Mold-breakers Local Natives take stage at The Lyric

Posted on Mar 24 2017 - 8:01am by Jonathan Gibson
local natives

Local Natives. Photo courtesy: Brian Sheffield

The Lyric Oxford continues its indie music season Sunday with a performance by Local Natives at 6 p.m.

This California-based group may tell your grandmother it’s a rock-n-roll band, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that its music breaks the traditional indie-rock mold at nearly every turn.

“’What’s your genre?’ is always such an awkward question,” Ryan Hahn, songwriter and guitarist for Local Natives, said. “When we’re at the airport and an older couple asks us what kind of music we play, we usually just say we’re in a rock band. We never sit around and think about that kind of stuff. I mean, you’re suddenly limiting yourself, and that’s the last thing we want to do.”

With touches of electronica, upbeat pop beats and energetic guitar riffs, its music can leave listeners wanting to jump up and dance, quietly reflect and cry all at the same time.

Its music weaves together intricate melodies, introspective lyrics and chilling three-part harmonies that fans of groups like Vampire Weekend, Death Cab for Cutie, WalkTheMoon and Fleet Foxes will be sure to enjoy.

Each track in its new album, “Sunlit Youth,” leaves the listener feeling nostalgic for warm summer nights back at home, when life felt simpler and adventures bigger.

Songs like “Dark Days” allude to a time when Hahn and the other band members were younger, living out their rebellious teenage years, going on adventures and sneaking out to their girlfriends’ houses.

The new album’s bright sound is a notable shift from the darker, more intense sound in the band’s previous album, “Hummingbird.”

“Having toured really hard for the past few years and then finally getting to sit back and get a new perspective on things, getting to stay home in L.A. for a bit, we had this oddly hopeful, kind of optimistic feeling,” Hahn said. “Our last record had been a heavier experience for a lot of reasons. We just felt open to seeing where we could go.”

Hahn said writing songs always takes a collaborative effort.

“Everyone [in the band] gets together and kind of throws their ideas onto it,” Hahn said. “It’s a process that gets really unique results. It’s an arduous process at times, almost democratic, a lot of voting.”

This collaboration has given Local Natives a dynamic sound that bridges pop, classic rock and indie folk without ever settling on one genre, story or theme.

The band recently released a new song called “I Saw You Close Your Eyes,” which is available for listening only on

The site uses your webcam to ensure that you keep your eyes closed while listening to the song, and if you open them, it will pause the music until you close them again.

Hahn said this experimental way of releasing the song forces people to be in the moment while they listen.

The band’s tour itinerary features cities like Montreal  and New York City, but Hahn said touring in places like Oxford feels more intimate than some of the shows it plays in bigger cities, and the bond between band and audience feels more like family.

“We don’t get to a lot of these places as often as we would like,” Hahn said. “In a weird way, it’s like seeing an old friend. You know, so much has happened since the last time we were here. It feels like there’s a lot less people with crossed arms. It’s much more open-armed, just really fun.”

Hahn said the band is looking forward to bringing some old and new material to the stage and enjoying an atmosphere that the members feel simply cannot be recreated when they record songs for an album.

“We’ve never been able to capture the way the songs feel live on record, and that’s okay,” Hahn said. “I think they really do take on a different life. We try to change it up every night. We have a really cool show going, and we hope that everyone can be here, be present for an hour and half, and we can all experience it in this crazy way together.”

Doors open at 5 p.m., and tickets are available online or at the door for $25.