The Naked and Famous + Wolf Gang @ Birmingham Academy 3, 28th February 2011


Tonight it’s to the dinky O2 Academy 3 to see up-and-coming Kiwi indie band The Naked and Famous at the dinky price of £7 a ticket.

Expectation surrounds TN&F – in December they made the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll of the top fifteen bands to look out for. And although it’s not rammed in here, the gig is sold out to an audience predominantly made up of students and indie fans. An enthusiastic PR girl, keen to sign up every member of the audience to email alerts, tells me entrance numbers are 230 to the 250 capacity.


Support is by Wolf Gang. A quick net search pulls up a heavy metal Filipino rock band — er… this is clearly the wrong band! This particular Wolf Gang comprises of Max McElligot plus band, clearly heavily influenced by David Byrne / Bowie crossed with Crowded House. Sounds like? Think Talking Heads Pschyo-Killer era. With flick in hair and earring to boot, he dances in typical 80s style — scarily like a cross between Limahl and Howard Jones…

Then a break and at 9.15pm on come The Naked and Famous – comprising of Thom Powers, Alisa Xayalith, Aaron Short, David Beadle and Jesse Wood. Formed in various Auckland bedrooms, their start-up approach was true indie DIY style, which has fortunately been preserved in their sound. Their debut single ‘Young Blood’ went straight in at No 1 in the New Zealand chart – the first Kiwi artists to do so since the 90s.


‘Punching a Dream’ – the second track in – is light and fluffy with high infectious tune, bass beat accompanied by Alisa’s ethereal vocals. Other songs are far more traditional indie with rhythms that roll on and on and are taken from their debut album ‘Passive Me, Aggressive You’ (to be released in the UK on 14th March 2011). You can hear smatterings of inspiration from Joy Divison to The Jesus and Marychain, with Alisa sounding not too dissimilar to Cocteau Twin Liz Frazer.

TN&F are not a talking band. In true indie manner, they get on and do their stuff, and when they do speak they speak very quickly! “Really appreciate you guys coming along – we know some of you have school tomorrow – thank you for coming.”


‘Young Blood’ at the end of the set, is back again to the commercial side of what they do — poppy and uplifting, psychedelically memorizing and addictive, complimented with vocal harmonies. It’s pretty and refreshing.

Main set done, they return for one encore, with distorted guitar, thumping indie bass, slightly splattered with indie angst, Alisa banging away on a tambourine. Years ago, we’d have been ‘wrecking’ to this lot (obscure indie dance for those who either can’t remember or who are too young to have been there) – now the audience is more refined, but still wholly appreciative.

Tonight’s 50 minute snippet of TN&F was dinky. Just like the venue. But they have a subtle epic and big indie sound and unlike the support act, TN&F are not a throwback in time.


There is something refreshing to their sound, while they clearly reside in a specific genre, you can’t pigeon-hole them into ripping off the past. And their music is eclectic enough – no doubt you will start to hear them on TV ads and as musical interludes on TV programs.


I really like them. Like a refreshing glass of cold homemade lemonade on a hot summer’s day – their music is contagious and upcoming album will be well worth a listen. If you get a chance – go see what they’re about. I think you’ll like them too.

Review –  Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – Katja Ogrin

‘Youngblood’ is due for release in the UK on March 7th 2011.
Debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You from the 15th March 2011

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