Revealingly Naked and Famous {Guest Post: Michael Campbell}

Naked, famous and taking over the world; for one New Zealand band a name can almost become a self-fulfilling prophecy, well at least half of it… so far.

In a coup that seems like it happened almost overnight, but in reality is the result of a few long years of hard work, passion and commitment, The Naked and Famous have become the darlings of the international music press, North American hipsters and European kids alike; New Zealand gave them the first home-grown album to debut at number one in 16 years and Australia have welcomed them to their shores more times than any other kiwi band in recent history.

Yes the cult of Naked and Famous has arrived and with the imminent world wide release of debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, and a relocation to London later this month, 2011 promises to be the band’s biggest year yet.

The Naked and Famous tale – made up of members David Beadle, Thom Powers, Aaron Short, Jesse Wood and Alisa Xayalith – began when Thom and Alisa first met at the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand (MAINZ) and decided to go all rock ‘n’ roll, live the dream and drop out to make some music. Kids, this was obviously a brilliant idea.

It was also here at MAINZ that Thom and Aaron re-connected after first meeting each other some years before. While Thom and Alisa were able to focus purely on creating initial demos, Aaron stayed on to complete his course in audio engineering and music production; keeping access to some amazing resources the college had to offer the emerging collaboration.

That was at the beginning of 2008, and those demos that Thom and Alisa were working on with Aaron became the EPs “This Machine” and “No Light” – a perfect introduction that got an industry listening, the hipsters talking and everyone anticipating what was to come.

In early 2009, Jesse and David – mutual friends of Aaron and Thom’s, with history that went as far back as primary school – joined the pack and they were hard at work writing the songs that would become that first, award winning album.

“It has definitely been a long process when we look back on how things were starting at the very end of 2007, but at the same time, we’ve never been in this game with thoughts of getting to the top in our heads,” says Aaron.

When asked who and what music the band listens to, where their inspiration comes from, Aaron says it’s always a tough question to answer as each band member brings such varied taste to the table.

“While Thom and Jesse were busy practicing Tool covers in high school, I was in my room with headphones on playing house music records. At the exact same time Alisa was playing lovely folk songs on the guitar, and David was trying to match his hair to his current glam-rock/hair-metal favourite.” (*Editor’s note: It appears David is still doing this if a recent interview with NME is anything to go by.)

So everyone has their long-time favourites, and of course there are bands and tracks that everyone in the band loves to listen to, but when it comes to a unifying artist, Nine Inch Nails is the one everyone in the band really loves and it was even a Nine Inch Nails song that struck up the first conversation between Thom and Aaron.

“Inspiration obviously comes from the music and artists we feel most passionately about at the time,” says Aaron.

Which is curious considering a quote from NME writer Jaimie Hodgson after seeing the band live for the first time: “Live The Naked and Famous are a very different proposition than on record, far closer to M83 and Nine Inch Nails, and less like Passion Pit than I’d anticipated.”

As with most bands, it’s always a collaboration of individuals, where the eclectic tastes and styles of each are the parts that come together to form something greater, something new, and sometimes, something beautiful.

Young Blood, the first single to appear from these recording sessions that went on to become Passive Me, Aggressive You, does just that – capturing a character full of youth and optimism; a band preparing to make its mark, answering the anticipation of a waiting public with pop synths, harmonies and a new sound that was something different, something special from New Zealand.

“Inspiration obviously comes from the music and artists we feel most passionately about at the time,” says Aaron.

Internationally – NME, the BBC, the Guardian; the UK in general are infatuated with the band.

The Guardian have named the band one to watch for 2010 calling their music thumping, pumping rocked-up synth-pop that distils the sound of MGMT at their most populist. The paper even went as far as to tell Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis “here’s your fifth – maybe even fourth or third – on the bill for Saturday (this) year”.

British radio in general has been plastering the band all over the airwaves, with XFM and Radio 1 leading the charge, and the BBC even nominated them for the Sound of 2011 poll, an annual poll of music critics and industry figures to find the most promising new music talent.

The reality is that behind all the hype, the accolades and the praise, there’s really only one thing that matters.

“Regardless of what is going on and how big a scale, we keep our heads in the right place, and that’s recording weird noises and writing music at two in the morning hunched over a laptop screen.”

Those weird sounds are going to take the band a long way, it’s a given. The album gets its Europe and North American release next month, the band just finished the Big Day Out tour of Australia, after kicking Auckland’s ass last month, and they’re set to begin conquering Europe with a tour and relocation to the UK, before heading stateside for a North American tour with The Foals.

Keep up-to-date on all TNAF related adventures:






Guest Post by Michael Campbell – New Zealand based Editor.



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