Chat: The Naked And Famous

Combining equal parts industrial aggression, swoony electronic atmospherics, shoegazey distortion and radio-friendly pop hooks, New Zealand five-piece The Naked And Famous are one of those rare bands that could follow in the footsteps of artists like Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails by selling bucketloads of records and still remaining credible and underground. Shortlisted in BBC’s Sounds of 2011 poll, alongside Warpaint, James Blake, Yuck, and The Vaccines, the band’s single ‘Punching In A Dream’ has been heavily featured in TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Chuck and even The Almighty Johnsons. JUICE caught up with them as they promoted their fiction records debut Passive Me, Aggresive You with dates at Australia’s Big Day Out music festival.

Text Matt Armitage
Image Universal

Trendy TV shows seem to love you. Is The Naked and Famous a pop band?
Thom Powers I think we’re all big fans of pop melodies and structure but at the same time we really like having the edge of something that isn’t a Lady Gaga style pop production. So we mix between those two elements – songwriting wise having a strong pop song but production wise having a strong edge with the noises and the way we put it together.

There’s quite a dreamy, M83-like element to tracks like ‘Punching In a Dream’ and ‘Young Blood’. What kind of stuff influences the band’s sound?
Aaron [Short] and I connected over Nine Inch Nails. The way we organise the sounds. Some of the things we’ve been influenced by in the last few months are Frightened Rabbit, Fuck Buttons, M83, Holy F*ck. Anything with the word F*ck in it we go for that [laughs].

Your record label, Fiction, is a bit of a goth and indie paradise: Was the label’s history, the original home of The Cure, important to you?
Sure. The other labels we were talking to were big mainstream major labels and Fiction is a major label too but they’ve got artists like Crystal Castles and Kate Nash, and of course, The Cure, they have this childish excitement about bands and music. In their offices it’s just dudes with piles of records at their desks.

People always seem to think it’s a miracle that cool bands can come from New Zealand. But it’s not that unusual – there’s Crowded House, Datsuns, Split Enz and plenty of others…
Alisa Xayalith
You can count them on your hands, I guess…
Thom I think it’s also because we haven’t really had bands reaching that kind of alternative success. It’s a new thing for us.
Alisa It makes us sound really primitive!
Thom We are primitive!

Having the song featured in Vampire Diaries – has that brought you a big tween following?
It’s hard to gauge who’s a fan or not. At the shows it’s just a swarm of faces. It’s not about scenes or any of that crap. It’s just about people loving music.
Aaron Short We can’t really look out in the crowd and go: that’s a Vampire Diaries fan and that one’s a blogger and that one watches Youtube lots. Be cool if you could…

Thom is a huge Tool fan right? Did you agree to play Big Day Out so you could follow them around Australia?
Look at his pass…
Thom I’ve got a Tool pass to watch onstage.
Aaron Only Thom, not the rest of us.

What will the rest of you be doing while Thom’s swanning around side of stage?
David Beadle
Trying to get another pass…
Jesse Wood Saying ‘D!ckhead, you wanna do a swap?’

With all this interest and activity around the album, will you be moving away from New Zealand?
We’re going to go to London first. It makes more sense as far as the industry goes. We start a US tour in April.
Alisa We’ve got some other things lined up like SXSW. Lots of festivals and touring and relocating to England. That’s what’s on the cards for us.

What’s better: to be multi-million dollar sell-outs or credible and poor indie artists?
If you’re a douchebag, money is the only thing that matters.
Jesse A lot of people seem to be really successful by doing exactly what they want so there’s no reason you can’t do that.
Alisa As long as we can fund the career and keep doing it for as long as we can it doesn’t really matter as it doesn’t change who we are. We’re doing the same kind of thing we always wanted to do.

It’s been a bit of a meteoric rise so far. What have been your greatest rockstar moments?
We had a pretty rockstar moment in 2009 when we got to support Nine Inch Nails. We’re all huge fans.
Thom We’re sitting at a table getting interviewed next to the Deftones. That’s pretty rock and roll.
Jesse I’ve been getting free cymbals which is pretty awesome. It’s kind of ridiculous cos when you start out you can’t afford the stuff you need…
Alisa I signed a boob once! I got bombarded by some girls in a bathroom wanting me to sign their boobs.

Tell JUICE a secret about your bandmates?
Aaron can make his bed in seven minutes.
Aaron It’s a Queen sized bed and you have to pull it out from the wall. It’s really heavy.
David Alisa liked signing that boob!
Jesse David sleep talks. Last night he said your face is going to melt then “something something tastes delicious” and then he started pointing. [All laughing].

According to a lot of reliable conspiracy theorists, the world is going to end in 2012. How will The Naked and Famous be getting ready for the apocalypse?
Preparing for the Zombies. We’ve already got a song called ‘Zombies’ demoed so we’re totally ready for it to happen.
Thom We’ll put that out in 2012.
David You know that scene in Mars Attacks where all the heads explode because of the music? We’ll unleash ‘Zombies’ and possibly save everyone…

The ultimate Big Day Out question: Wallaby or Koala?
Koala because they hug.
David But they’ve got sharp claws.
Aaron And they smell.
Jesse Kangaroo is a delicious meat, so maybe wallaby is like veal.
David Which would win in a fight?
Jesse I think a wallaby would beat the shit out of a koala. A kangaroo can really rip you apart.
Thom Let’s go wallaby then, they sound pretty badass.
Jesse Wallabies. They’re kickass and they taste delicious.

Passive Me, Aggressive You is out now on Fiction Records. Cop a listen at JUICE flew to Big Day Out Gold Coast on Air Asia X. Air Asia X flies to Gold Coast daily. Book your flights to Gold Coast or any other Air Asia X destination by clicking to