New Zealand band The Naked And Famous are currently touring their second album In Rolling Waves, and stopped by Oslo and Rockefeller Music Hall on their European Tour. During a hectic press day on a cold Sunday in November, vocalist/keyboardist Alisa Xayalith and vocalist/guitarist Thom Powers sat down with Musikknyheter for a little chat before the gig.

There had been no time for sightseeing – at least not for the whole band – according to a pretend-sulky Alisa:
- The boys are out looking at the Vigelandspark and I REALLY wanted to see that! It looks incredible and it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go and see. We finish doing press at 3 and then it’ll be getting dark.

Oslo was the third stop on the European tour, after Sweden and Denmark. Thom thinks Scandinavia has treated them pretty well so far: - Always well. We love touring Europe. It’s very refreshing, especially after touring America. Most of our career is based around America and touring there can feel quite relentless. Touring America is painted as the most idyllic, romanticised idea of being in a rock band, but it’s city to city all the time, and the drives are huge and spaced out. Every night you drive 8-10 hours, and it can start to feel very repetitive and deja-vu like. Over here, every day’s completely different. Every venue is different and every city’s different, so it’s very fun and enjoyable.

- We haven’t been back to Scandinavia for about 2 1/2 years now, so it’s nice to be somewhere completely different to where we’ve been living for the past two years, Alisa adds.

Touring life makes it difficult to live in the now. Thom feels like he’s always mentally heading to the next location, and tries to survive day by day. Today’s mission is to find somewhere to get his laundry done since he’s out of underwear. The days are busy, not only because of the tour, but also promoting the new album "In Rolling Waves". The reactons, Alisa says, have been very positive:

- It’s been fantastic! We’ve been touring America for the last month or so, and it’s been a great indicator of how people have recieved the album. It hasn’t been out for very long yet, so I don’t think many people have had the chance to really live with it. At the moment our setlista are half "Passive Me Aggressive You" and half "In Rolling Waves". We’re still trying to figure out the right amount of tracks to introduce into the set, but overall, so far so good.

"Passive Me Aggressive You", which was awarded 10/10 at Musikknyheter, was a big sounding album, both sound and productionwise, and punched its way through to media and music lovers with a closely tied fist. The band’s new album is a lot more dynamic, rich with nuances, and Thom feels like that helps the band to make people listen properly to the music – especially after the powerful beginning of the band:

- The first album was very in your face as far as – not just the songwriting, but the production as well was very thick and large, and we had this whole “make it fucking loud all the time”-thing, which was.. I loved that, but I wanted to do something a little bit more dynamic now, and we done that. I want people to have to listen a little harder.

So, with one album which made them famous, and one which is naked – did the band actually fulfill their band name?
- Yeahaha, Thom laughs, – but I think you’re right though! This album is a little bit more tell tale and emotionally exposed. Not that the first record isn’t by any means, but it has this high energy aspect to it, it was a lot more entertaining and fun, whereas this one is a lot more focused on trying to express emotions through writing rather than trying to make it constantly fun. [That] was little more challenging.

Some of the songs on "In Rolling Waves" are enormously personal and painful songs, which can sometimes be hard to perform live. Especially "I Kill Giants", which Alisa wrote to her mother who passed away from breast cancert when Alisa was 7 years old:

- It was the most personal I have allowed myself to be. I’m proud of that moment. I had written these lyrics a while ago during Passive Me Aggressive You, and Thom always though they were great. He pushed me and said: «Look, you have to finish this song and we have to put it on this record! It’s really important and I tink it would be a good thing for you», so… we ended up doing it.

- Performing it live changes all the time depending on how I’m feeling. I think initially, in the beginning – because it’s so personal – I was feeling very vulnerable, and it’s a strange feeling to have when you’re on stage in front of all these people, but that’s what so special about music… It really does hit you in the heart

The Naked And Famous is a band which is a little bit difficult to put into any one genre. Thom has thought about this, comparing them to a band he listens to a lot these days, The 1975:

- I don’t like a lot of pop music, and it’s strange because I think they WANT TO be seen as a pop band rather than a band, and we started out being seen as a pop band and now we’re seen as a band or a rock band, he laughs. – It kind of interested me, and I was thinking about it.

And it really IS facinating, when Musikknyheter’s journalist – to loud approval from the band – reads out loud from their Wikipedia page, where their music is described as: "post-punk revival, synthpop, indie rock, indietronica, post-rock, shoegaze, noise pop, electronica".

- I prefer that to “they sound like this band married to this band and if they had a baby with that band”, Alisa comments, and Thom agrees: – I like the term “alternative rock band”. I think that’s pretty good, it’s so broad it can fit in anything in the last… anything that goes back to Elvis. "Guitar rock". That’s a nice term to be in and "pop"… When you say pop they often think you mean Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, but then other people understand pop as this umbrella of popular culture that includes movies and books and fashion and stuff, so it’s confusing.

Alisa is the only girl in the band, and traveling and living with men can be a little bit tiresome. On the other hand it can also feel safe and comforting for someone who grew up with three brothers. Still, she feels liks it can sometimes be both isolating and a little lonely, and that being the only female you can easily be misunderstood:

- I just get on with it… I cope with it. I’m in a touring international band, and I can’t complain. It could be worse, she says, and is interrupted by Thom shouting in falcetto: – COULD BE WORSE!!?

- I don’t know, Alisa laughs, – but do you know what I mean though, it’s hard! I find it hard to complain! I’ve noticed that a lot of fans contact me on facebook and say: «I wanna be in a band like you, it seems so cool» and it’s awesome that I can inspire other females to want to do music.

Thom has no issues having a girl in the band. He grew up with his mother after his parents separated, and never felt comfortable with the male group mentality:
- It always frightened me a little bit. Growing up, I was always like "the faggot" in high school because I was the weird kid, so I was the guy who was picked on by the jocks. I never really had that needing of a dad’s appreciation because "mommy loved me".

This is also something that has become evident in a very male dominated industry, and the band has experienced first hand how male dominant behaviour can affect a band:
- One time we went to this record label meeting, and we were talking to these guys who didn’t even acknowledging Alisa! – They ignored me, Alisa comfirms, and Thom continues: – They just spoke to ME the whole time, and it was really fucking weird.

- As soon as we walked out it was like: «Well we’re definitely not signing with them!» Alisa smiles, – He didn’t acknowledge me, didn’t even look me in the eye or anything. It’s amazing how primitive it still is.

For the record label to be that discriminating, will surely be something they regret now, having missed out on an great band with an amazing front woman. The Naked And Famous are heading for success, and after Christmas they’ll be touring with none other than Imagine Dragons. The concert they let us experience at Sentrum Scene in Oslo will not be the last we’ve heard from this quintet, that’s for sure!

(Published in Norwegian november '13)