Updated: Jul 8, 2020
This week, Marketing Associate Madeline Turner ('23) and Assistant General Manager Jackie Torres ('22) had the privilege of speaking with The Naked and Famous on their upcoming album, "Recover," and what the alternative band has been up to in the past months. WVBR would like to give want to give a sincere thank you to The Naked and Famous for their time and wonderful company as well as in2une Music for the opportunity!
by: Madeline Turner ('23)
“Our music just connects with people who you wouldn’t mind bumping into. And with every fan we’ve ever met, it’s just been such a pleasant experience. It fills me with the sense that humanity isn’t entirely nuts,” said Thom Powers with a smile, who, along with Alisa Xayalith, comprises the band The Naked and Famous. On May 8, Jackie Torres and I had the opportunity to sit down with Alisa and Thom over Zoom and discuss everything from their upcoming album–"Recover" (releasing July 24)–to connecting with fans, to finding inspiration in the midst of a pandemic.
The New Zealand-born electronic indie-pop duo has been through a lot of changes in the last few years, with their original five-person lineup downsizing to the two remaining founders. Now, the band is releasing their first album since these huge personal and professional changes in the middle of COVID-19.
“Everything’s a mess, it’s really difficult. We’re all sitting here, scratching our heads, thinking what can we do,” remarked Thom on the current situation. The relatable, overarching question of “What comes next?” characterized the half-hour we spent talking with the band, along with a clear sense of honest self-reflection about what it means to be an artist in this moment in history. When we asked the duo how they were staying connected with fans, Alisa laughed.
“Well, yesterday… I just started documenting on my Instagram stories how I was gonna get this lizard out [of my kitchen] without hurting it… I didn’t realize people would enjoy [it] so much. That is the most intimate that I have gotten to our fanbase… I felt like it was a community that we could tap into, we were all on this journey together. It was great”
The band is well-aware of what it means to be artists in the digital age. Thom discussed how “With technology and creativity… In general right now, in the music industry, it is very difficult to know how to navigate it, because music has become this thing that most people take for granted, as being free.”
Not only is it harder for artists to capitalize on their creativity, but the band discussed how promotion has become an exclusive community. “It is frustrating because all the press outlets have their ten darlings that they wanna write about, and that’s it,” said Thom.
Alisa jumped in, “It’s almost like there’s this collective ‘no new friends’ thing going on. Like people just want to listen to the same music that they already like, and they don’t want anything new.”
Coupled with the existing reality of promoting new material is the sense of loss over currently being unable to do live shows. “Live streaming seems to be, you know, the thing that everyone’s doing. It’s fine, [but] it’s not [the same as] a live show,” said Thom.
Alisa remarked, “It’s really hard to get the visibility that we had hoped we would, had we not been in a pandemic. So that’s something that we’re battling with, moving forward with the release of the album.”
And what an exciting album it is. The first release since 2016’s "Simple Forms," the duo has been releasing previews of the new material, including February’s music video for the single “Bury Us.” When we brought up the recent release, both smiled.
“It was very fun to film, that’s for sure,” Thom laughed. The duo revealed the deeper meaning behind the deceptively upbeat single. “The video doubles as the story of Alisa and I trying to run a band,” Thom disclosed, “destroying all our friend’s lives in the process.”
Formerly linked both personally as well as professionally, their romantic relationship ended a few years ago. On their working relationship, Alisa reflected, “When it’s good, we have so many breakthroughs, but when it’s terrible, it’s just like Armageddon. Because of our history and our relationship, everything always has so much weight to it, so it always comes back to the need to communicate with one another respectfully.” Clearly, the deep understanding the two share has led to an even more meaningful creative output.
On the new album, Thom explained, “There’s a bunch of meanings built into the title. It was symbolic in the sense that we recovered ourselves creatively. We’ve thought many times about putting this to bed and stopping The Naked and Famous. For us to make it this far feels like a real triumph, and we’re ok sharing that with the fans as well so that they can understand what this record means to us.”
Alisa later added, “It’s taken a lot for us to get here.”
Clearly, the two have done a lot of reflecting on the journey which brought them to their upcoming release. When we asked what keeps them going, both took a moment to think.
Thom was the first to jump in, “Artists always talk about what inspires them, and they think about positive things. Nobody ever talks about what motivates them, or what their incentives are for continuing to be artists. And I think for me, there’s a lot of dark stuff that incentivises me to keep going. I’ve committed myself to this path, to this journey, so I just wake up, and I have to go make music.”
This meditation on what it truly means to be artists was a theme throughout our conversation. Ultimately, Alisa summed up the importance of creativity: “It becomes second nature… I would be a different person if I didn’t have that kind of natural reflex to want to create.” The band is an encouraging example of what can happen when you pursue your passion as a career. The Naked and Famous’ new album, Recover, releases July 24, 2020.