Local Natives: Places We Don't Know by Consequence of Sound
At its farthest west, Sunset Boulevard meets the Pacific Ocean, concluding 24 miles of one of the most famous roads in America with a postcard view of the world’s largest body of water.
You must travel east, and wind through the upper-class greenery of Brentwood, past UCLA and the base of the Hollywood Hills, and along West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to arrive at the four-and-a-half mile icon of fame and opportunity that is Hollywood, a stretch mythologized in classic films, evoking terms like “big break” and “name in lights” to transplants arriving in busloads, ready to be discovered and banking on luck.
Leaving Hollywood, though, Sunset Boulevard doglegs south. For these final six miles, the street becomes the main thoroughfare for one of Los Angeles’ few genuine neighborhoods, where cars share the road with bicycles, dogs join their owners at crowded cafes, billboards alternate between Spanish and English, the late Elliott Smith’s infamous Figure 8 mural survives, and taco trucks, fruit stands, and other little perks pop up intermittently so that New Yorkers, Chicagoans, Austinites, and inhabitants of every other major city can take them for granted. In Los Angeles, the scenery of Silver Lake and Echo Park is more an exception than a rule, with its artists relying on hard work and community support as a means to success, leaving the “big breaks” for the dusty old VHS films sold in bulk at the Salvation Army.
On this mostly commercial stretch of Sunset, Local Natives have turned an abandoned building into a modest rehearsal and recording space. The small unit, perched on a small hill above the busy street, appears featureless on the outside save for a fenced-in patio to buffer the ceaseless road traffic below. Inside, the space is humble, with microphones and spare music accessories strewn with little order. There is a beat-up quality to the building, stemming from prior years of neglect, though soundproofing on the walls, a stocked kitchen, and a working bathroom fit all the band’s current needs. Still, with most of their instruments packed in their van from their previous night’s KCRW performance, little of the workspace resembles the scene a year earlier, when the band returned from the holidays to continue work on their sophomore album, Hummingbird, set for release on January 29th. Their hope in returning to their building on Sunset was for a fresh start, following a 2011 that fell short of their creative expectations.
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