Local Natives

Coachella Band Preview: Sir Sly

I don’t know about you, but winter is really getting to me. I’m sick of the snow, the ice, and the freezing cold. April needs to get here stat. Thankfully we’ve reached the 2 month Coachella countdown this week. That means it’s time to crank up the jams on another band playing the festival this year, Sir Sly.

Los Angeles based indie pop band Sir Sly formed in 2012. At one point no one knew anything about them when they reached number one on Hype Machine, a website music database that ranks the latest and greatest tunes from music blogs. They came out of nowhere with their debut single, “Ghost.” Shortly after, they revealed themselves. The group is comprised of Landon Jacobs, Jason Suwito, and Hayden Coplen. Their first album, You Haunt Me, was released in September 2014. A few songs from the album were featured in video games and ads, giving their music some exposure.

After the release and touring from their debut ceased, life happened for guitarist and vocalist, Landon Jacobs. He went through a divorce and his mother passed away from brain cancer. It inspired Sir Sly’s second album, Don’t You Worry, Honey, which was released on June 30, 2017. The music on the album doesn’t sound devastating though. The album is about being able to experience joy through pain. The lyrics focus on some serious stuff while the fun-sounding music makes it bearable. One of the most successful songs from the album, “High”, was featured on the soundtrack to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

Sir Sly is described as an indie pop/rock band, but their music also has influence from other genres like electronic and psychedelic music. They kind of sound like Tame Impala meets Local Natives meets The Neighbourhood. Their music isn’t extremely upbeat, but very vibe-y and super chill.

I first heard of Sir Sly over the summer. My friend got into them and told me about the group because she liked their name. She thought it was a pun on the word “seriously”. The group actually came up with the name because it sounded cool and they didn’t want to take themselves too seriously. Kind of ironic eh? I listened to whatever song she sent me at the time and thought they sounded pretty good. I then realized that they were on the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack, which I had watched in June. I definitely liked the song “High.” Since then I feel like I’ve seen this band pop up more and more. They were booked for a summer concert around where I live that never ended up happening and their music constantly appears on Spotify playlists. Since my introduction to them, I’ve been slowly getting into their music because of this. Every once in a while I’ll get into a new Sir Sly song, but not several songs at once. It’s a slow process. Sometimes listening to music happens that way, but before you know it you realize you know almost all of a band or artist’s songs.

Sir Sly plays on Saturday at Coachella. They’re not billed very highly so I’d expect them to play in the early to late afternoon hours. They’re definitely a group to check out if you’re at the festival then and don’t have any one else you need to see. I would most certainly check them out if I was going and available, even though at this point I know about 3 or 4 of their songs. It’s bands like Sir Sly that will be the ones that impress you the most at Coachella though. You go in only knowing a song or two and come out wanting to listen to more. Here’s a couple songs just to give you a taste of this band:

  1. High
  2. Astronaut
  3. &Run
  4. Ghost
  5. Gold
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Local Natives

It’s crazy to think, but it’s been almost a month since my last blog post and yet it honestly doesn’t feel like it was that long ago. I guess that’s what happens when you spend the fastest two weeks in the Coachella Valley working at your favorite and one of the most well-known music festivals in the world.

So yeah, I did it. I worked Coachella. It was amazing, special, wild, epic, unreal, and all sorts of other positive adjectives that you can think of. It was mostly indescribable though. I knew what to expect, but at the same time I didn’t at all. I can say though that experiencing Coachella in an entirely different way made me appreciate it so much more because it’s a first class, well-run music festival. I’m not gonna go into deep detail about my trip here. I will say that out of the bands I previewed I was able to see Kungs, Grouplove, Lorde, and Lady Gaga. If you wanna know more about my experience though, just ask.

Another thing I will mention is that I had a realization while at the festival during Saturday of Weekend 1. I definitely should have previewed Local Natives in the build-up to Coachella 2017. I was able to catch part of their set that Saturday before my shift started and I knew about 4 of the 5 songs I heard. I didn’t realize how many Local Natives songs I knew, but apparently I know a lot. I know enough that I feel like I need to go to one of their shows sometime. So I figured it was better late than never to write about them, so here goes…

Local Natives is an indie rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Members Kelcey Ayer, Ryan Hahn, and Taylor Rice all met while in high school together in neighboring Orange County, but it was after graduating college from UCLA that the group really started to focus on music. Along with Matt Frazier and former member Andy Hamm (replaced by Nik Ewing in 2012), the group moved into a house together in the Silver Lake section of Los Angeles and began working on their first record, Gorilla Manor. The album was released in November 2009 in the UK and then in the U.S. in February 2010.

The band began generating some hype before the album’s release though. They played SXSW in 2009 which garnered attention from music critics. They received comparisons to well known indie bands, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, and Vampire Weekend, making them a new notable act on the indie scene.

On January 29, 2013 the band released their second album, Hummingbird. The album was produced by guitarist Aaron Dessner of The National and featured a darker lyrical turn due to life events, such as the departure of Andy Hamm and the death of Kelcey Ayer’s mother, that had influenced the band’s writing process. The album also received generally positive reviews.

Last year the band released their third and most recent album, Sunlit Youth, in September. The first single for the album, “Past Lives”, was released a few months before the album drop. The album, like it’s predecessor, received similarly favorable reviews.

Local Natives is your standard indie rock band. There’s no other genre that their music fits into. I can see why they were initially compared to the likes of those other well-known indie bands. Out of the three I mentioned above, their music sounds most similar to a combination of Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes. I think Vampire Weekend has more of an indie pop feel to their songs that isn’t heard as much with Local Natives. Another reassuring fact about Local Natives’ music is that the sound hasn’t changed much through three albums. Maybe the lyrical content has developed and changed, but you’re still getting that familiar Gorilla Manor sound on Sunlit Youth.

I first heard of Local Natives in the prime of my indie/hipster music transition phase in the spring of 2011. From then on, every so often I would add a new Local Natives song to my iTunes and playlist rotation. While on my first trip to California in 2013, I made it a point to go to Amoeba Music. Amoeba is the world’s largest independent record store. They have three locations in California, one in Berkeley (the original), one in San Francisco, and one in Hollywood, which is the one I went to. I, of course, wanted to get something at Amoeba, but traveling by plane made it difficult to purchase any vinyl so I opted for a CD. The CD I purchased was Hummingbird. Despite all this evidence, it never occurred to me that Local Natives should be a must-see for me at Coachella this year and a must among the list of bands I previewed. I didn’t even realize it after catching the end of their set at Lollapalooza last summer and realizing I knew every song I heard them play. I do now though and I won’t disregard them anymore. I plan on going to one of their shows next time they tour near me. They crushed it at Coachella and I don’t want to miss out anymore.

If you’re a big indie music follower and you don’t know of Local Natives, it’s time you do. They’re a great band to listen to if you’re just relaxing on quiet evening or if you’re driving on a road trip. It’s time to make these guys known or recognized whatever the case may be. Here’s a few songs you should check out.

  1. Airplanes
  2. Who Knows Who Cares
  3. Ceilings
  4. Heavy Feet
  5. Mt. Washington
  6. Past Lives
  7. Wide Eyes
  8. Dark Days
  9. We Come Back
  10. Sun Hands

Phantogram

Wanna hear something crazy? There have been a number of bands I’ve liked whose albums I don’t own, but I have two albums by a band whose albums I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase. Reason: Black Friday. Over the last 3-4 years or so, I’ve shopped for music on Black Friday because CDs are often reduced in price. Once I got Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is An Animal for $6. Then a year later I purchased 6 CDs for $7 each. It’s one of the best days to get CDs assuming they have what you want or have what you’re interested in.

This year the CDs I wanted were $8 a piece so I purchased three…or so I thought. Apparently instead of a CD, I purchased one of the albums on vinyl for $8 that included a free MP3 download of it. Can you say winning?! I mean that was mistakenly epic. It’s rare to get a new LP for under $10. Hell it’s rare to get one for under $15. I was stoked (in case you were wondering what it was, Cleopatra by The Lumineers). Then I realized something from my purchases. One of the CDs I purchased just didn’t feel like something I would buy if I didn’t have that $8 deal. Not only that, but I purchased an earlier album from the same band 2 years ago on a Black Friday deal. Crazy. I guess I like Phantogram more than I thought.

Phantogram is comprised of Greenwich, New York duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. They formed the band in 2007 originally under the name Charlie Everywhere. They opted for a name change once they signed a record deal in 2009 claiming that they liked Phantogram better. It also suited their band more since it means a two dimensional optical illusion that appears as three dimensions (2 band members = 2 dimensions creating a third (music) which is something bigger than themselves…you get the picture). They released their debut self-titled EP a few months after signing their record deal. They followed it up with another EP later that year. Their first album, Eyelid Movies, was released on February 9, 2010 receiving favorable reviews from many sources. Their second album, Voices, was released in early 2014. They released two EP’s between their first and second albums.

They spent their time between albums touring in the U.S. and in Europe. They also played several major music festivals in addition to their touring schedule including Coachella in 2011 and Bonnaroo and Governor’s Ball in 2012 (They haven’t played Coachella since so could be a lock for Coachella 2017). Following the release of Voices the band continued to tour and play festivals throughout 2014 including Firefly, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Austin City Limits. They recently released their third album coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all) called Three on October 7, 2016. They’re currently touring the U.S. in support of their newest album.

In terms of music style, Phantogram has been compared to the likes of Purity Ring, Sleigh Bells, The Naked & Famous, Washed Out, STRFKR, Tennis, and Local Natives. Their music falls under the indie electronica, electro rock, dream pop genres. To give you my best description, it’s like taking an electronic trip. The vocals are soft and flowy, but not enough to leave you too far gone. Phantogram’s tunes have been featured in a variety of outlets too from television to film to video games all of different themes.

I discovered Phantogram in September 2014. It was probably a random place or playlist that I heard their song “Celebrating Nothing”. I downloaded it though and listened to it along with other recently added songs. It was a good song, but never stood out from the rest. Regardless of that, I bought the album on Black Friday because $7 for Voices was a good deal. I probably thought the album was worth a listen too. I remember listening to each album I bought that year for about a week because it was/is tough to listen to 6 albums at once. Again this year I downloaded one song off Phantogram’s newest album a few months prior and decided to buy their album for cheap on Black Friday.

When I started this blog I had yet to listen to the album which came in the mail the other day, but I stopped to take a break while writing this. I also ate lunch and ran a few errands. While I was running errands I put the new album in my car’s CD player. It’s good. To me it’s similar to the second album because their music doesn’t sound drastically different. However, I’m not sure I paid attention to the second album enough to compare it. Voices was a background album for me meaning it’s the type of album that sounds good as background music on a drive, while hanging out with friends, etc. With that type of album though, no song stands out enough to set it apart from the rest. So far Three feels the same way. I haven’t listened to it enough yet to be one hundred percent sure. I’ve actually only listened to about half the album. Maybe in a few days I can do an edit and get back to you on that.

If you’re sensing  theme here about Phantogram you’re probably right. In my opinion, they’re good. That’s it. I’m probably downplaying them, but to me that’s all they are. They’re a little above average, but nothing spectacular. Most of the time I hype up the bands I write about. I can’t with these guys so here’s my honest opinion: They’re good, just good, but I still think they’re worth a listen. Some of you may like them more than others and some of you may really really like them. Some of you may listen to them once and decide you probably won’t listen to them again. Maybe some of you will even agree they’re good background music and buy their albums for cheap next Black Friday (if possible) like me. Here’s a couple of the songs I like by them (even if the list is small because like I said nothing stands out to me):

  1. Celebrating Nothing
  2. Cruel World
  3. Howling at the Moon
  4. Don’t Move
  5. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore