Los Angeles is like a theme park, according to Thom Powers, but the haunted house is the Viper Room, Mickey Mouse is an 80s has-been rocker and don’t even think about trying the fairy floss.
While he slams the infamous Viper Room as “rank, it stinks and it’s tiny”, the singer/guitarist for the Naked and Famous reckons La-La Land was the perfect environment for the New Zealand synth-pop outfit to make their second album, In Rolling Waves.
“That side of living in Los Angeles is actually pretty fun,” Powers laughs.
“You feel like you’re at a theme park all the time.”
The young muso chats during a break in rehearsals at Bedrock Studios in Echo Park, a far more credible area away from the bright lights of Hollywood.
The Naked and Famous began work on the follow-up to their highly acclaimed 2010 debut Passive Me, Aggressive You in a flashy facility in the celebrity-bejewelled neighbourhood of Studio City before moving over to the more modest Bedrock Studios.
“It’s a good environment and feels more real,” Powers says. “Makes us feel like we’re the same band we were four years ago when we had to pay $60 to hire out a place for three hours, lug all our gear over and then drive it home to mum’s house afterwards.”
The band’s genesis can be traced back to the Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand in Auckland, where Powers met fellow singer Alisa Xayalith and engineer Aaron Short in 2008. The following year the current rhythm section of David Beadle (bass) and Jesse Wood (drums) joined and soon the quintet had recorded their ubiquitous singles Young Blood and Punching in a Dream.
While Powers and Short produced the debut, In Rolling Waves saw the previously self-sufficient band team with Justin Meldal- Johnsen, best known as the touring bassist for Beck and Nine Inch Nails. His work with French electronic outfit M83 also appealed to the Kiwis.
Meldal-Johnsen encouraged the band to takes risks on the new album, which showcases an epic, darkly cinematic sound comparable to Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.
“The biggest hurdle about making a record is your own self-doubt,” Powers says.
“(In Rolling Waves) shows how we’ve mastered our craft. It builds on things we did on our first record; it’s definitely a lot more mature.”
In Rolling Waves is out tomorrow. The Naked and Famous play the Big Day Out at Claremont Showground on February 2. Tickets from bigdayout.com.