Between the Naked and Famous’s 2010 runaway hit “Passive Me, Aggressive You” and 2013’s “In Rolling Waves,” the New Zealand synthpop band found themselves permanently relocated to America attempting to keep up with their success. Amid a breather, the now LA-based electronic group eventually hit a turning point, following the amicable breakup of guitarist/vocalist/producer Thom Powers and vocalist Alisa Xayalith, who had been dating the eight years prior. The result is the twinkling synth-heavy ”Simple Forms,” their third studio release that dropped in October from Somewhat Damaged. Powers calls from the road to discuss their West Coast transition, the album’s visual component and how the band prepared to discuss the very personal topics on the record.
You’ve been in the states for a while now — are you still identifying as being a New Zealand band? Or has it become different for you?
We moved here in 2012, and being an American band is exciting for us, but it’s funny because I like being an alien. Like a New Zealander in America. I like being removed culturally. It’s like a bonus or a handicap.
Is there a big difference between being characterized as a New Zealand band versus one from the states? Has that been good or bad for you as a band?
We have this thing [in New Zealand] called tall poppy syndrome. Poppies grow in a uniform line — and if one of them rises up among the rest, you have to chop them down. It’s a New Zealand/Australian thing, and I think the English have it a bit as well. Anyone who is successful gets torn down quickly. The belief in yourself as an artist isn’t a trait, as a culture. We’re self-deprecating and our culture supports that. So maybe being an American band is an exciting for us.
Where did the idea for a visual component to the album come from?
We worked with a creative team called Ride or Cry — it’s a multi-disciplinary group — and we wanted to make lyric videos to weave the way through the way we’d promote the album. We didn’t want people uploading crap versions of our stuff, and we wanted everyone to come to our channel where we can control the aesthetic, so we did one video and were like, “Let’s do a whole album of these.”
It was like, “How can we, as a medium-sized band, capitalize on one music video?” [A traditional music video] costs tens of thousands of dollars, so why not just make as many [lyric] videos as we can. So many kids are listening to their music on YouTube now that the video is almost incidental.
There’s a few recurring themes and items that appear in the videos — was that intentional? Are they symbolic?
It’s a loose romance story told in an abstract way. It’s a story you can piece together yourself, and it’s up to fans to figure out the order. There are a lot of implied metaphorical messages and props that get teased and make their way through the videos, but overall it’s meant to be a romantic story.