15 minutes ... with The Naked and Famous

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 15/06/2014
naked and famous
REBEKAH PARSONS-KING/Fairfax NZ

IN DEMAND: Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers have had a hectic schedule recently.

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The Naked and Famous recently touched down in New Zealand on their whistle-stop tour snaking its way through the United States. Michelle Robinson pegged down jet-lagged vocalists Alisa Xayalith and Thom Powers for a chat backstage. 

Is Auckland still home? What are must-dos when you're back?

Alisa Xayalith: All the boys grew up on the Shore and I went out east.

Thom Powers: Every time it's a gourmet pie and a coffee in town, it's an addiction that's hot inside me. We go into our old stomping ground and have a drink. I go to mum's with a pillowcase bag full of washing, about three loads.

Do you get homesick?

Powers: When we first began touring, but the experience of being a professional touring band toughens you up pretty quickly. The lack of comfort zone for an extended period of time, you lose the ability to get homesick.

How is performing in LA different from the crowds back home?

Powers: Every city is different, people react differently. In the bigger cities they're so used to it, people cross their arms and say "impress me". We've been living in LA about two and a half years.

Have you caught up with Lorde recently?

Powers: Acquaintances, definitely. Who isn't in New Zealand? We were on the same plane once and the guys freaked her out. She was like, who are these people? We wandered down the road in LA to see one of her first gigs, that was cool.

Who are you most in synch with musically?

Powers: Grouplove in the States, we live close to them, we're often on the road with them. We were so happy they were in the Big Day Out recently.

How was Coachella Festival recently?

Powers: It's hard to explain how it's different from all the other festivals we've done. We're kind of like a festival band. This truly was the biggest and best one we've ever done. We got lots of good reviews.

Did you spend time with a lot of other artists there?

Xayalith: The backstage area was set up in a really communal way. Across from us was 1975 and The Dum Dum Girls and lots of people we really like. I would put Glastonbury Festival up there with this as well. I felt incredibly nervous playing Glastonbury 2011 and I felt even worse before Coachella. I think it's good to have nerves.

Have you witnessed many scandals at these events?

Powers: Definitely but you kind of get immune to them.

Xayalith: I skipped the line to get onto the ferris wheel.

Do you clash at all?

Powers: There are some songs on this record I had a lot of ideas on that I took to the band and the band fulfilled. Everyone has their strengths. The idea of a band writing and sharing is a big romantic socialist nightmare. It doesn't work like that.

What inspires your songs?

Powers: We just write songs and that whole holistic direction becomes clearer. You can't pre-empt who you're going to be and what you're going to say. At the moment I'm doing more electronic stuff so we might have a more electronic record with these eight to 10 songs, but they might be eight to 10 songs of rubbish.

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Xayalith: We're not one of those thematic bands that goes, let's write about the ocean.

What's the hardest thing about being in a band?

Xayalith: Our schedule's been hectic, performing five days a week and it's hard not to get sick. It can be quite taxing, touring. When I'm sick I can't do my job 100 per cent and it makes me quite frustrated and quite angry.

How do you look after yourselves, what do you do to unwind?

Xayalith: A lot of people think being on tour is rock and roll and partying but we have to take care of our voices, we can't really stay out late at night.

Powers: I don't know what you're talking about, all I've been doing is drinking and partying, I feel like rubbish. It's difficult to stay healthy. You just eat whatever you can.

Have you had any run-ins with the media?

Xayalith: We've had weird autograph scalpers.

Powers: We've been smashed in the papers. Twitter wars with Hillbilly rappers. I make a bigger deal about things than they need to be. Alisa and I got paparazzi'd once, she's been three times, but we got accosted at The Grove in Hollywood. I'm such a grumpy twat, I scowled at them. I don't think we'll ever get good at managing those things.

Tell us about your recent makeover Alisa.

Xayalith: I was reading Patty Smith's books Just Kicks, she talks about cutting her hair to bring about new energy and change. I decided to do something dramatic and daring, I cut it and died it silver, lavender, blue and now pink. I like to look back on my life and say I was adventurous and took risks. It's fun. I always get my hair done in New Zealand because it's the best.

Do you feel you have made it as a band?

Powers: I feel incompetent most days, stupid mostly. We don't have very rock and roll personalities, we get out-partied by anyone.

- Sunday Star Times

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