I thought Joaquin Phoenix was incredible. You don’t know how he’s doing it, channeling all that emotion. It was very strange.”

Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan started for me when I was in college with Michigan, Seven Swans and Illinois. He’s got this overly detail-oriented way of storytelling and this weird dichotomy that I love. I was totally over it, but then he released The Age of Adz and I came right back. I love it when an artist completely reinvents themselves. On this album, we really wanted to test ourselves and do something different.”

The White Album
“I’m a huge Beatles fan — everybody is. I just love that point of their career where they exploded with this huge creative energy. [The White Album] is this insane double album that has everything. I love how diverse and expansive is.”

Haruki Murakami
“My favorite author for the last two years has been Haruki Murakami. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is my favorite of his, but I’ve read a lot of his books while touring. His metaphors are so strange and weird but also incredibly vivid. There’s a very surreal tone to his writing too. He’ll throw in these crazy elements and that’s attractive and has influenced me. When I’m writing a song I like being able to give these impressions and moments that are rooted in reality, but also take off with them.”

“Japan is basically the only non-western country or culture where I’ve spent a significant amount of time. It’s incredible to see how different the cultures can be. Audiences do this incredible thing that’s almost unnerving to a westerner: You’ll be playing a song, and you’ll think they’re bored and not into it, and then when you finish you hear this eruption. They have this oscillating thing between being really quiet and proper, and then at night, at the bars, it’s insane and everyone’s going crazy. I really like that.”

Los Angeles
“We’re firmly on the Los Angeles side. I actually really love New York. I loved living there for a short amount of time, but Los Angeles is home for us. We all grew up in Southern California and we love it. Especially where we live, the Silver Lake area, it’s a lot more low-key and laid-back, but it’s still a very engaging and vibrant artistic community. And, like, the weather, I don’t think we could hack it living in New York. It’s 75 degrees [in L.A.] today.”