The New Zealand band recorded their second album, 'Rolling Waves,' in LA, where they now live.
The Naked and Famous sounds like the title of an Oliver Stone movie or a Terry Richardson coffee table book. But it's actually the name of a five-piece band out of Auckland, New Zealand. They made a splash in the States with their debut album, 'Passive Me, Aggressive You,' which spawned a number of catchy songs that made their way onto TV, such as 'Punching In A Dream' and 'The Sun.' And you may have heard 'No Way' in the Red Bull Media House movie 'The Art of FLIGHT.'
Armed with new songs from their very strong sophomore album, 'Rolling Waves,' The Naked and Famous, who have since moved to Los Angeles, recently played the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ -- their first show in more than a year and a half. Following the show, our writer Nicole Pajer caught up with the band's co-founders, Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith, to talk about their move to LA, their older songs and what being naked and famous really means.
Has living in LA influenced your sound at all?
Thom: I was making a bad joke before and saying that there aren’t any shredding guitar solos on the record, so I think your environment tends to have a lot to do with what’s happening in life, but I think with music, it’s not very literal and it’s not very obvious. It shouldn’t be, really, because otherwise people seem a little bit gullible and a little bit stupid. They are living in a certain place and it sounds like where they are living. Because you don’t really know where music comes from. You just want to do it and it comes out, and it takes on a life of it’s own.
I hope that we don’t really sound like where we live. I think it shows that you’re doing it because you have this desire to be creative and not really to be part of the scene or be so impressionable. I don’t feel like we’re impressionable people.
How have you evolved since first starting out?
Alisa: Quite a lot. Thom and I were in our early 20s when we wrote all those songs. I can firmly say that the girl that was writing those songs in New Zealand has grown up and is very different now. So in that respect, I’ve grown from that journey, and the experience we had when touring and just feeling nourished from traveling and meeting people. That’s changed how I do things now and what I want to write about.
As you grow in popularity, is there an added sense of pressure to outdo yourselves with each record?
Thom: It’s kind of complicated. The pressure that you feel – that can change too. I think your priorities become different with age. I think the idea to outdo ourselves is more to take what we’ve done and learn from it and try and move forward.
"Outdo" sounds like an abandoning kind of thing. We’ve never been big on abandoning what we’ve done or created. It’s kind of nice to look back on it and reflect and think, “Wow. That’s what I was doing back then. That’s what I thought was a good idea.” Even if you don’t think it is a good idea now, you get more out of… it’s like that dumb saying: “Looking into the past, you can see the future.” I think you should be aware of where you come from. And also it’s really strange when musicians tend to go, “I’m so over that record that I did.”
It’s just the epitome of that sort of shallow and meaningless idea of being something or being somebody. Of course it seems sort of ironic having a name like that and living in Los Angeles.
I hear that a lot.
Thom: It’s like, what do your fans think when you say something like that? You just hate your own music? How are they supposed to feel about it? I am really proud of everything that I’ve done. I may have moved on from it but I wouldn’t talk about it poorly. It’s like, “Go back to flipping burgers man. If you don’t like being an artist.”
Where did the band name come from? Is there a certain element of “sex sells?” Did throwing “naked” in there help you catch some attention?
Thom: The title has to do with that kind of thinking, but it’s stolen from a Tricky song. He sings, “Everyone wants to be just like me. I’m naked and famous. ”It’s kind of dealing with the ideas of back in the '90s I guess of being a vulnerable popular musician and all the crap that, that brings along with it. And I like that. I think it’s just the epitome of that sort of shallow and meaningless idea of being something or being somebody. Of course it seems sort of ironic having a name like that and living in Los Angeles, where, you know, this is the epitome of that kind of culture.
That means something totally different out here.
Thom: Totally! But it’s still ironic to us because that’s not what we’re about.