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Operation Every Band - SXSW 2014
The Goal: To listen to and review every band performing at SXSW 2014.
OEB - SXSW 2014 Project Links:
OEB's 5 SXSW Qs - An Interview Series
Operation Every Band - SXSW 2013
Operation Every Band - SXSW 2012
Following the lives, careers and internet buzz of twelve bands from SXSW through the end of the year (2011).
Austin City Limits Festival 2011
35 Conferette 2011
Late last year, I first clicked on a Youtube link for “Punching in a Dream” while working down my list of SXSW bands. Frankly, most bands I ran through fell somewhere between boring and predictable, but within seconds of listening to The Naked and Famous I knew I was on to something. I immediately started spreading the word amongst my music friends all of whom were digging what they heard. Fast-forward nine months. I go online to purchase tickets to their headlining show at Dallas’ Granada Theater only to see “sold out” in big red letters over the band’s picture. Even more perplexing, the show was over a month out at the time.
Somewhere in the last couple of months, The Naked and Famous are legitimately a mainstream band Stateside. From a noon show in Waterloo Records’ parking lot during SXSW, the band has truly come a long way since I started my coverage. The wave crested even earlier in Europe. Videos from major festivals throughout the continent show audiences ecstatically clapping and bouncing along as the downbeat in “Young Blood” first kicks in. In a half year full of revelatory moments, this was the point when I saw The Naked and Famous turn a corner into a international headlining act.
The Naked and Famous are certainly known best for “Young Blood”, which has increasingly gained spins on mainstream radio both domestically and abroad. No doubt, it’s a hell of a song. Equally electronic dance and driving rock, it even has an interesting break to cool off for a couple of seconds before they explode back into the wordless chorus. On the other hand, the real power in The Naked and Famous lies in their deeper cuts, layered in experimental tones and melodies. From the ambient drone that anchors “The Sun” to the frantic builds in “A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing”, the band has shown a true penchant for diversity that speaks really well for the future. Frontman Thom Powers recently expressed his excitement to write “the next ‘Young Blood’”, but I personally am more excited for them to explore some of the out-there sounds they established with “Frayed” and “Eyes”. After catching a headlining show (my buddy ended up with an extra ticket for last month’s Granada gig), the show-closing “Young Blood” seemed almost like an afterthought given the breadth of material that anchored the middle of the set.
Of all the bands we’ve covered through “The 12”, I have the hardest time with The Naked and Famous in terms of where I think they’ll go next. The band shuns the idea of actually being famous, but if they keep pushing the electronic rock genre as they have done, there could be some pretty big doors opening up for the young band. For some reason, I keep drawing back to Pablo Honey-era Radiohead when I think of The Naked and Famous. Not exactly musically (though it is pretty obvious the band has drawn some influence from post-Kid A material), but more that I can hear moments of the band trying to make something new and different. The Naked and Famous is a band completely set up with the ability to evolve, a trait that so many great bands struggle to get a grasp on throughout a career. I know there will be fans skipping around their sophomore disc down the road looking for the next pop hit, but I’ll searching for something deeper, darker and most importantly interesting. It’s been a fun ride following along with The Naked and Famous and they are definitely another band I don’t hesitate to throw a check in the “made it” box.
10/15/11 – Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA (courtesy of Dave Lichterman)
The Naked and Famous returned to US shores last month for the sixth time this year for their most extensive cross-country headlining tour to date. Starting in the Midwest, the band then traveled out west for a run of shows on the coast, looped through Texas to Atlanta and wrapped up with a string of shows in the Northeast. The Naked and Famous have graduated to some decent-sized rooms, from Portland’s Roseland to Webster Hall in NYC. In fact, over half of the gigs sold-out, some months in advance. The success of “Young Blood” on US alternative radio stations has certainly played a big factor in the increasing audience size, but it’s important to note that this tour represented the second or sometimes third stops in certain markets for the Naked and Famous this year. It’s not the thousands they’ll pull in at a European festival like Glastonbury, but US audiences have definitely found some strong love for The Naked and Famous since this summer.
The entire tour was aided by support from two more young and buzzing bands. White Arrows and The Chain Gang of 1974 both have grabbed some decent attention this year resulting in a trio of interesting acts making up the tour bill. The tour properly kicked off in Toronto followed by a show at Chicago’s Metro and a sold-out gig in Minneapolis. The next week, the bands headed to the West Coast anchored by an appearance at San Francisco’s Treasure Island Music Festival. The San Francisco Examiner called The Naked and Famous an “early set highlight” and One Thirty BPM noted the band “whipped up the crowd into a frenzy that lasted through their whole 40 minutes”. Paste Magazine even called the band their “Favorite Collective Discovery” in their post-festival roundup.
After a raved-about appearance at Los Angeles’ Music Box, the tour headed back east through Phoenix, Dallas and Austin. The Horn summed up the band’s set with a really apt description of their sound:
“The Naked and Famous put on a really good show – they have a knack for creating infectiously catchy songs, but lace them with strange, electronic sounds and lyrical content that gives it a much more unique sound. Encompassing pop, industrial and noise rock, The Naked and Famous’ music is captivating, and their performance is a testament to that.”
The final week of the trip took the bands up the East Coast including stops in Boston, New York City and Washington DC. The Naked and Famous’ last date on their US tour was a late afternoon set at Asheville’s Moogfest amongst an eclectic roster of cutting-edge bands. This tour cemented The Naked and Famous as true headliners on US shores, so it’s fitting that the band got to return home to New Zealand with the most cordial of welcomes. The band racked up five Tui Awards last week, the top music prize in New Zealand music. This will be our last Tour Report for The Naked and Famous, but the band treks on. Next week, they’ll kick off another headlining tour focused on the UK.
OEB Video Diary:
Spank – 10/6/11 – The Phoenix – Toronto, Canada
All of This – 10/15/11 – Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA
Jilted Lovers – 10/18/11 – Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
Eyes – 10/21/11 – La Zona Rosa – Austin, TX
Young Blood – 10/24/11 – TLA – Philadelphia, PA
The Naked and Famous are currently on the last leg of their US headlining tour, increasing their exposure city by city with local reviews, interviews and radio sessions throughout the country. In addition, the band has been featured in a few national and international outlets. Here are a few highlights from the past two months:
Earlier this year, The Naked and Famous moved their home base to London, formally breaking away from their home country of New Zealand. The island nation certainly has an isolationist feel for any band based on location alone, which presented an additional challenge for The Naked and Famous who have broken out completely into the international music market. This piece from the New Zealand Herald gives a unique perspective on how the band has handled their relative fame. Thom Powers reiterates through the article that even though they are a young band, “every time we have been presented with an opportunity we took it all very seriously and tried to capitalize on what we were doing. We never f***** about, never took anything for granted”.
In a half year’s coverage, The Naked and Famous were the first of “The 12” to be featured on a video game soundtrack. The inclusion of “Punching in a Dream” on the soundtrack to FIFA 12 not only reaches out to a unique international audience that isn’t necessarily searching out for new bands, it also shows how the industry is recognizing them as marketable music alongside TV on the Radio, Foster the People and The Strokes. FIFA 12 arrived in stores on September 30th.
The Naked and Famous have rarely gotten into the remix game, but they took some time last month to reinvent their touring partners Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s “Ffunny Ffriends” on Soundcloud. Consequence of Sound summarized the effort perfectly: “Put it in the hands of fellow Kiwis The Naked and Famous and the track becomes an overblown blast of gnarly noise and blissful distortion.” The song has only racked up a couple thousand listens in the last three weeks, but this level of band cross-pollination is always a good way of reaching out to new and accepting audiences.
Video and radio sessions have increasingly become a liable way to get music to more ears, whether it’s through terrestrial outlets or high quality videos on YouTube. Earlier this month, the band joked through Facebook that instead of performing acoustic as many artists do on these occasions, The Naked and Famous have taken the opposite route by incorporating more electronics. With Aaron Short, Jesse Wood and David Beadle all eschewing their normal instrumentation for smaller keyboards, the music somehow becomes less organic yet more intimate. We’ve found four sets recorded online with the same setlist (Baeble Music, 102.1 The Edge at Sugar Beach Studio, 98.7 FM Penthouse and KDGE The Edge Dallas), but we’ve just embedded our favorite session from Toronto’s “The Edge” prior to their show at The Phoenix on October 11th below.
10/11/11 – The Edge at Sugar Beach Studio – Toronto, Canada
Punching in a Dream, The Sun, Young Blood
9/24/11 – Parklife Festival – Melbourne, Australia (courtesy of TNAF Tumblr)
The Naked and Famous have a really busy rest of 2011 ahead of them. They’ve been on the road pretty much all year, but since the beginning of August they’ve been running with no break in sight. Early in September, the flew from a short run through the Western US back to Europe for a ten-day headlining run through Italy, Switzerland, Austria and six stops in Germany. The Naked and Famous were supported by frequent collaborators Wolf Gang on this tour, who built a name for themselves through the release of their debut LP Suego Faults this July. The call for Wolf Gang to open was hardly a surprise as the bands collaborated on a couple tracks about three months ago that still have yet to been scheduled for any sort of release.
In terms of news and reviews, there are few to come out of this run, but crowd response was favorable. It was clear that many caught onto The Naked and Famous this summer while they circled Europe on their extensive festival run. Performing small clubs as a headliner allowed the band to expand their live show to a dedicated audience. Reports of setlists show the band reaching even further into their back catalog in addition to performing every track from Passive Me, Aggressive You. Songs such as “Dadada”, “Serenade” and “Bells” featured prominently in the setlist night-to-night.
The end of the month (and beginning of October) found The Naked and Famous back in Australia, the closest the band has been to their home state of New Zealand all year. The Naked and Famous were full participants in the country’s Parklife Festival, a travelling affair that swings through Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide. Though most of the band’s sets were played in the early afternoon, many Australian publications called out the band’s set as a consistent highlight. Faster Louder pointed out that the band “made drawing a crowd look easy” in Melbourne and Music Feeds called their set in Sydney “the highlight of the day for many”.
New Zealand fans that couldn’t make it to the Continent will still have a chance to catch The Naked and Famous this year; the band will return for a show in Auckland for a headlining gig as well as an appearance at the New Zealand Music Awards in the beginning of November. After the last Parklife show in Adelaide, the band flew over to the US West Coast to start up a month-long headlining tour supported by The Chain Gang of 1974 and White Arrows that will take them all the way across the country. We’ll pick up tour coverage next at the end of the month as they wrap up the US run with sold out shows in New York City and Washington DC.
OEB Video Diary:
Bells – 9/7/11 – Magnolia (Mito Festival) – Milan, Italy
Young Blood – 9/8/11 – Abart Club – Zurich, Switzerland
The Ends —> A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing – 9/14/11 – St. Peter – Frankfurt, Germany
YouTube uploader angjfong gave The Naked and Famous fans a little treat last week with what I assume is a complete recording of the band’s headlining set at Harlows in Sacramento ten days ago. The quality ranges throughout, but there is a real sense of intimacy that carries through angjfong’s close-up camerawork and the sound quality is pretty strong compared to many of the Naked and Famous videos out there. Enjoy!
8/31/11 – Harlows – Sacramento, CA
All of This, Punching in a Dream, A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing, Spank, The Sun, Bells, Frayed, Eyes, Dadada, No Way, Girls Like You, Young Blood
8/26/11 – Reading Festival, UK (courtesy of DIY)
The first two weeks of August for The Naked and Famous was comprised of a heavily-booked tour through the States, but the band had to head back to Europe shortly thereafter for a five-show festival run from Belgium to France. With “Young Blood” still holding weight as a European summer anthem, these appearances brought out some of the largest crowd of their career. By the time they reached Pukklepop, they had already graced twenty different European festival stages from the beginning of the season and their clout had increased greatly through positive reviews and word-of-mouth about their anthemic live show. This yielded time slots moving from the early afternoon into the early evening and some larger stages, but at Pukklepop, they played under a large tent but a little earlier than normal. The timing was a lucky twist of fate for the band. About an hour after their set, a disastrous storm took down a nearby stage to fatal results causing the immediate cancellation of the rest of the festival as a cloud hovered over the live music world.
With a heavy heart (the band spoke with Live X5 about their experience at Pukklepop the next day), the band delivered an energetic set to a packed tent at The Netherland’s Lowlands Festival the following day. The next weekend found the band back in the UK for the one-two punch of the Reading (a “predictably fantastic showing” according to Gigwise) and Leeds Festivals. Along with their set at France’s Rock En Seine the following day, the weekend proved to be a triumphant end-of-summer peak for the young band. The Naked and Famous are a big name in Europe right now with the opportunity to be a major headlining act, all depending on the staying power of the singles from Passive Me, Aggressive You. The band has every intention of capitalizing on their momentum; tour dates are booked solid until December with no intention of slowing down.
On the side of this tale, in the United States, The Naked and Famous are relatively unknown among mainstream audiences. Though “Young Blood” has caught on in certain online and traditional radio markets, I wouldn’t consider it a “hit song” by any means. Their quite end-of-month US run really reflects their relative popularity across the Atlantic. The band played four shows over five days in the western part of the country. From a free show at The Book and Stage, which is pretty much a corner of the pool at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, to club gigs in Sacramento and Portland, it’s a little hard to fathom what the intention of the short trip was in the first place. Knowing Vegas, I could see the Cosmopolitan offering them a healthy paycheck and the same could go for their appearance at Seattle radio station The End’s annual Summer Camp festival three days later. Nevertheless, the crowds were relatively sparse, but defiantly passionate. Footage from the mini-run shows some pumped-up crowds amped to sing-a-long to their hit songs of the summer. A Sacramento Press review caught onto this sentiment, sharing hot the show at Harlows was “filled with a crowd of stadium-sized intensity.” Just as quickly as they arrived in the States, The Naked and Famous headed back overseas for a headlining run through Central Europe, where we’ll next pick up coverage.
OEB Video Diary:
The Sun – 8/18/11 – Pukklepop Festival – Hasselt, Belgium
Punching in a Dream – 8/19/11 – Lowlands, Festival – Biddinghuizen, NETH
Young Blood – 8/26/11 – Reading Festival, UK
All of This – 8/30/11 – The Book and Stage at the Cosmopolitan Pool – Las Vegas, NV
8/5/11 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL (courtesy of Chris Gomez)
The Naked and Famous made their fourth trip over to the States in August for a run of bi-costal headlining shows anchored by an early afternoon appearance at the 20th anniversary of Chicago’s Lollapalooza. The first stop was in Los Angeles for a headlining appearance at The Music Box. The show was the band’s only West Coast performance, but an important stop given their relative popularity around the city. Before their proper Lollapalooza gig, the Naked and Famous joined the festival’s official after-party series opening up for Crystal Castles at the House of Blues on Thursday. For their first major US festival appearance, The Naked and Famous drew a bit of a double-edged sword on their time slot. By 1:30 on opening day, many fans were still on their way with most likely only 30-40% of the attendees in the gate by the time the band was on-stage. Though many were wandering the grounds to gather their bearings, the band ended up pulling a huge crowd given the lack of interest in the bands playing concurrently. In fact, by analyzing Lollapalooza’s “Custom Schedule” application, approximately 83% of fans marked the band on their schedule who had a specific interest in the 1:30 time slot. The Illinois Entertainer noted, “The energy during ‘Young Blood’ was manic and it translated into the audience, who seemed to hang on every note and seemingly knew every word to every song.”
The Naked and Famous have certainly caught on more in Europe than the States, but the tide seems to be shifting. Lollapalooza didn’t only allow the band to reach a new audience, but also proved that there’s a pretty significant fanbase already established over here. The band continued their American momentum through the week by looping around the East Coast. Philadelphia’s Radio 104.5 invited The Naked and Famous to support Airborne Toxic Event for their Summer Block Party on Saturday followed by a show at New York City’s Summerstage on a bill that also included Cults and Friendly Fires. It was great for the band to be matched up so aptly with other bands; crowd spillover is always a good way to grow some buzz with new ears. Yet much like Lollapalooza, the fan base may already be here. Pop Matters observed, “The Naked and Famous, if I’m being completely candid, probably drew the biggest crowd (with) sporadic widespread singing along from the audience”.
The rest of the tour jumped up to Toronto (a show that BlogTO loved through-and-through: “There wasn’t a clunker in their set”) before heading back south through Montreal and Boston. The band closed out the tour with more NYC-area dates: two Brooklyn shows at the Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Brooklyn Bowl. These headlining club gigs allowed the band to open up their catalog a little more than the festival stages they spent most of the summer on. Beyond the heavily played tracks from Passive Me, Aggressive You, The Naked and Famous added updated versions of older tracks “Dadada”, “Bells” and “No Light” as well as a few takes on the B-Side “Machinery”. Nevertheless, the crowd still erupted exponentially with the hits “Young Blood” and “Punching in a Dream”, tracks that will be sure to feature prominently in the band’s canon for years to come if they continue their path upwards both in the US and Europe. This brief tour ended up being a pretty important stake in the ground for the young band truly breaking into the US market.
After an extra day off due to the late cancellation of East Hampton, NY’s MTK Festival, the band headed back to Europe to jump right back on the festival circuit. We’ll pick up coverage with the band’s set at Pukkelepop, performed less than an hour before the stage-collapsing disaster struck the Belgium festival.
OEB Video Diary:
The Sun – 8/4/11 – House of Blues – Chicago, IL
Punching in a Dream – 8/5/11 – Lollapalooza – Chicago, IL
Young Blood, All of This – 8/7/11 – Summerstage – New York, NY
Machinery – 8/9/11 – Lee’s Palace – Toronto, CAN
Dadada – 8/12/11 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
On Tuesday, The Naked and Famous shared their fifth official video from Passive Me, Aggressive You with “The Sun”. The NSFW clip combines sexual images with some intense color schemes and patterns nicely coordinated with the mood and rhythms of the track. The video, produced by Special Problems, has already been banned off YouTube for its content, but is up on Vimeo.
One kind YouTuber captured The Naked and Famous’ complete set at Germany’s Melt! Festival recorded live for German TV last month. The band played an energized and extended set of thirteen songs including some deeper cuts like “Bells” and “Jilted Lovers.” Enjoy the show through the playlist below.
7/16/11 - Melt! Festival - Ferropolis, Germany
The Ends -> A Geek in Wolf’s Clothing, Punching in a Dream, Spank, The Sun, Bells, Frayed, All of This, No Way, Jilted Lovers, Eyes, Girls Like You, Young Blood
7/15/11 – Latitude Festival – Southwold, UK (courtesy of Latitude)
The Naked and Famous continued along the European festival circuit after their well-received set at Glastonbury, grabbing choice time slots on some of the biggest stages of the summer throughout Europe. Half of these gigs were centralized in the UK, including London’s Wireless Festival and Scotland’s famed T in the Park. The band played to a packed audience at T in the Park’s largest tent; the show was an elevated draw due to fans trying to find shelter from the steady rain showers throughout the afternoon. Large and energetic crowds consistently showed up for The Naked and Famous throughout their festival run, creating buzz-worthy moments that continue to propel the band to, what Gigwise calls, “one of the most talked about live acts of the last year.”
Beyond the opportunity to play in front of a larger base of music fans, festivals also bring out music publications by the handful, trying to catch the most impressive live acts of the summer. The Naked and Famous took advantage of the press and lined up a series of video interviews, most of which have been archived to their respective sites. The band met up with NME at T in the Park, ASOS at London’s Roadhouse and RTE 2fm and Vodaphone at Ireland’s Oxegen Festival. One show reached an even wider audience with a free professional webstream, delivered live internationally. The iTunes Festival is a series of concerts at London’s Roadhouse, all of which are available for stream and/or purchase on iTunes for a limited time. The Naked and Famous delivered a strong set opening up for White Lies to an appreciative and excited audience. Their European festival run ended at Germany’s Melt Festival, but the band fit in one more gig at the end of July, travelling all the to Japan for a set a the Fuji Rock Festival to a large crowd, including some hometown supporters. Given the band’s New Zealand origins, the show was the closest opportunity for Kiwis to catch the band in person since last year. The band continued what would be a literal “around the world” trip by flying to Los Angeles the following day to kick off a cross-country 2-week US tour anchored by an appearance at this weekend’s Lollapalooza festival. We’ll pick up coverage of The Naked and Famous next in LA.
OEB Video Diary:
Girls Like You - 7/3/11 – Wireless Festival – London, UK
Frayed – 7/13/11 – Roadhouse (iTunes Festival) – London, UK
A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing – 7/15/11 – Latitude Festival – Southwold, UK
Yuck – 6/25/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK (courtesy of Al de Perez)
Since its first year in 1970, Glastonbury has grown into the leading UK festival in terms of both exposure and attendance. This year, tickets sold out within four hours of going on sale based solely on reputation. It’s no surprise that our three international acts in “The 12” were pegged for Glastonbury given the buzz they’ve been receiving throughout the last year. Glastonbury currently offers at least a dozen stages over 3 days, building an extensive list of acts ranging from high profile headliners like U2 and Coldplay to bands that normally play to half empty bars. Glastonbury offers something for everyone; even the three bands from “The 12” who appeared, The Naked and Famous, Yuck and James Vincent McMorrow, have little in common musically.
The Naked and Famous drew the largest stage of our bands, playing on the “Other Stage” for an early afternoon set. The Bristol Evening Post rated their set seven out of ten stars, praising the band’s “euphoric synths, summery electro-pop and big, festival-friendly choruses” while at the same time noting the band’s subdued stage presence. Radio hit “Young Blood” brought out the communal hand-claps and dancing that makes Glastonbury so iconic. Beyond their showcase, the band did some additional press while at Glastonbury, including a video interview with Absolute Radio.
The second day featured an appearance by Yuck at the John Peel Tent, the fourth largest stage at the festival. Much like their other European festival appearances throughout the summer, Yuck was favorably reviewed and drew a sizable crowd, especially given their 1:05 PM time slot. Counteract Magazine noted, “Yuck’s style of lo-fi garage is something that the UK has been missing for many years and their laid-back attitude compliments the music.” Like The Naked and Famous, Yuck fit in some interviews while strolling through the fields, including a piece for major UK publication NME. James Vincent McMorrow was the last to perform of the “12”. His set on Sunday was held at The Park, a medium-sized stage reserved mostly for up-and-coming acts. Reports are slim from his set, but he surely drew some new fans with a full-band performance. All three acts continued touring throughout Europe after Glastonbury with a mix of headlining and festival sets, but surely could look back on Glastonbury as a rewarding experience as they transition into the greater music world.
OEB Video Diary:
The Naked and Famous – Young Blood – 6/24/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK
Yuck – Holing Out – 6/25/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK
James Vincent McMorrow – If I Had a Boat – 6/26/11 – Glastonbury Festival, UK
Around the beginning of June, many music publications take a look back from the year’s midpoint to share their favorite albums and new bands throughout the first half of the year. “The 12” showed up on more than a few lists this year, but no outlet captured as many of our bands as WXRT (Chicago), who recently posted their Top 50 bands of 2011 thus far. All of the following bands turned up on the station’s unordered list:
- The Civil Wars
- The Head and the Heart
- The Naked and Famous
- David Wax Museum
Congrats to all of the bands catching some well deserved recognition. Additionally, WXRT isn’t the only outlet to mention the bands’ work in the first half of 2011. The Head and the Heart and Yuck in particular have received strong accolades for their debut LPs. Here are some links to other “Best of 2011” lists featuring “The 12”:
Right after their set at Denmark’s Northside Festival, The Naked and Famous headed overseas for some radio sessions, a set at Boston’s WFNX Radio Clambake and a proper headlining gig at Washington DC’s Rock and Roll Hotel. The band was in and out in less than five days, but luckily video was captured every step along the way. Here are some highlights from the band’s brief trip:
6/14/11 – Livestream Video Session (NYC) – Punching in a Dream, The Sun, Eyes, No Way (slow version), Young Blood
6/15/11 - WFUV (NYC) The Alternate Side Radio Sessions - Punching In a Dream, No Way, The Sun, Young Blood
6/16/11 - WFNX (Boston) Radio Clambake - Young Blood
6/18/11 - Headlining at the Rock and Roll Hotel (Washington D.C.) - The Ends —> A Wolf in Geek’s Clothing