WORDS : JO COSGROVE
Forming in the late 2000s, New Zealand electronic outfit The Naked and Famous have been through many ups and downs in their career. They’re preparing to release their fourth studio album Recover this summer – almost ten years since their debut ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You‘ first hit the charts. When looking at that decade-long space between the two, vocalist Alisa Xayalith tells us that the main difference she sees between the two records is “the age of experience” she and guitarist Thom Powers have behind them: “With our first record, we didn’t really know what we were doing, and we didn’t really have an identity…There were high expectations and our own personal pressures to reach such high standards.Recover was made with our small community of co-writers and co-producers. Collaborating with other people on this album helped Thom and me unlock something inside of us, which helped strengthen the process.”
The Naked and Famous stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and are dedicated to daily anti-racism practices to educate ourselves and learn how to be better allies. Amplifying black voices and activation where we can
The duo released the first cut from ‘Recover‘ last year with their single, ‘Sunseeker’. It was written in the summer of 2019 and the title actually came from Xayalith’s pet: “This song was inspired by my dog, Ginger, who I call “my little Sunseeker”.” It was written on a day where the ideas “were just rolling out with ease”, she says; and it’s that little bit of magic that guarantees Recover to be a fantastic record.
With a strong release usually follows a strong touring schedule. Locally, nationally, or internationally, acts would usually be setting up a tour to support their new records; unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic halting all touring plans indefinitely, The Naked and Famous are having to wait along with many others in the industry. Despite this setback, Xayalith has still declared 2020 to be “the most important year” due to ongoing social justice change. “Even though some industries are put on hold because of COVID-19, we’re actually amidst one of the most significant civil rights movements in the US, which is having a global impact on the rest of the world.”
“The Naked and Famous stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and are dedicated to daily anti-racism practices to educate ourselves and learn how to be better allies. Amplifying black voices and activation where we can.”
That feeling of being a shiny brand new act is a once in a lifetime feeling. Paralysing nerves before festival shows, walking on a stage in front of thousands of people for the first time, hoping we don’t mess up
Outside of the music business, how are the two musicians handling life? Both are working from home – “I’m so grateful for technology!” Xayalith exclaims – and are now able to meet and form their own social bubbles.”[A social bubble] makes things a little easier in terms of doing live-streams and making music,” she speaks of her activities in isolation. “I also love baking and cooking, I find that both can be therapeutic, and being able to have the time to explore those things has been fortifying and keeping me grounded.”
While being at home and trying to pass the time, we all tend to look back at a simpler time. Whether it was a month ago, a year ago, or even a decade ago, everyone looks back fondly and reminisces about the joy and the excitement. When asked about the extensive touring they’ve done throughout their career, the early years seemed to be “the best years”. Xayalith thinks back through the years… “That feeling of being a shiny brand new act is a once in a lifetime feeling. Paralysing nerves before festival shows, walking on a stage in front of thousands of people for the first time, hoping we don’t mess up.”
“I got caught up with my anxiety a lot…Sometimes it was debilitating. Aside from that, I do have fond memories…When we started out, we were on unemployment benefits and couldn’t afford to buy concert tickets, when we saw our favorite bands on the line ups we were also playing it was like a gift.”
As the world is trying to find its normal, and the band are learning their new normal, it looks like new music and old memories are what we have right now
They’ve come a long way since those early days, Their hit single ‘Young Blood’ went straight to number one ten years ago; and it was just the beginning for the success of The Naked and Famous. With awards and accolades going their way in the early 2010s, it was “validating” for the duo: “It gave us permission to celebrate our success instead of repressing it.It also was a chance for my family to take me seriously about my pursuit to have a career in music, because all they would see is the struggle to make ends meet while I was trying to chase my dreams.”
As the world is trying to find its normal, and the band are learning their new normal, it looks like new music and old memories are what we have right now. Through their own trials of making Recover, re-evaluating the band’s future due to “three band members’ leaving, music management changes, and the push and pull of Thom and [Xayalith] navigating how to get on the same page”, they came out stronger than ever. And the world will move forward in the same way once the hate and the fear disappears and it’s replaced with love and hope.
Maybe its time for the world to Recover.