When New Zealand’s The Naked and Famous first started writing material for their critically acclaimed debut record, Passive Me, Aggressive You (spawning the hit single Young Blood), they were just teenagers.
“I think it was an amazing effort for musicians who were just 18 and 19 at the time,” recalls lead singer Alisa Xayalith.
Now, the five-piece alternative poppers have released the long-awaited follow-up, In Rolling Waves (out now through Universal Music), featuring a moodier, more mature soundscape.
“It’s just really tailored in sound, production and songwriting. The evolution of our music taste really shines through on this record, and I think our fans have grown up with us along the way.”
Avoiding the dreaded ‘sophomore slum’, overcoming any pressures faced after their hugely successful debut, was achieved by never really putting the pen down between record releases.
“Of course, the second album pressure was there, we can’t deny that. Passive Me came out in 2010 and it took us out of New Zealand and we ended touring everywhere around the world for three years on that record. But I don’t think stopping to write a second album was too overwhelming, because during the last year or two of touring, we had written a few scraps of music on the road and when we stopped to finally write the second record, we had a great footing to start with. We didn’t have to start from scratch.”
Describing their sound to an outsider, Xayalith says, “I think it’s really hard nowadays to describe the sound of any band because right now, where everything sits in pop music, it’s multi genre. But I’d like to think we sit under umbrella of alternative pop music.”
Fleeing their Auckland coup to break the international market, the band, most of whom met in high school, are now based out of Los Angeles and have just completed an arena tour supporting American Grammy Award winners Imagine Dragons.
“It was fantastic. To get in front of that many people was really priceless, and it’s been great to have their fans come and end up liking us too.”
On their big move across the ocean at such a young age, the front woman downplays any notions of homesickness.
“The guys found a huge house on the cusp of Studio City and Laurel Canyon. We ended up moving into this 70s pad and we thought, ‘what on earth are we doing here, living in this ostentation place that looked like it was off the film set of Steel Magnolia?’ It had velvet red curtains, awful wallpaper… but I think the actual transition was fine. When you have the friends on your side to experience things with you, it’s always easier.
“I think it would be impractical to move back to New Zealand when all of our touring is in America and Europe. We’re pretty well-trained to live nomadically.”
On channeling creativity during their at-times chaotic touring schedule, Xayalith claims that it comes down to having a pen – or iPhone – handy at all times.
“Any creative thought that comes by, I just take note of it. You have to be a bit of a merchant and just write down everything, even if you don’t think it’s good at the time.”
In Rolling Waves is out now through Universal Music. The Naked and Famous are currently touring Australia – see tour dates below.
MELBOURNE: 170 RUSSELL WEDNESDAY APRIL 30
BRISBANE: THE HI FI MONDAY MAY 5
PERTH: THE ASTOR THEATRE SUNDAY MAY 11
SYDNEY: METRO THEATRE TUESDAY MAY 13