Naked and Famous ‘Have Winning Formula’
New Zealand techno-pop quintet The Naked and Famous have a winning formula, says Tom Lanham, writing in the San Francisco Examiner. But it took a while for others to comprehend, Lanham writes. “I had a real difficulty working with others, simply because I felt like I had some good ideas, but a lot of the musicians I knew wanted this Three Musketeers idea of creative input, where everyone gets a say,” Thom Powers, the band’s lead singer-guitarist, told Lanham. “So I just didn’t really click with anyone. I guess I had a more adult idea of how a band should work,” he said. Through trial and error, Lanham writes, Powers finally settled on co-vocalist and keyboardist Alisa Xayalith and the other three members who comprise his poppy techno-punk quintet. After quitting countless unsatisfactory outfits, out of frustration he enrolled in Music College to study audio engineering. Or, as Powers puts it, “I decided to take matters into my own hands and learn how to record my own songs.” Powers, 23, already felt like the odd man out. Raised on heavy metal, he graduated to Bristol-sound stalwarts Tricky and Massive Attack, the Examiner notes. “I wound up in bands where I had a lot more experience recording all kinds of instruments,” the electronica fan says. “Which didn’t matter, because the drummer just wanted to play his own beats, or guitarists wanted to walk onstage and play long solos. I just couldn’t stand that,” Powers said. When Powers first spied exotic beauty Xayalith at his university in 2008, he was actively seeking a vocalist to give form to his compositions. “I instantly thought, ‘Cool! She looks pretty damn hot. I sure hope she has a good voice!’” he says. “But she was the best singer at the college,” he told Lanham. They began cutting style-exploring demos, met synth player Aaron Short – who was majoring in production – and, as a trio, arrived at their first definitive song, Serenade. “The chemistry was perfect,” Powers says of the fledgling The Naked and Famous (a name taken from an old Tricky track). “There were no stupid conflicts – no one wanted to jump into someone else’s role – and there was quite a logic to what we did and how we did it. A No. 1 kiwi single, Young Blood, led to the propulsive new full-length recording Passive Me, Aggressive You, putting indie music in New Zealand back on the post-Flying Nun Records map, according to Lanham. Powers is pleased with his winning formula. “Although one member may be doing the lead songwriting,” Powers told Lanham, “as a recording unit, everyone’s still an innate, crucial part of the process, of how that band sounds.” Lanham interviewed Powers before The Naked and Famous opened for the Foals and Freelance Whales at the great American Music Hall in San Francisco.