This band gets things done

By Paula Yeoman

Motivated Naked and Famous ready for next step, writes Paula Yeoman

Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith from the Auckland based rock band The Naked and Famous. Photo / NZH
Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith from the Auckland based rock band The Naked and Famous. Photo / NZH

Numerous big venues around the world lie ahead on The Naked and Famous' world tour.

As The Naked and Famous prepare for their next long stretch on the road, a four-month tour of the US, Britain, Europe, Australia and New Zealand (for the Big Day Out), it's somewhat surprising to hear this from frontwoman Alisa Xayalith: "Playing big venues has always been daunting for me because I'm kind of in disbelief that that many people like our music."

It's surprising not only because Xayalith and her bandmates have just released one hell of a second record, In Rolling Waves, but also because they are without question one of New Zealand's most successful musical exports in the past few years.

Perhaps what the statement does reveal, however, is just how quickly The Naked and Famous have transformed into an arena-filling international act to be reckoned with.

Xayalith acknowledges they've grown up a lot since their 2010 hit Young Blood charted around the world and put them on the bill of big-name festivals like Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, and Fuji Rock. But, by her own admission, The Naked and Famous is a highly motivated machine.

"With New Zealand bands, it's really hard to sustain a career internationally and we do realise that. So any opportunity to help the cause, to sustain it, we'll take and we'll work really hard. We don't really muck around a lot in this band. We get things done."

She's not kidding. Back in 2008, when Xayalith formed The Naked and Famous as a duo with Thom Powers, fresh out of music school, they were determined to go it alone. And although they are now a five-piece signed to a major label they're as hardworking and as fiercely independent as ever.

"We've been really fortunate in our career because when we released Young Blood it kind of took on a life of its own on the internet. We got courted by record labels and when we finally got signed we'd already recorded the album [Passive Me, Aggressive You], all the artwork was done, and so we were already well established - we had this package all ready to put out," explains Xayalith.

"I feel like that was such a good moment for us to transition into being signed to a label because, on the second record, it kind of left us to our own devices and not every artist has that opportunity or that freedom."

This sense of freedom beams from In Rolling Waves, from the fresh and soaring opener, A Stillness, to pop-rock anthems like Rolling Waves and Hearts Like Ours.

They're all epic songs that will go down a storm played live in the many big venues that lie ahead of the band on their world tour. And though the thought of that may still scare Xayalith, there's no denying just how much love there is for The Naked and Famous.

In Rolling Waves is out now. The Naked and Famous play The Big Day Out 2014, Auckland, on January 17.

- Herald on Sunday

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