The Naked And Famous Discuss Rising Success, MGMT Comparisons, Horror Movies + More
New Zealand dance rockers the Naked and Famous have been slowly making a name for themselves since the release of their 2008 EPs ‘This Machine’ and ‘No Light,’ and their debut album, ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You.’ The success of their 2011 summer jam ‘Young Blood’ has earned them comparisons to fellow synth poppers MGMT (before their confusing second album ‘Congratulations’) and Passion Pit.
The Naked And Famous are currently on tour with Vacationer and Now, Now. Keyboardist Aaron Short and bassist David Beadle sat down with us before a recent show at the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Mich. for an exclusive interview with Diffuser.fm.
You guys kicked off your spring tour last month. How have the shows been so far?
Aaron: It’s been a really good run for us. This is our final tour for ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You.’ We’ve been going since 2010 and 2011 has been an insanely busy year for us. We did three tours through the States so this is the final stretch for us now, but it’s been awesome. The shows have been amazing.
You made your U.S. national TV debut on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ last month. Were you nervous?
David: Not really. I didn’t really know where I was. It’s always nerve-racking being on live TV, but it wasn’t until afterwards where I was like, “Wow, that was intense.” I was more distracted by Travis Barker and the Muppets who were upstairs.
‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’ was initially released through your own label, Somewhat Damaged, before signing with Universal Republic. How did you hook up with them?
Aaron: The Universal Republic partnership actually came from us signing with Fiction Records from the U.K. That’s where we’re officially signed to. That all came about after ‘Young Blood’ did its thing and kind of went a bit crazy. Neon Gold [Records] in New York picked it up and they did a vinyl release, and then from there we looked at these different international offers. Fiction is where we ended up signing at the end of 2010.
Is there a story behind naming your own label Somewhat Damaged?
Aaron: We’re big Nine Inch Nails fans and it’s the name of one of their tracks that we’re pretty big on. In some way it had a good double meaning to the production aesthetic that we kind of like applying to things. It was fitting.
David, you and [drummer] Jesse [Wood] came on later with the band. How did you guys hook up? Were you friends with everyone else?
David: I’ve known Aaron since I was about 5. We’ve been friends since forever and all of the guys went to the same high school, so Jesse and I were always aware of what was going on with The Naked And Famous. After the first two EPs came out, that’s when Jess and I came on board just as ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’ was starting out.
Your songs get pretty ambitious at times. Are there moments when you feel like you may not be able to pull it off live?
Aaron: One of our principles behind the way the songs are written is that everything that goes in the recording, you’ve always got to find a way to do it live. I know with a lot of bands they’ll make their full recording and be like, “Great! Here’s our finished album,” and then go, “Oh no, we’re already a 4-piece band and we’ve only got 8 hands on stage. We need 15 hands. We can’t do this; we’re going to need a backing track system.”
We went the total opposite way. While we were writing the tracks we were always keeping in the back of our minds, “If this is going to go into the recording, can we do it live?” That’s kind of how we built our live system. It’s never been an issue for us.
Are music videos just as important now as they were then to artists?
Aaron: That’s a hard one. Some people look at music videos as a piece of art to accompany the music. And then there’s the other aspect to it which is the really promo driven because your song just applies to such a different audience and exposed to such a different area once you go to music videos.
‘Young Blood’ has over 13 million views on YouTube. That is amazing.
Aaron: Yeah, and we have blogs and stuff to thank for that. We released the video and internationally we weren’t pushing that at all. It was purely blogs picking up on the music video and it was doing its own work on the internet spreading around like that. That’s a perfect example of how much power a music video can have.
Were you afraid that people would compare you too much to artists like MGMT and Passion Pit?
David: No, not personally. They’re great bands and they write great music, but it’s a very surface level comparison. It’s obvious in tracks like ‘Punching In A Dream’ and ‘Young Blood’ but the rest of the album is very far removed from those bands. We’re big fans of Nine Inch Nails, Chemical Brothers and just a lot of 90′s alternative rock, and I think that shows through on the rest of the record.
‘Young Blood’ is featured in the trailer for the Joss Whedon horror film ‘Cabin In The Woods.’ Are you big scary movie fans?
Aaron: We’ve actually been trying to line up a sleepover night on our tour bus at the moment, where we’re trying to get everyone together to just squeeze in the living room and put on a scary movie. I get more of a kick out of the ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies and that sort of thing. That and ‘Twilight.’
What’s next after you’re done touring?
Aaron: Officially, the tour is over at the end of April. We’ve got a couple of places in L.A. where we’ll start to write the next record this summer and just having a big rest, really. We’re all going to be in the same place and working in the same environment. With the gear we got it enables us to write on the spot and work on a lot of raw band songwriting as well as electronic production.
Watch The Naked And Famous’ ‘Young Blood’ Music Video