What a difference a year makes. At the close of 2010, members of Auckland rock combo The Naked and Famous were innocents abroad, wide-eyed Kiwis who – thanks to sudden international interest in their debut “Passive Me, Aggressive You” – finally were being invited to tour the world.
They come back to San Francisco for two sold-out concerts as seasoned vets, underscored by a recent triumphant return to their homeland, where they won five New Zealand Music Awards, including Album of the Year for “Passive” and Single of the Year for the synth-frothed smash “Young Blood.”
Nonstop touring is a mixed blessing, says Laotian-descended vocalist Alisa Xayalith, who co-fronts TNAF with guitarist Thom Powers.
“It’s all so overwhelming,” she says of their hectic 2011 schedule. “But there’s not one day that we ever take for granted, and we’re constantly telling ourselves that we’d rather be sitting in an airport, waiting around for hours to hop on the next flight, instead of going in to our old crummy jobs in Auckland, where I was just a shop girl. We’re so lucky that people around the world have fallen in love with us and want us to play their country.”
Xayalith is so inured to touring, she has developed a checklist of road rules. First, upon arriving in a strange city, locate the nearest laundromat. “It’s my day off today, I’m in the seaside English town of Portsmouth, and I’m literally standing in front of the dryer, just watching it and waiting for the time to run out,” she says by phone. “We’ve met other bands out there, and they tell us ‘You’re not a group on tour! You’ve got clean hair, fresh clothes and clean underwear on!’ They can’t believe that we’re actually quite a tidy outfit.”
Other prime directives? No fast food, only Japanese cuisine, if possible – not easy when all you pass are freeway truck stops and McDonald’s, Xayalith says. Also, lots of tea drinking and no post-show pub carousing.
“I go to bed early because I’m extremely conscious of taking care of my voice, and I want to give myself 100 percent to our live show,” she says.
There’s one more tenet that’s become the most crucial. “If somebody farts in the tour van, they have to accept responsibility and put their window down,” says Xayalith. “But I, of course, am polite – I don’t do it around other people!”
IF YOU GO
The Naked and Famous
Where: The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Sunday-Monday
Tickets: $20 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 771-1421; www.ticketfly.com