Beyond a life hardwired to pop culture via the 24 hour news feed, The Naked And Famous elicit a romantic connection inspired by the golden era of alternative rock; a shared response to a teenage soundtrack of epic, emotionally charged mid nineties music.
Released in March 2011, their ambitious debut Passive Me, Aggressive You featured the singles, ‘Young Blood’ and ‘Punching In A Dream.’ Lauded by the NME, it was “A classic case of lovely and beautiful: TNAF’s passive melodicism and aggressive innovation clash in a dazzling blaze of psych/sonic fireworks” and Rolling Stone magazine described Young Blood as one of the year’s “best singles.”
Fronted by Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers, The Naked and Famous lit a fire under an online fan base, with a video subculture built through YouTube and into radio. M83 invited TNAF to remix a single and a Tiesto remix transformed ‘Young Blood’ into a club smash. Agencies fell into The Naked and Famous slipstream, and theirs became the go-to soundtrack for gaming, Hollywood and TV shows mining a zeitgeist of young and interesting.
By June 2012, The Naked and Famous had played to more than 600,000 people in 24 countries, but the band chose to hit pause and embark on a second album.
They took a house together in Los Angeles folk music enclave, Laurel Canyon – a fitting reflection of their communal existence, just around the way from the glitter and doom of Hollywood.
The resulting album ‘In Rolling Waves’ delivers darkly nuanced, intricately rocking electro gems once again born in bedroom studio sessions, then demoed in studios in Wales and Australia ahead of recording at Sunset Sound in Hollywood.
From the moody synth swirls of ‘Waltz’ to the hard-edged lullaby of ‘Grow Old’ this is a bold, considered record. Plugging into the folksy sonics of their LA existence, the fiery kaleidoscope licks of ‘A Stillness’ become a prog-tinged epic, whilst ‘Hearts Like Ours’ and ‘What We Want’ both find this band still have a firm grasp on the euphoric sound their audience love so dearly. Xayalith’s raw pop thrill ‘I Kill Giants’ drew on her childhood, with it’s title coming from Joe Kelly’s comic book of the same name, a cartoon Xayalith had discovered mirrored her own story.
Both ‘I Kill Giants’ and ‘The Mess’ were co-produced with Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, NIN). This was the first time the band had brought anyone else into the studio in a production role. “I’d been skeptical of the producer role but Justin was interesting and I was up for the collaboration,” says Thom. “You can ask someone for perspective and they can actually give you something tangible… like, ‘get rid of that fucking guitar, it’s awful!’”
Powers sought out Alan Moulder (NIN, Foals, My Bloody Valentine) to mix this daydreaming dark-wave experiment, saying “It was my teenage dream to work with Alan Moulder. Growing up, I noticed his work on all the records I was listening to.”
2013 saw a more matured Naked & Famous who very determined to deliver new music to their fans. “Every song feels like it’s in the middle of something. It’s not after the fact, it’s momentary,” says Thom. “I feel like the whole record has had this ‘less is more’ approach… It feels more vital.”
2014 began with a bang for The Naked & Famous as they performed at Australia & New Zealand’s Big Day Out festival, before heading to the US to perform at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival alongside acts including CHVRCHES and Grouplove. Proving a busy year for the band, they continued to tour throughout Brighton, Cambridge and London before taking to the stage at California’s Coachella music festival, prior to heading home for two headlining shows at Auckland’s Powerstation. Returning back to the States early June, The Naked & Famous spent the next month touring around the US, Europe and United Kingdom, concluding back in California for the Famous First City Festival in Monterey mid August.
Spending most of 2015 in the studio, 2016 saw The Naked & Famous return to the stage, beginning the year with a performance at Wanderland Festival in the Philippines, before returning home for an appearance at the inaugural Auckland City Limits Music Festival.
Following a small run of US shows throughout March and April, October 2016 saw the release of their third album, Simple Forms. Conceived in the Echo Park, Los Angeles, home studio of guitarist/vocalist/producer Thom Powers, amidst his breakup with fellow band member Alisa Xayalith, this album showcases a caustic mix of pain and passion buried underneath its thin gloss of shiny production. Concluding the year with a major North American tour which also saw them play both weekends of Austin City Limits Music Festival.
2017 began with an extensive touring schedule for The Naked & Famous as they joined Waves performing as the opening act for Blink 182’s tour throughout the Southern United States. Before continuing their own run of headline shows through the US, Europe and the United Kingdom, which included festival performances at Grape Festival in Slovakia and Oppikoppi and Rocking The Daisies festivals in South Africa.
On their return to Los Angeles, from touring the album ‘Simple Forms’, Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers set about recording new versions of the group’s classic songs. “We started playing a few songs acoustically for the first time this year” adds Xayalith. “It was an amazing feeling to explore the songs in this way. We weren’t capable or confident enough to perform like this when we began the band but I think after all this time we finally feel comfortable.”
Releasing stripped back versions of ‘Higher’, the infectious first single off ‘Simple Forms’, and a mash-up of two songs from their sophomore effort ‘In Rolling Waves’, an album entitled ‘A Still Heart’ soon followed which included more stunning acoustic interpretations of fan favourites from their decade long career.
“The concept of stripped back Naked and Famous recordings goes beyond just the bare bones of voice and guitar,” says the group’s resident producer Thom Powers. “I’ve always loved minimal music and it’s been inspiring to boil these songs down to their core ingredients. At which point, reimagining them begins to feel like writing them for the first time.”
Spending 2018 wowing crowds across America and Europe with a series of sell out stripped back live performances in support of ‘A Still Heart.’ These performances and recordings gave fans a chance to feel the heart of TNAF’s songwriting and performance prowess as they reimagine the heavy electronic rock production that has made them a concert and festival favourite around the world.