By: Shayla Lee
If you’re a millennial like me, when you think of The Naked And Famous you will probably be brought back to your teenage years as you imagine yourself listening to their songs while dancing with your best friends feeling invincible. ‘Girls Like You,’ ‘Punching In A Dream,’ and ‘Young Blood’ made a huge impact on my life, and they still remain to be some of my favourite songs today. The New Zealand band has had an extremely successful decade-long career filled with festival performances, world tours, and critically acclaimed albums but for their newest album ‘A Still Heart,’ they decided to try something different.
For ‘A Still Heart,’ the band decided to go in a different direction and breathe new life into some of their most popular tracks, transforming them into more mellow and emotional songs. The album makes me feel nostalgic but it remains fresh and new. I also love that I now have the option to decide if I want to happy-scream ‘Punching In A Dream’ in my van with the windows rolled down or if I want to listen to the stripped version alone in my room and be emotional.
The lead vocalist of the band, Alisa Xayalith, took the time to answer a few questions for us (we really appreciate this because she is on tour at the moment and we can’t even imagine how busy she is!). We chatted about the band’s new direction, what fans can expect on ‘A Still Heart Stripped’ tour, and the ‘wow’ moments she has experienced in her career. She also opened up about being a child of refugees and what it has been like being a lead vocalist of a band as a woman of colour. Alisa is nothing short of inspirational.
FEMME RIOT: Congrats on your release of ‘A Still Heart!’ The songs on this album definitely feel more raw and emotional compared to their original counterparts. In particular, I am really loving the stripped version of ‘Punching in a Dream.’ It sounds so ethereal and it reminds me of Imogen Heap. What inspired you to create an album of stripped down songs? During the creation process did it ever feel nerve-wracking breathing new life into these songs or was it exciting?
Alisa Xayalith: Thank you very much. When we were a baby band just starting out, Thom and I felt adversed to the idea of doing acoustic renditions of our songs. It never made sense to us, we wanted to establish ourselves as an alternative indie-rock band first before anything else. Ten years on, we finally feel comfortable enough to deviate from our regular scheduled programming. On our last album campaign for “Simple Forms” Thom and I ended up playing “Higher” for our radio promo at the time. One acoustic song turned into two and before we knew it, we ended up back at Thom’s studio recording what is now “A Still Heart”. This format allowed people to see Thom and I in a new light as songwriters and performers. In fact, it reinvigorated the creative process of songwriting for us.
You have just embarked on your tour for ‘A Still Heart.’ What was the preparation process for this tour like? Can you give us a sneak peek of what we can expect?
This tour is a pretty scaled back operation to what we normally go out with. It’s a completely different show. It will be the most up-close and personal experience for us as performers and for our audience too. It’s basically an evening of TNAF lullabies to cry to.
Over the past 10 years, you have achieved so much as a musician. From touring around the world and playing huge festivals to having your music streamed millions and millions of times, you have experienced things that many hopeful musicians dream of. Did you ever experience a ‘wow’ moment when you realized that all of your hard work was paying off?
This music career is my greatest achievement. I’ve built my entire life around it. For it to still be standing after the many personal changes I’ve gone through in my life is such a blessing. I have that ‘wow’ moment as I look back on the last decade and the places we have gone, I also have that ‘wow’ moment as I meet so many faces coming to these shows who share their heart-warming stories of how the music I’ve made has affected their lives.
This music career is my greatest achievement.
Last night at our show in Portland. We played in this venue called ‘The Old Church’, I met this 15 year old girl, bright-eyed telling me about how she started playing guitar and how she has learnt 3 of our songs so far. I felt so proud in that moment, somewhere along the way, our music empowered her to pursue her passion. There are a myriad of things that have happened and keep on happening. I don’t think i can ever get used to it.
I got chills reading about your family’s journey out of Laos in the piece you wrote on Clash. How did growing up as a child of refugees impact who you are today?
They sacrificed their entire worlds so that I could be born into a world of privilege and have access to basic needs they never had themselves. I never knew the gravity of what they endured leaving their home country until a few years ago. It has impacted me immensely in a way that makes this music thing I do even more important than ever before.
There is a definite lack of gender diversity in the music industry and female artists are often misrepresented. Being a woman of colour who is also the lead vocalist in a badass band, so many people look up to you as a role model. Have you faced any adversity in the industry or felt like you weren’t being represented in the way that you should be? Do you have any tips for females that are experiencing this in their own lives?
Because of the lack of representation and diversity, I’ve had no path ahead that I could study and follow. I always had to follow my better judgement and instinct to lead me to where I wanted to go. If I had to go back and do some things over again, it would be for me to use my voice and call out sexism when I experienced it ten years ago. Don’t forget the power of your own voice, remember you are the boss writing your own story. Own it and step into your narrative.
Don’t forget the power of your own voice, remember you are the boss writing your own story.
What 3 songs are you currently listening to?
For those who want to witness this incredible band live, you can find tickets to their shows here. Be quick, most of their shows are already sold out! I will definitely be at the Vancouver show and I will definitely be crying. If you can’t make a show but still feel like being emotional, you can listen to ‘A Still Heart’ below. ❤️