- Posted on Mar 3rd 2011 1:00PM by Emily Tan
While buzz surrounding the Naked and Famous has only started growing in the US, the alt-rock, electro-pop quintet has been making waves in its native New Zealand. In addition to winning the 2011 Silver Scroll -- New Zealand's top music prize -- for Song of the Year, the single 'Young Blood' debuted at No. 1 on the country's charts, marking the first time a native band had done so in three years. The Naked and Famous were also nominated for the BBC's Sound of 2011 award, and on March 15, they'll try their luck on a new continent, releasing their debut album, 'Passive Me, Aggressive You,' in the US.
Before embarking on their inaugural North American tour in April, the Naked and Famous head to Austin to play SXSW. In advance of the Texas trip, Powers spoke with Spinner about his love of Tool, what his band's album means to him and how he really feels about all the hype at home.
Where did the band name come from?
It's a line from a Tricky song, 'Tricky Kid.'
When did you get into music?
When I was a kid -- same for the rest of the band. We were all doing it throughout our whole lives. My first album that I really loved -- and first rock band that I really loved -- was Tool. I had Tool's 'Ænima' album, and it's still one of my favorites today. I think it's the most significant start in music for me.
Tool and the Naked and Famous sound very different. How did Tool shape you as a musician?
The alternative '90s music I grew up on is quite serious. It's not really lighthearted. There's humor in it, but it's quite serious and that aspect carried into me. I wouldn't say it was down to a singular band shaping my musical destiny or anything like that. There's a whole bunch of other bands that have influenced us because we're constantly growing and learning in music. It's not like we're just holding onto the first thing we like.
Who are some of your other musical influences?
That's the thing -- when you start looking into music, it becomes a passion. It's not like "top five bands that have inspired us." There are so many new bands that inspire us and that we get excited about. It's really hard, and I don't like naming because then people would just assume that's it's just that one band.
Who are you listening to right now?
This band called Warpaint that I was just listening to the other day was pretty fantastic. Aside from them, I am also listening to some Slayer.
After debuting at No. 1 in New Zealand and winning the 2010 Silver Scroll for Song of the Year, how did you feel getting that praise?
It's really flattering, but nothing's changed. It's wonderful to be recognized. Getting a No. 1 on pop charts when all the artists that become No. 1 are usually s---, it's kind of a weird feeling. It's a huge achievement for us in our career, because it means big things, but at the same time, it's really hard to be taken seriously, because you're being compared to stuff that you don't find relevant. At the same time, it's a huge thing for a band like us, indie bands, so it's a very confusing feeling. If anything, it's opened more doors and means more for our career. It doesn't affect us on what we do or why we do it, but it is flattering otherwise.
'Young Blood' is the song that won the Naked and Famous the Silver Scroll last year. How did that song come about?
It was one of those special moments that rarely happens and happens once, where it's a song that writes itself from start to finish. It was incredible to write and very flawless. It was a wonderful experience. We recorded at a big studio for the album, so it was really inspiring to record, because it went so well and everything was just immaculate. Lyrically, it's a nostalgic sort of song, even for us, today and now.
What do you think makes the perfect song?
It's hard to say, but it's not about writing the perfect song or anything like that. We don't really go into it with a criteria of what a song should be. It's a lot vaguer than that. The idea of creating music is just this passion inside and desire and need to have that creative outlet. It's just there. I have to get rid it. I have to get it out. I have to create songs. Each song is its own thing, so you can't really apply the same logic to creating or producing one song against the next.
'Passive Me, Aggressive You' is due out on March 15 in the US. How do you feel about bringing your music to America?
That's pretty surreal. Getting to release our music worldwide is a big honor. It feels very well accomplished for us, I think, because we did everything on our own terms -- the whole thing. It was just us from start to finish -- producing it, deciding who was going to mix it. We picked all the people who did the videos and stuff, so it really has been a long labor of love, and it's amazing to see it taking us around the world.
Catch the Naked and Famous' SXSW Sets on Friday, March 18 at Maggie Mae's Rooftop (323 E 6th St.) 1AM, and Wednesday, March 16 at The Phoenix (409 Colorado St.) 12AM.
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