19 May 2024

'I've always wanted to be a solo artist' - Naked and Famous star

10:35 pm on 19 May 2024
Thomas Powers

Photo: Thomas Powers

Releasing a solo album is uncharted territory for Thomas Powers, a New Zealander living in Los Angeles who first found fame as one half of the hit-making Auckland indie electronic band The Naked and Famous.

But the desire to do so had been percolating for years.

"I've always wanted to be a solo artist," he told RNZ's Sunday Morning, though he admitted he was "not equipped" to do so when he was younger.

Powers has found a new sound - neo-classical electronic - with A Tyrant Crying in Private, his debut LP under his real name, and said he was keen to explore where the genre would take him in future.

"My goal for my solo music at this point was to create something that I feel I could grow into and grow old continuing to make.

"I hope that I've done that with this ... I'm looking forward to making more music as just Thomas Powers."

The title of the album was a "blown-up version" of how he sees himself, he said.

"I feel like that has been the way I've sort of understood my identity as the guy from The Naked and Famous - you know, band leader, big, bossy, tyrannical kind of personality."

However the flipside of that tyrannical self-confidence - which Powers said ensured things got done - was a sense of uncertainty.

"I always see myself in a negative light, I'm very self-critical," he said.

"It's about this extremely confident, aggressive version of myself and this pathetic side of myself as well."

He recalled seeing the same dichotomy at play while watching Peter Jackson's The Beatles: Get Back documentary, when he found himself empathising with Paul McCartney.

"He was trying to rally, round everyone up ... get them all in like one direction ... it's like herding cats."

Releasing a solo album, Powers said, was an opportunity to let go of some of the pressures he'd felt at times working with - and trying to lead - other people.

It was a chance "to just do what I wanted to do and try and ... take responsibility, so I wasn't coming into conflict with any other parties".

The album's release also finds him in a reflective mood.

"I just have so much regret for my younger self," he said.

"I just wish I was more present and kinder and nicer and more appreciative of people not being on the same page as me and just letting things go. I'm in a very different place now."

And while his intuition was that his new music might not appeal to "very young people", Powers was happy to be proved wrong.

"I don't care who listens to it, I really don't, I'm just grateful for any audience whatsoever."

A future goal would be to have his solo music "closely associated to film", he said, but he was also quick to reflect on past successes.

When The Naked and Famous first started Powers' aim was to open for The Mint Chicks and to get a song on 95bFM's top 10 - "and then we got like a number one and it stayed there for weeks".

"All of my dreams came true, I felt very, very lucky."

After many years living in California, Powers said while he felt secure in the USA, he was not sure what the future held "and I'm missing home more and more because of that".

"I do still feel drawn to this place ... it feels like it's where I'm supposed to be," he said.

But there was also "this feeling like no one should die in Los Angeles. You shouldn't grow old here; you should die somewhere else".

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