The Naked and Famous: Audio-Visual Relationships

JUICE last spoke to Kiwi indie rockers The Naked And Famous (TNAF) in early 2k11 amidst the chaos of the Gold Coast Big Day Out. Since then they’ve traipsed across the globe and made true to at least one half of their name by becoming ridiculously famous. No nudity has been observed as yet. We caught up with band member Aaron Short, aka the dude responsible for the group’s mysterious synthy bleepy bloop goodness, who thankfully assured as that their sophomore album will NOT be ‘experimental free jazz’. Consider us relieved.

Hey Aaron, where are you calling from?
We just got into Singapore a few hours ago.

What are you up to over there?
We’re actually recovering with a bit of sleep at the moment. Last night ended after the show at like 1 30am and then our lobby wake up call to get here was at 3.30am, so we’re actually running on 2 hours sleep. It’s catch up at the moment and then we’ll have an explore later on.

Okay so, where were you playing last night?
The show was part of a tour that’s going through all of these different cities, we did a show last night in Indonesia, Jakarta, and then traveled here today. We’re doing the Singapore show tomorrow.

The last time JUICE spoke to you was actually at the Big Day Out at the Gold Coast last year, what’s new since then?
Wow, since then? Well for 2011 I think we did about 180 shows. We got to do 3 tours through the US, 2 UK tours, 2 Europe tours, Japan for Fuji Rock, a lot of big festivals over the year like Glastonbury and Lollapalooza in Chicago. It’s just been a very, very busy year, flat out touring and promoting of the album. We’re kind of nearing towards the end of it now, we have a couple of big tours at the beginning of this year and then time for album 2 the rest of the year.

When can we expect album 2 to be out?
I’d say, hopefully early 2013? It’ll be a full year of working for us this year and that should be just about when it’s ready to go, early 2013. That’s what we’re hoping for!

You told us you were relocating to the UK, how different is it being UK based compared to New Zealand?
It’s kind of funny, I know technically we said we were moving from New Zealand to the UK and stuff, but I think we’ve spent all of about 3 weeks there since we left New Zealand because the touring has been so full on. We haven’t had a place to stay, it’s been nothing but just hotels for us. I guess looking back on it now rather than saying we’ve been living in the UK, we’d pretty much say we’ve been homeless for a year…

Nah, it’s a cool place though we really enjoy the UK. It’s been fun for us.

That’s great. For us here in Asia festival season is just approaching, can you give our readers any festival survival advice?
I think it all depends on the location, obviously for something like Big Day Out the obvious one is water and sunscreen but we kind of got a shock when we started doing the supposed ‘Summer’ festivals in the UK and Europe, which were actually quite the opposite. Glastonbury is the perfect example, the band members all bought gumboots because the entire place was just drowned in mud and rain, and this is supposed to be Summer! It was a big shock to us because we were used to the lovely Big Day Out summer weather Australia and New Zealand, and probably Asia get, so: prepare for all seasons.

Good advice, the rain here is unpredictable even in Summer. What’s always on The Naked And Famous’ festival writer?
It’s constantly changing for us actually, there’s always a mountain of water and a mountain of beer. We used to have chocolate in the writer everyday but we slowly discovered that Thom has quite a sick obsession with chocolate. So now it’s only on our weekend writer, kind of like our little weekend treat. We know when we play a Friday or a Saturday or a Sunday show that some chocolate’s going to be on the writer as well. Then we have all the regular necessities, like juice, there’s tea for Alisa’s voice; we’re a big fan of that. We get like a big ginger root, honey, squeeze some lemon, and make the ultimate hot lemon drink.

After so many shows this year, does live music still give you a rush?
There’s always a feeling when you come off stage, and everyone is in that same mindset of feeling really satisfied and happy with what they’ve just done. It’s weird because it either always happens for everyone or it doesn’t happen at all. It’s never just a couple of people who did enjoy it or a couple of people who didn’t. There will always be a time when everyone totally felt our show, or else something went wrong and we weren’t 100% happy with it. But yeah as you said there’s just been so many shows this year, it’s half and half I think. We become so picky and we’re quite perfectionist so it’s very for us to have just some tiny thing that went wrong that makes us feel like our entire performance just wasn’t what we wanted. But the feeling you get when everything’s perfect is pretty awesome.

Do you get time to do much touristy stuff when you’re traveling and touring?
We try to as much as we can, there’s just so much traveling and we don’t take it for granted. Here we are in Asia and doing shows in Europe, that kind of thing, and we’re always keen to have a look around. But quite often depending on the schedule, there’s certain shows like Lollapalooza festival in Chicago for example, we were dying to check that thing out! But we got there, played the show, and then left two hours later. I think we were at that festival not even five hours. There’s many occasions where we don’t get a chance to explore our surroundings. But yeah whenever there’s a free day we’re always out and about looking to suck up some culture.

What kind of music do you think you’ll be listening to in 2012?
It’s kind of hard to predict what’s coming up exactly, our tastes are constantly changing. We’re at different places inspiration-wise to where when we first started in 2008 with the EPs, to again where we were two years ago writing the album.

Do you think you’ll be able to hear that change in influence on the new album?
Yeah! I definitely think so, when you’re writing music you’re constantly taking inspiration from other things that you’re listening to, and I’m sure that will shine through in what we’re doing. In no way is anybody saying The Naked and Famous going to change their sound and pull out some crazy move where the next album is experimental free jazz or anything like that. But yeah there is a different inspiration and the music will evolve in its own way. We’ll just have to wait and see where it goes I guess. Because we’ve been touring so much it’s been so difficult to stay creative and write demos. We’ve released a few remixes over the year, we’ve got a really big one that’s about to come out right now – actually I don’t think I can mention it, aaaahhhhh! Not yet! You’ll hear it in a couple of weeks!

Give us a hint! Is it remixes of your tracks or The Naked And Famous remixes of other people’s tracks?
Well both actually, that’s kind of us staying creative, releasing remixes of other people’s music as well.

We heard your remix of an Unknown Mortal Orchestra track, for example, and were wondering how something like that comes about?
We’re pretty close with that band, right from the beginning of The Naked And Famous we’ve always been huge fans of The Mint Chicks and obviously UMO is Ruban from the Mint Chick’s project. You know how it is with New Zealanders abroad, everybody knows everybody. But we did a couple of shows with them, and we’ve got the same management so there’s a lot of contact between us, it just kind of worked out that way. Sorry I’ve drifted way off the original question!

That’s okay we got distracted as well
Basically we’ll see how it goes in a couple of weeks when we have time to start getting creative.

Speaking of creativity what kind of experiences apart from romance, do you think translate into good songs?
…apart from love and romance?

Apart from love and romance.
I think any type of intense emotion, regardless of what it is, can really bring out inspiration. A lot of people say you’ve got to be depressed or something needs to be really sh*t, something needs to be wrong to make a good song, and in some ways that’s true. The sense of struggle can be what challenges you and makes you make a good track, but I think any type of intense emotion, even if you’re insanely happy…it’s just those powerful feelings that can kick off something creative and inspire you to write something.

It’s good to hear you aren’t suffering too much for your art. We noticed that all of your videos are actually made by the same people, is there something about that style in particular that you felt complemented your music?
‘Special Problems‘ – the two guys Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali – we met with them right at the very beginning when they were starting out and we did our very first EP, they worked with us on our little ‘Serenade’ video and CD covers. I think the relationship has just gotten stronger and stronger over the years. We kind of consider them our visual heart. Every visual aspect of the band is covered by those guys from tour posters, to album covers to music videos.

Both of your styles are growing and progressing together then, in that sense
That’s what’s so cool about it, we compare our latest music video ‘No Way’ to back to how ‘Serenade’ was a few years ago, that’s such a huge jump. And the same thing musically from ‘No Way’ back to ‘Serenade’ they’re just such different songs. It’s really cool the way we’ve both evolved at a similar pace. We’ve got a lot of trust in those guys, they do some amazing work.

Do you think that partnership will continue through your next album as well?
I certainly hope so. Unless we have some kind of horrible girlfriend/boyfriend breakup and stop talking to each other.

Band/artist breakup! While we’re on the subject of audio/visual relationships, if you had to pick a movie that the songs off your album, Passive Me, Aggressive You, were the soundtrack for what would you pick?
It’s difficult to target one movie for the whole album because our album just kind of goes all over the place. There’s happiness and sadness and everything!

What about a style of movie then?
A movie that we watched recently used two of our songs – ‘No Way’ and ‘Young Blood’ – a movie called The Art of Flight. It’s a snowboarding movie, and none of us really snowboard or anything like that, but we were completely sucked in from start to finish of that movie because of the way it was recorded and the scenery that was captured in solitude and it was just amazing stuff to watch, and they’ve attached the coolest soundtrack to that. Not just because our songs are in it! But they’ve got us, they’ve got M83, tracks off the latest Apparat album, just all of these artists that we’re insanely huge about, they work with the visual imagery in that movie so well, it’s really cool.

Actually ‘Young Blood’ is a really popular track to be used in movies and TV shows at the moment
Yeah, it’s been highly requested lately… I’ve just been told I’ve got a minute left! So last question, if that’s okay!

Okay! Last question, if The Naked And Famous were a cover band, what would you cover?
We would find a way to mix Nine Inch Nails songs and Bon Iver songs together, and do crazy mash ups of each track. Probably it would turn into chaos and completely sound terrible but we’d try our best and have a lot of fun at the same time.

Keep an eye out for that mysterious new remix on the The Naked And Famous’s Soundcloud.