Rosie Driver meets up with Thom Powers of The Naked and Famous.
As a bit of an introduction can you tell me and Leeds Music Scene about you, the band etc.?
We are The Naked and Famous from New Zealand and my name's Thom, the boy singer and guitar player. There's 5 of us, the rest of them are just coming back from dinner! What else is there to tell... we've got an album coming out real soon.
How did you guys meet?
Aaron, Alisa and I met a couple of years back, 2007 or something, started working on some music; Alisa and I song writing, Aaron and I producing. We put out a couple of EPs back home in New Zealand in 2008 so we've just been around since then. We started working on our album in 2009 and last year we finished. Then we signed a big record deal and now it's coming out. That's kind of a briefest history that I can give. We got together with Jesse and Dave and that's really the 5 of us.
I know you took the name of the band from a Tricky song but what was the reason behind it?
I just thought that it was very clever and sarcastic, I hope everyone understands it's a joke!
If you had three words how would you describe your music?
It's real good! or Buy my album!
There have been lots of comparisons made with MGMT, The XX is this how you see yourselves?
I think the MGMT thing is interesting, it's flattering as well because they're a big international group and it's nice to be compared to that. Well, it's nice for us coming from New Zealand because bands get trapped by their industry and whatnot so to be seen as someone so huge it's flattering. We're a lot indier and darker and rock orientated than MGMT, not quite seen as retro, but a lot more to do with 80s and 90s than MGMT do. Yeah I'd say it was alternative rock music.
Congratulations on your NME award, and the BBC nominating you for the Sound of 2011 - has that changed anything?
Not really it hasn't really changed anything, except now we have an award to lug around or stick it somewhere! Again it was very flattering and bizarre because it's like we're not trying you know what I mean we've made our music and we put it out there and we're just happy that it's coming out. All these things keep happening to us, I'm a bit bewildered to be honest.
Who inspires the music videos and how do you come up with the ideas?
None of us are visual artists so we work with a visual artists team on all our stuff. All of our videos are done with the same, I don't want to call them company, but creative team called Special Problems. They're just wonderful fantastic guys who've been working with us since we started. They do all our art work, all our videos and all that kind of stuff. We just leave it to them to figure out, we don't give them any direction. I always think it's really stupid when people try and do stuff that they're not... I consider myself a studied musician, a lot of it's self taught, but I've been doing it for years and years so it's going to be a really terrible idea for me to start making music videos because I have no understanding of it or the depth of that art medium. There's something to be said about reaching out to different artists to enrich that kind of thing.
What bands have influenced you and what are you listening to at the moment?
I was listening to James Blake on the drive on the way over here, I thought that was really interesting - he's pretty fascinating. And there's an artist called White Sea, a female vocalist and she's got an album which is pretty fantastic.
As far as our influences go there has been a couple of bands, I guess as a bit of a middle ground for the entire band. It's really hard to talk about influences when I've never been the sort of person that's heard a band and gone I want to be in a band like that, or emulate that. For us, especially being a producer as well, if we're in the studio and we're trying to think about a guitar part we'll go and listen to albums and reference the guitar sounds - we'll reference production technique, the sounds and ways that they've recorded things as an audio of the guitars. But the rest of the track might be very housey and might have nothing to do with the song we've referenced like the pieces that we reference.
All time heroes I guess 9 Inch Nails being one - very big inspiration to myself and Aaron, being producers to a rock group.
Obviously New Zealand differs from the UK - have you managed to spend any time here?
We came here last year and did some shows, we've done a few meetings and things like that but it's all been very brief. This is us getting to know the UK, on tour basically.
How have you found the audiences here?
They're all so wonderful, it's just easy dream lifestyle. No issues and lots of fun.
What advice would you give someone starting out or what advice would you have wanted to hear when you first started?
It's really hard. I used to teach rock bands, take rock tutoring classes and they were high school students. It ended up kind of diminishing my spirits about talking to people about the advice for starting, about being a musician or artist, or any type of artist. It's so hard to try and think of something. It's difficult, definitely more of a conversation then really advice. It's a combination of trying to be not intelligent, just not stupid. [Common sense?] Un-common sense to be honest, because a lot of people that say that are just hearsay. Being a successful artist isn't being a successful entertainer, because an entertainer is like showbiz and showbiz is very separate to being an artist. It's such a long and deep and lengthy conversation.
Don't try to be smart and just try not to be stupid.