Local Natives discuss their 10 favorite songs with harmonies

Local Natives are a band who have been known for their harmonies since day one, so we were thrilled at the idea of hearing about some of their favorite harmonies by other groups, and their list did not disappoint. Band members Kelcey Ayer and Ryan Hahn made us a list of 10 harmony-fueled songs with five picks each, ranging from OG rock harmonizers like CSNY, The Beatles, and The Beach Boys, to ’90s/early 2000s R&B harmonies from D’Angelo and Boyz II Men, to more modern indie harmonies from Animal Collective and Bon Iver. They also give commentary on each one, and the whole thing is a great read. Check out their list:


Local Natives’ Top 10 Songs with Harmonies

Ryan Hahn:

Crosby Stills Nash & Young – “Carry On”

I found an old digital 8-track recorder I used in when I first started writing songs in high school. The first song that I recorded on there that had three-part harmony was an absolute ripoff of “Carry On” haha. This song was such a huge inspiration when we were figuring out what we wanted our band to sound like. Something about the blend of CSNY’s voices on this song felt like a revelation. There isn’t necessarily a “lead” vocal. The lead vocal is the stack of their voices entwined.

D’Angelo – “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”

I just love the way D’Angelo layers his voice. No one in our band has studied music theory, so to my untrained ear, what D’Angelo is doing sounds so excitingly complex and yet so effortless.

The Beach Boys – “In My Room”

The Beach Boys were such a formative band for me as a kid and obviously for our band. There are many more complex songs of theirs I could’ve picked for this list but I chose this song because it was really pivotal in helping me learn about their harmonies as a kid. They basically walk you through it by progressively stacking the harmonies one by one at the start. A simple, beautiful, melancholy song.

Boyz II Men – “End of the Road”

Besides the harmony bands of the ’60s, the other really formative examples of harmonies I heard growing up were from artists on the radio like Boyz II Men, All-4-One and En Vogue. In the mid-’90s my family was living in Singapore and I just remember hearing Boyz II Men everywhere. I always loved when the music dropped out at the end and you just heard their voices a capella.

Bon Iver – “715 – CR∑∑KS”

I don’t know if this song breaks some unwritten technical rules of this list, but this has to be one of the most beautiful harmony vocal performances I can think of. It’s so moving every time I hear it and getting to see him sing it live a few years ago was absolutely mind-blowing.

Kelcey Ayer:

Animal Collective – “Leaf House”

Animal Collective was a huge influence for us early on, and I remember, right between high school and starting college, this was the first song I heard from them. It broke all my preconceived notions of what harmonies could be. I remember being stunned and thinking, “What the fuck is this??? I wanna do this.”

The Beatles – “Nowhere Man”

The Beatles sang together all the time, but this was one of their standout harmony tracks that I feel doesn’t get enough credit. It’s also close to my heart because my dad would sing it to my siblings and I when we’d go to sleep or wake up in the morning.

Mark Pritchard & Bibio – “Giving Up The Choir”

Mark Pritchard’s album Under The Sun was very influential to my output later in my career, this song being one of its highlights. The way Bibio stacks his vocals is a great example of using backing harmonies as another instrument that you can weave the main vocal into.

Paul Simon & Linda Ronstadt – “Under African Skies”

I love a great two-part harmony, with two people telling a story together, completely in sync, but allowing the uniqueness of their voices to shine through. That’s what this song does so well.

Björk – “Pleasure Is All Mine”

I couldn’t not have something off of Medulla, Bjork’s all-vocal album. It’s pretty insane that she made an entire album from only voices, and while it’s not exactly a lot of classic harmonies going on, she yet again breaks the mold of what human voices can do.


This list, meanwhile, is one of the last things Kelcey did before leaving Local Natives, which was announced this morning. The band writes:

A big theme of Time Will Wait For No One, But I’ll Wait For You is being there for one another, and part of that is accepting change. With that, we wanted to share that our latest album and its upcoming tours will be the last with Kelcey as a member of Local Natives. We started making music together when we were teenagers, our bond is so much deeper than just bandmates; we have a true family love between us. While we’re of course sad to see our very talented and wonderfully weird friend go, we’re supportive of his decision to step away from Local Natives to focus on other projects. We’re excited to see what lies ahead for Kelc and wish him nothing but the best.

Endings are also new beginnings. For the four of us, this next chapter gives us a chance to reimagine what it means to make music together, and ultimately has deepened our commitment to Local Natives. Any impasse or threshold in life can feel like you’re on shaky ground, but it can also be a creatively generative time. We’re working on new music, we’re psyched about the future of LN, and can’t wait to share the next chapter when the time comes.

The TWWWFNO BIWFY era will be the last with Kelcey. For now we’re looking forward to celebrating what we have all done together over the last six records, and what’s yet to come.


Kelcey also issued his own statement:

Feels pretty surreal to be saying this to you all, but after 20 years of playing with these guys, I’ve decided to leave Local Natives. This isn’t a decision that I’ve come to lightly. I’ve spent more time with this band than I’ve been alive without it. People ask me all the time what it’s like, and I have to pause and gather myself for the extensive list: we’re creative collaborators, business partners, live performers, sometimes arch-rivals, most-of-the-time giggly teenagers, and despite not being blood-related, it’s felt as close to a family as I think you can get. They are above all else my brothers. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys. The highest highs and lowest lows, all dealt with compassion, camaraderie, awe-inspiring talent, humility, character, joy, and steadfast loyalty. I’d kiss them if I was more sexually attracted to them and my wife would allow it. I don’t think the Eagles can say that. You have a lot to learn, Eagles.

The reason I’m leaving is because Ryan tore a sticker off my kick drum back in high school that I really liked and I’ve just been waiting for the right moment — k, I’m sorry, I’ll be serious. Being in a band this committed and this intense comes with a lot. It’s your entire life, and just doesn’t leave a ton of room to build anything else. While I have cherished so so much all that we’ve built, I’ve always wanted space and time to build other things. I have my own music and my own interests that I’d like to see flourish, and while my bandmates have always been supportive, the reality is that time is finite. It came to a point that I realized my whole adult life I’ve been a part of one thing and I just year to explore. I don’t know what the future holds, but I just want to find out what that can be on a wide open road.

I just want to say I feel so lucky to have been on this journey with my bandmates and with you. I want to thank you all for your support of this band; taking us into your hearts, rejoicing and grieving with us, and making us a part of your lives. I really wish the best for LN moving forward and am excited to see what they make in the future. Life is long, and who knows, maybe I’ll be LN’s John Frusciante, but for now I’ll say this is not the end of Local Natives or the end of me. I’m excited to celebrate this last year of shows with you all (I’ll be here for the last phase of touring/ promoting TWWWFNO & BIWFY, so the end isn’t quite here yet). And I hope you’ll understand that life is complicated. I can love them and love myself. And at almost 38 in one week, I want to see what it’s like to choose myself.

I love you all. I love you Ry, Tay, Matt, Nik, Sara, Mara, Nada and Lindsey (and Mel duhhhhh). And I’m excited for all our futures. All of us! Except the Eagles.


And speaking of harmonies, Local Natives (Kelcey included) recently did a harmony-fueled cover of Adrianne Lenker‘s “Sadness Is A Gift” for SiriusXMU and you can check out a clip of that below.

Local Natives’ new albums Time Will Wait for No One (2023) and But I’ll Wait for You (2024) are out now via Loma Vista/Concord. The band also just announced a new run of fall dates, which go on sale this Friday (5/3). All dates are listed below.

Local Natives — 2024 Tour Dates
May 4 – Redondo Beach, CA – BeachLife Festival
May 6 – Albuquerque, NM – El Rey Theater – Presented by KBAC
May 8 – Oklahoma City, OK – The Jones Assembly
May 9 – Fayetteville, AR – JJ’s Live
May 10 – Columbia, MO – The Blue Note – Presented by KBXR
May 11 – Louisville, KY – Mercury Ballroom – Presented by WFKP
May 14 – Omaha, NE – The Admiral Theater
May 15 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman
May 17 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
May 18 – Aspen, CO – Belly Up
May 20 – Las Vegas, NV – House of Blues
May 21 – Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theatre
May 23 – Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst
July 5 – Milwaukee, WI – Summerfest
Aug 23 – Bend, OR – Hayden Homes Amphitheater*
Sept 21 – Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion*
Nov 6 – Fort Worth, TX – Tannahill’s Tavern & Music Hall
Nov 7 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theatre
Nov 8 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
Nov 9 – New Orleans, LA – The Joy Theater
Nov 11 – Orlando, FL – The Plaza Live
Nov 12 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution Live
Nov 14 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Music Hall
Nov 15 – Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore Charlotte
Nov 16 – Raleigh, NC – The Ritz
Nov 17 – Norfolk, VA – The NorVa
Nov 19 – New Haven, CT – College Street Music Hall
Nov 21 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall
Nov 22 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
Nov 23 – Madison, WI – The Sylvee

*w/ Mt Joy
*w/ Vance Joy