Categories: Arts Music Pop

The Naked and Famous goes acoustic

From their current base of Los Angeles, Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith — co-vocalists for New Zealand electro-rock outfit The Naked and Famous — still have trouble comprehending that they’ve been together for a full decade.

“We’re not young things anymore,” says the Laotian-descended Xayalith. “But it’s the biggest achievement, I think, to have been able to sustain a career in music for this long, with no signs of us ever stopping. It’s pretty incredible.”

To thank their faithful followers, they’ve got an unexpected new release: “A Still Heart” is a delicate, acoustic reimagining of some of their high-energy catalog classics, including “Higher,” “Young Blood” and “Punching in a Dream.”

To promote it, Powers and Xayalith are on a “Stripped” tour, backed only by the band’s bassist David Beadle and keyboardist chum Luna Shadows, which comes to The City this weekend.

“It’s definitely scary for me, because in our 10 years together, I don’t think anyone has heard me so, uhh, naked before, for lack of a better term,” says Xayalith.

The “Stripped”/”Still Heart” concept started organically enough, when, as part of the marketing campaign for TNAF’s third album “Simple Forms” in 2016, the two singers were begged at radio station visits to play acoustic versions of singles, and they happily complied.

The routine quickly caught on, becoming a fan favorite.

“Then we started thinking, ‘Hey, our songs actually sound great stripped down, so why don’t we release other songs of ours performed like this?’” says Xayalith.

The process was easy. They simply tracked everything at the home studio of Powers, who says, “It’s just my garage, nothing fancy. But these days you don’t need a lot to do final recordings, so it didn’t take me very long to put ‘A Still Heart’ together in that tiny little space. And without drums and electronics, it was perfect for this album.”

Xayalith’s voice sounds remarkably crystalline and commanding in the hushed setting.

“Not having to compete with a live band or a loud audience, I’ve learned how to sing quietly,” she says. “And when I’m singing quietly, there’s a lot of precision involved, with making sure that you hit all the notes. So I examine the way I sing a lot more now than when I would be yelling at the top of my lungs in a live rock band setting.”

There are only two down sides to the “Stripped” concerts, in Xayalith’s opinion. “Now I can hear all the hecklers,” she says. “And if I mess up, I won’t be able to get away with no one noticing!”


The Naked and Famous
Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m.March 10
Tickets: $40 to $99 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 431-7578,

Tom Lanham

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