By Dan MacIntosh
Although The Naked and Famous is a band from faraway Auckland, New Zealand, the group’s upcoming show at Pomona’s Fox Theater just might feel like a hometown gig. That’s because the act wrote its latest album, In Rolling Waves, locally. “We all lived in Laurel Canyon for a year,” says drummer Jesse Wood. “We got there last April and we just moved out recently into some temporary accommodations before we started touring.”
Laurel Canyon gained quite a reputation back in the ’60s and ’70s, when musicians—particularly folk-oriented singer and songwriters—gravitated there. The new In Rolling Waves, however, is much more moody synth-pop than anything Joni Mitchell might have penned. Quite a few are also a mite-aged. “Some of the songs were written even before we stopped touring,” Wood continues. “There’s a bunch of songs from the previous record that hadn’t been finished yet. There are quite a bit of different songs put into it, but the majority of the work was done while we lived in the Laurel Canyon house.”
The album’s title is drawn from one of its songs. “It’s a lyric from the song ‘Grow Old,’” Wood explains. “We were all just drawn to it as a title. We threw a few names around, and we really like a lyric as a title. We just felt it encompassed the record pretty well, in a short and sweet way.”
In Rolling Waves follows the very successful Passive Me, Aggressive You, which featured the highly successful single, “Young Blood.” However, the band didn’t feel overly pressured to repeat that prior album’s commercial success.
“I guess it’s always in the back of your mind,” Wood admits, “but we never really let that affect our creative process. The first record was also written and self-produced, and we did that again on this record. Two songs we co-produced with Justin Meldal-Johnson, who’s been a long time bass player, produced many artists and done some great records recently. So, the only pressure we had was on ourselves.”
Every band is different when it comes to playing music from recent albums live. Some acts like to change things up completely, just to keep it interesting. Other groups, however, prefer to try and replicate the recorded versions as closely as possible. You can probably safely slot The Naked and Famous into that latter category.
“Generally, we’re very by-the-book,” Wood explains. “This album, we spent a lot of time rehearsing these songs before we recorded them, so they would translate pretty much seamlessly live. There are a couple of moments where we might embellish on a slight idea. But nothing drastic.”
The Naked And Famous will be arriving in Pomona just before Halloween. Yet one of the creatures that scares people the most during this spooky season, is also one Wood keeps as a pet. “I own six tarantulas,” he says. “I’ve got a small collection of exotic pets.” Of course, it’s not unusual for Wood to scare people with his “pets.”
“Spiders shed their skin like a snake, and it pretty much looks exactly like a spider,” Wood explains. “I have the skins of a few of them that have shed and I can put those skins places and scare people. I’d never scare someone who’s genuinely terrified with a live spider because that could injure or kill the spider, and I would feel like a bad parent.” (Notice how he puts the welfare of the spiders first?)
And no, Wood didn’t get into tarantula ownership with the help of Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper or any other scary rock and roller. “I went to a Petco one day out of curiosity,” he recalls, “and I saw you could buy them. So I thought about it for a moment and I thought because I can do it, that means I should do it. I bought one and started reading and learning about them and got more fascinated. I bought a second one and then third, fourth, fifth and sixth.
Having big ugly spiders as pets sure seems like a rock and roll thing to do. Wood also enjoys having them as pets for another distinctly masculine reason too. “They’re pretty low maintenance,” he admits. “They’re good if you travel. If I’m away for a few weeks, someone has to go look after them once or twice a week, max, to feed them and make sure they have water.
Maybe Wood is the “Famous” part of The Naked And Famous; he is, after all, a spider-man.
The Naked and Famous w/ The Colourist and NO at the Fox Pomona Theater, 301 S. Garey Ave., Pomona; www.foxpomona.com. Sat, Oct. 26. 8pm. $25-$35.