16th Annual Artist Survey: Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives and Jaws of Love. | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, November 17th, 2019  

16th Annual Artist Survey: Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives and Jaws of Love.

Ayer on #MeToo, The Muppets, Kanye West, and Climate Change

Mar 19, 2019 Issue #65 - Mitski and boygenius
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For Under the Radar's 16th Annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year, plus some fun personal questions. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2018 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives.

Local Natives are releasing a new album, Violet Street, on April 26 via Loma Vista. For Violet Street the band worked with producer Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes, Kacey Musgraves, The War on Drugs). When the album was announced the band shared a video for a new song from it, "When Am I Gonna Lose You." The video stars actress Kate Mara (The Martian, Megan Leavey). Ayer is Local Natives' co-vocalist, pianist, and one of the band's primary songwriters. He released his debut solo album under the name Jaws of Love. (the period at the end of the name is intentional), Tasha Sits Close to the Piano, in 2017 via House Arrest.

For our annual Artist Survey we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the midterm elections, the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh, Kanye West visiting the White House, the #MeToo movement a year later, mental health conditions in the music industry, whether or not they have Flossed, childhood birthday parties and vacations, which Muppets character they are most like, whether or not they are going to The Good Place after death, and much more. 

Top 10 Albums 2018

1. Low: Double NegativeIt's brutal and beautiful at the same time, haven't felt that from an album since Portishead's Third
2. Against All Logic: 2012-2017I guess it's a collection of Nicolas Jaar's rarities or fuck-around dance beats he never released, and I got more into it than anything else this year (besides, ya know, Low).
3. Adrianne Lenker: abysskissThe intimacy is breathtakingly beautiful, plus Luke Temple's production captured it perfectly. Her energy is truly arresting. 
4. SOPHIE: Oil of Every Pearl's Un-InsidesIt sounds like an underground club from the future from Terminator, with everyone dancing while the robots are destroying society above ground. 
5. Jon Hopkins: SingularityI know I just made a future joke with Sophie's record, but this one actually feels like there are no instruments at all, only frequencies. Truly futuristic, and it's worth the time it takes to get through it all. Lots of times. 
6. Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & CasinoIt's Bowie fronting The Beach Boys, and it's fucking rad. Full disclosure: it's the first Arctic Monkeys record I've ever really gotten into. 
7. Ariana Grande: SweetenerShe full-on Matthew McConaughey'd my ass. Bravo.
8. serpentwithfeet: soilReminds me of the drama, production, and uniqueness of melodies and vocal acrobatics of a great Björk record. I love what he's doing.
9. Beak>: >>>Brought up Portishead earlier, and this is Geoff Barrow's thing (he's in Portishead). Perfect example of actually cool prog-rock, in the vein of King Crimson or Can. 
10. Kamasi Washington: Heaven and EarthRemember when people we're living in the '70s and listening to albums from Quincy Jones and David Axelrod as they were coming out? Kamasi Washington is the equivalent of that today. He's a true musical genius, and will be revered one day as highly as those aforementioned legends. 

Close Contenders:  

Pusha T, Shame, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, The Internet, Yves Tumor, Parcels, and Amen Dunes.

What was the highlight of 2018 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point? 

The highlight for Jaws of Love. would be the tour we played in Europe at the top of this year; particularly the London show had an amazing energy. They weren't big shows, but the people who showed up really made me feel honored. For Local Natives it would just be finishing one of the best records I feel like we've ever made. And for me personally, I wrote a piece for October about drinking beer at Disney California Adventure, which combined two of my very favorite things: Disneyland and beer. Sorry to disappoint, but personally this year was pretty great. Don't hate me. 

What are your thoughts on how the U.S. midterm elections have played out? What do you think the results mean for the Democrats' chances of taking back the White House in 2020? 

I think it was an amazing test run of the base-level amount of energy we need for 2020. We need that and more. I've never canvassed or made calls for a politician in my life, but this year I did both multiple times, and I imagine more people than ever before had similar first experiences. I'm thrilled we took back the House, and feel very optimistic about taking back everything else in 2020. We just can't let up.

Despite compelling testimony from Christine Blasey Ford and sexual assault allegations from other women, Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in a Supreme Court Justice and many Republican women didn't believe Ford's story. What does this tell you about the general state of the #MeToo movement in 2018? 

Kavanaugh is so clearly the poster child of white male privilege it's absurd, and anyone with a brain could see Ford had nothing to gain from trying to play David against his Goliath. I think without the MeToo movement, Ford would have been treated much worse, if dealt with at all, and seeing so many women come forward to tell their story out of solidarity was really moving to see. Despite the unfortunate outcome, the bell can't be un-rung, and I feel optimistic we'll see more and more women's voices being heard. 

A year after the #MeToo movement, do you feel things have gotten better or worse in terms of issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and misogyny in the music industry?

I think it's a little too early to tell, but my gut says better. We men have to ask ourselves questions we've never had to ask before, view women in a different light, and basically rewire our brains. It won't be overnight, but it does seem like it's going in the right direction. 

Be honest, did you Floss in 2018? (Meaning the dance craze, not the dental care.)

I tried it in a gas station on Taylor [Rice]'s bachelor weekend trip, and I almost did it right, but never tried again. 

Which Muppets character are you most like and why? 

Holy fuck, I can't believe you asked about the Muppets, I LOVE the Muppets. You know what? I'm every Muppet. I'm sappy and optimistic like Kermit, I'm sassy like Miss Piggy, I'm funny but bad at stand-up like Fozzie, I'm weird and love chicken like Gonzo, I'm hairy like the giant hairy guy, I'm good with time tables like Scooter, I can cook like The Swedish Chef, and I can play piano like Rowlf. There. That's all of them. There are none left. Do not Google that. 

Are you less of a fan of Kanye West now that he's visited the White House and has in other ways supported President Trump? 

Uh, nooooooooooooo, I'm actually more of a fan! I think it's amazing that he took all his power and influence and used it to back one of the most unabashedly horrible human beings in our recent history. I was on the fence about Kanye before, but now?! 

(I'll take a brief pause in my answers now to call an ambulance, my eyes have rolled so hard into the back of my head they are stuck now).

911 Operator: What is your emergency?

Kelcey: Hi, I need an ambulance to take me to the hospital; I was just being really sarcastic about Kanye.

911 Operator: Oh I see, we'll have an EMT reset your eyes, they've been doing this all year, don't worry.

Kelcey: Thank you, please hurry.

In 2018 there were more dire predictions about climate change and we witnessed some of its likely effects firsthand with various deadly storms and forest fires. What should touring musicians be doing to better offset their carbon footprint? How bad do you think it needs to get for governments and corporations to take stronger actions to fight climate change? 

As dire and futile as it seems, we can't stop fighting and caring about this issue. We should vote in politicians who care about climate change and vote out people who don't. We can use our wallets to pay for products from brands who care about it and not from those who don't. On the last two tours we got everyone a swell bottle and brought in water jugs to eliminate plastic water bottles, but I'm sure there's more that we can do. As for how bad it's got to get for people to pay attention, some people will deny it even after they're on fire in a snowstorm. The people who know better have a responsibility to do something, because the believers and the deniers will not be the ones who have to pay, it's our kid's kids who will. 

What's your favorite birthday party memory from childhood? 

I actually have one from adulthood if that's all right. I turned 26 while we were making Hummingbird in Brooklyn, and my wife came out and we had the best day. The whole band plus significant others went to a rad brunch spot, then she found this beer-can-only bar that had Skee-Ball, and I fucking love Skee-Ball. Then I made everyone watch The Muppets with me, the newer one with Amy Adams and Jason Segel, one the finest movies ever made in my opinion. Then my wife took me to see Feist at Radio City Music Hall. It was epic as fuck, and beat every childhood birthday I ever had. Not that they were bad, they just had way less beer and Skee-Ball.

When you die, do you think you're going to the Good Place or the Bad Place?

That's hilarious, nice one. We're all going to the same place. 

[Note: A shorter version of this interview originally appeared in Under the Radar's Issue 65, which is out now. This is its debut online and the full version of the interview.]

www.thelocalnatives.com

www.jawsoflove.com

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