The Naked and Famous

Jessie Combe | 13 September 2013


By the powers invested in us, we hereby dub The Naked and Famous “honorary Australians”. They’re officially from New Zealand but they haven’t lived there for a while plus their beats are ba-na-nas and their lead singer’s last name starts with an X. In case you need further convincing of their laudable lyrics, we chatted to funky frontwoman Alisa Xayalith about new album In Rolling Waves, Breaking Bad and the land of the long white cloud. Enjoy.

Hi Alisa! Tell us about your bandmates.
There are five of us. Thom Powers (guitar), Aaron (synth programmer), David Beadle (bass player), Jesse Wood (drummer) and myself.

How did you all meet?
Thom, Aaron and I all met at a music college in NZ. I first met Thom through mutual friends, we became fast friends and started making music. All of the boys went to the same high school together, so they’ve known each other for much longer than they have known me.

Other than music, what’s one thing you all have in common?
We all love watching films and have the same type of humour.

Are you still based in New Zealand?
We haven’t been based in NZ for the last three years. Ever since we left to tour in 2011, we haven’t really been back. We try and go home once a year to see our families for Christmas but even then, it’s a very brief encounter.  We wrote and recorded the second album in Los Angeles and it’s become a place we can all call home.

What’s the best local tip for visitors?
I’m a lover of the beach and doing things outdoors, I think that is probably amplified even more in my life because I spend so much time in studios and rehearsal rooms. I feel like NZ is perfect for the type of person that enjoys that kind of thing. When I go home, I love going to Hot Water Beach in Coromandel and visiting the Hot Waves cafe for a strong coffee and a bite to eat.

Where did you write and record the new album?
We wrote some of it on the road and finished it in Los Angeles. When we decided to stop touring, we felt that we had a great footing for us to begin the process of making the second album. We relocated to a big house in Laurel Canyon and flitted between the house and our rehearsal space to write and record demos. All the final recordings were done at Sunset Sounds.

What was the most fun day, and what was the most stressful one of the process?
I think we surprised ourselves a little during the recording process because things were running on time. All the hard work of rehearsing all the new songs for a few months before recording really paid off, we felt we had worn the songs in and we shared a great comfort in that feeling. Everyone felt pretty confident. I think the first day we ‘moved in’ was the most exciting. We were reeling from all the things we were going to do and accomplish. I wouldn’t say there was any particular stress that was negative, the stress that we did experience would have been from a place of passion. If something wasn’t good enough, everyone showed support in a way to get the best out of one another, because we all had one goal in mind and that was to make the best record and do the best performances for each part that we could.

Lyrically, can you tell us the story behind one of the tracks on In Rolling Waves?
There is one song, that is particularly special to me. It’s a song called, ‘I Kill Giants’. This song is a reconstructed memory that I have of the time my mother passed away when I was seven years old. This track was left half finished while we were recording Passive Me, Aggressive You. We had all hoped that it would make it on the first album, but we hit a wall. We didn’t know which direction to take it, I don’t think I was ready to finish it, so we put it out of our minds and forgot about it. A few years later, I read this graphic novel called I Kill Giants, the author is Joe Kelly. I felt like the young character in this story mirrored some of my childhood. It prompted me to finish this song we had abandoned and now that it’s done, I feel a release and I can’t wait for my family to hear it.

What are your plans for the day the album drops?
You know what? We haven’t even thought about that yet! We’re so busy the lead up of release, there’s little room to think of anything else!

What’s one thing you can promise patrons of the Big Day Out this year?
I can promise that you will hear and see us play with all our heart in every song.

What TV show have you been most excited to have one of your songs play in?
We’re all huge fans of the show Breaking Bad. ‘Young Blood’ was featured in an episode as the alarm clock song where Walter Junior is waking up. Check the show out if you haven’t seen it, we highly recommend it.

Does Jesse’s love of spiders mess with any of the other members?
All of us have come to love his spiders. I think it messes with David the most, he actually almost finished a degree in entomology and even though he is passionate about insects, the idea of Jesse’s spider crawling all over him makes him shriek like nothing else. It’s hilarious! The spiders were living in the house with us in Laurel Canyon and every time we had a visitor it was mandatory that they hold ‘Doctor Octopus’ and get a photo with it. So beware.

Have you ever heard from Tricky about your band name?
There was an interview that was done a few years ago by a NZ journalist where he was speaking to Tricky, there’s a recording of it somewhere on the internet. Tricky is told about our band and he was over the moon that a band had named themselves after his lyric from the song ‘Tricky Kid’. That was a pretty cool moment for us.

Last thing you watched on YouTube?
The last thing i watched on youtube was Justin Timberlake performing at the Video Music Awards in America.

You can snap up a copy of In Rolling Waves here and for your aural pleasure, here is their single ‘Hearts Like Ours’.

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