Two years touring and a year-and-a-half living together in Los Angeles has made New Zealanders, The Naked And Famous, closer friends than ever, according to band leader, chief songwriter and singer, Thom Powers. SHANE PINNEGAR checks in ahead of their forthcoming Big Day Out 2014 appearance.
With The Naked And Famous’ second album, In Rolling Waves, in stores September 16 and touring plans starting to crank up for the next 12 months at least, Thom Powers has a rare moment to reflect on the hard work and friction of making the record.
“I feel like sometimes I do a poor job of going about things the right way,” he admits, “And I think that’s maybe because this is my band. I think if I was an outside producer I would be able to let go. So it can become quite heated when you’re hanging out with your friends that you live with, and you’re making a record. It’s not exactly like you can detach yourself emotionally all the time.
“But I think I do okay… yeah, there’s been some difficult moments. But I think if there weren’t, then there’d be something wrong because it would mean that no-one else was as emotionally involved. So it’s kind of a good sign I think if you’re butting heads, because it means that everyone cares.
“There’s enough respect I think,” he concludes, “and enough common goal, and enough friendship in this group to keep everything together. We care about each other, so it’s not like we would sacrifice our friendship over something trivial.”
Debut album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, saw the five-piece bounce out of the Land Of The Long White Cloud and onto the world’s stages in 2010, courtesy of singles Young Blood and Punching In A Dream featuring on various movie, TV, game and advertisement soundtracks. Cue exhaustive touring which saw TNAF play to over 600,000 people around the world before they shacked up in a share house near Hollywood and set to work on the follow-up.
Powers laughs off suggestions that the band must have felt like fish out of water being such strangers in a strange land, saying instead that their accents opened doors for them.
“Definitely – I feel far more exotic!” he laughs. “There’s definitely that side of it and hey, that’s fun. But at the same time I never liked the idea of being too patriotic, because I feel that can close a bunch of doors as well. So I feel I’ve melded into the culture here pretty well.
“We definitely do feel a little like a little fish in a big pond,” Powers elaborates, “but not so much fish out of water. Because we’re not exactly living in Hollywood – we were close to it before, but the place where we’re hanging out and working, in Echo Park, is full of cool bands and it’s definitely not Hollywood! It’s like a vibrant and youth oriented area – so we’re not immersed in the Hollywood culture, we’re hanging out where all the cool bands are and stuff. It’s cool.
“It’s a polarising place. Hollywood has that extreme ridiculousness, and then there’s the polar opposite of that, and that’s where we’re hanging out. I do really love it here!”
In Rolling Waves was named after a lyric in one song which became very important to the whole band. Powers explains…
“It’s a lyric from a song called Grow Old,” he says. “And it was the first song we finished in the writing process for the album. It’s a fairly intense song – both musically and melodically and lyrically, it’s quite a big statement for us. And it became the first thing that we did for the record that felt really positive, like it was this great artistic achievement and everyone felt really great that we had this demo, and it became this thing that we could all fall back on. So no matter how badly things were going, or how stressful things were, it didn’t really matter because we had this song that everyone felt really good about and passionate about as an artistic achievement.
“That song really felt like the staple that was holding everything together, so we put it there in the middle of the record. And that was just a lyric that stood out from that song, that I felt really described the nature of the emotional content on the record.”