Life off the road isn’t all that glamorous, even if you’re in a band as successful as New Zealand natives The Naked and Famous.
“I’m just driving back from Beverly Hills, and I’m stuck in traffic,” founding member Thom Powers says. “I was returning some clothes that were lent to us for a Conan performance we did yesterday, the day before. Normally when I’m at home I play a lot of video games, or sit and think about home improvement projects… I avoid home improvement projects… and then I just get bored and start thinking about the next album or what various musical projects I can procrastinate over.”
Fresh off the back of an extensive North American tour in support of their latest album Simple Forms, Powers says the band is ready to enjoy some time off and ‘normality’ before hitting the road again in January.
“The tour was fantastic, really great. It’s been a long time since we’ve done a six-week tour like that, so it felt nostalgic but also familiar. America is the most romantic version of being on the road, I think, because it’s so long.
“You can do a six-week tour and not really have covered everywhere you might have been able to play, so you really cut your teeth touring the US… I think it also depends greatly on how you’ve integrated into the culture that you’re playing to, so whether you’re viewed as a very indie act or a mainstream act, and that kind of changes slightly from territory to territory.”
Watch: The Naked And Famous – ‘Higher’
The band will return to Australia this month for two shows in Sydney and Melbourne, followed by one show in Auckland, New Zealand, before they embark on an extensive European and UK leg.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been back to Australia,” says Powers. “The last time was Groovin The Moo, I remember that was the first time we’d done that tour and we’d been wanting to do it previously, that was one of the very few Australian festivals we hadn’t done at that point.”
From appearances at Groovin and Big Day Out in Australia to Coachella and the Governors Ball in the USA, 2014 was perhaps the biggest year in recent times for the band, who took a short hiatus from the end of 2014.
“We went quiet for a couple of years. It was a bit of a hiatus and working on this album. Alyssa and I separated, so that took a big chunk of everyone’s lives, we came off the road and hadn’t had homes so we had nowhere to really call home, everybody took some much-needed time to move forwards in their lives a little bit.”
With the release of Simple Forms came a change in structure for the band, who went from being signed to a major label to essentially being independent.
“We’re pretty independent to be honest, which is very new for us,” explains Powers. “We were on a major label until this album and now it’s very indie, we’ve done a deal with Cobalt Label Services, which are a new mutation of what a record label – in my opinion – ought to be, and it’s been fantastic working with them, but yeah we’re largely independent in this (American) territory, whereas in Australia and New Zealand we still work with Universal Music.”
The shift also changed the way the band has approached touring for their latest album, according to Powers.
“This is not a traditional campaign by any means, we don’t have the record label smacking down the door of radio so we’ll be touring this album for a good chunk of next year, I imagine all of next year.
“It’s early days for us but yeah, so far the reception has been great and our fans have all come on board, but we know there’s a lot more spreading the word and a lot more work to be done.”
According to Powers, the decision to work largely independently had little to do with typical preconceptions about the music industry and the treatment of artists by corporations. “Long gone are the days of musicians running their mouths about the evils of the music industry,” he says.
“I think it’s a pretty transparent industry to participate in. Anything that does seem malevolent or ‘wrong’ about it is not because people are going about it, like, there aren’t these fat cat tycoons sitting in board rooms snorting cocaine at lunchtime, thinking about how they can rinse artists of all their dignity and money… that kind of caricature is ridiculous and doesn’t exist. I don’t know, maybe it did exist at one point but it certainly doesn’t anymore.”
Watch: The Naked And Famous – Last Forever
Whilst the transition from major label to independent is not, perhaps, a natural progression, the decision to move from New Zealand to LA was, at least for Powers.
“For the music that we make, and what we do, it’s the holy grail. This (the US) is a bigger territory for us, this is where our biggest audience is, and growing up I listened to a lot of bands from the US, so my taste and music culture were kind of US-centric so for me it felt like a goal, it was somewhere I wanted to get to.”
The move hasn’t really taught Powers much, however, besides the fact that he knows “more and more about less and less.”
“The industry is changing so rapidly I really feel very unqualified to talk about it with any confidence any more. I think that’s a consequence of age as well, you know, the older you get the more you realise the world is not as simple as you see it and things are not generally static, they change a lot. Nothing is particularly stable. The industry now is different than it was when I was younger, and I don’t know where it’s going.”
The Naked And Famous will play shows in Sydney and Melbourne this week.
The Naked And Famous 2017 Australia Tour Dates
Saturday, 7th January 2017
Metro Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Live Nation
Sunday, 8th January 2017
170 Russell, Melbourne
Tickets: Live Nation