New Zealand has struck gold in the last few years, churning out one amazing pop act after the next; Ladyhawke, Kimbra, Brooke Fraser, Bic Runga, Zowie. The Naked and Famous, fellow natives of the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ join their Kiwi-counterparts as one of the most exciting new acts of 2011, with the added bragging rights of being the first New Zealand band in 3 years to reach #1, with single Young Blood.
Band member Aaron Short says, 'When we got that phone call from our manager saying 'Congratulations, you've gone #1', we were all kind of clueless, we didn't actually realize what kind of deal it was. Commercial charts alone are another world to us, let alone the statistics like us being the first band in 3 years to have a local #1'
Do local artists in New Zealand perhaps get overlooked, I wondered?
'New Zealand definitely supports its artists, I think what made the #1 so surprising was not that we were a local band but that one week we weren't on the charts at all and the next week we were just straight up there at #1. It was an explosion factor. We weren't crawling our way up like a lot of local artists do'
The band was recently nominated for the BBC Sound of 2011 – a huge feat for an independent group from New Zealand, putting their name alongside such artists as Jessie J, Florence + the Machine, Adele and Lady Gaga. Aaron assures me that the accolades, whilst appreciated, aren’t the driving factor behind their work.
‘Yes, things have definitely changed for us, touring-wise. Going from being Australia and New Zealand to now playing international shows and going on long-haul flights every two or so weeks'
'But on an internal level, nothing within the band has changed. We're not the kind of band to get caught up in the whole fame thing or do the whole rock and roll, superstar 'yeah, we're famous!' kind of thing. That's not us. Inside the group, there are still the same principles and the same dynamic going around, but we're just enjoying ourselves and not taking for granted how lucky we are'
Their debut album, the critically acclaimed Passive Me, Aggressive You ranges from indie, pop, rock and atmospheric electronic tracks. Following on from their 2008 EPs This Machine and No Light, they’ve upped the ante on their production style. Produced by Aaron himself alongside lead vocalist Thom Powers, the album showcases both the group’s maturity as musicians and songwriters.
‘Having produced it ourselves, our skills as producers had picked up quite dramatically. Whereas on the EP we may have said 'Okay, let's leave it there and keep it stripped back', on the album we were more 'Nope, let's layer it up and add more''
'But I will say this, [second single] Punching In A Dream was definitely the hardest song on the entire album to flesh out! It was the very last song to be finished and it was a couple of weeks before we reached our deadline to finish the album. We were really pushing and pushing ourselves in the studio trying to ace that one. It went through so many changes, so many different arrangements… people were getting frustrated [laughs]. It shows that the patience and perseverance will get you there in the end’
Another coup for the band? Getting their music featured in popular American television series Gossip Girl.
'The Gossip Girl people approached us. We just went it!'
'We're Blair fans' he assures me.
The Naked and Famous play Future Music Festival 2012 in Adelaide, Monday March 12 at Ellis Park. Tickets available through www.ticketmaster.com.au or 136100. Album Passive Me, Aggressive You is available now.