Friday, 27 June 2008

Natalie Portman's Shaved Head - The Definitive Interview

A while ago I wrote about the Seattle dwellers, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head; a band who, by combining many different styles of electro and pop, make music that is one happy amalgamation of vibrance, fun and ridiculous catchiness. 'Sophisticated Side Ponytail' even featured in the playlist for a beach party I was at recently - much enjoyment ensued.

Their album, 'Glistening Pleasure', is released on Team Swan on July 15th and is already receiving good reviews.

And now, because they are very lovely people, here is an interview with Luke [vocals, guitar, keyboard, drum programming, claps] who assured me that all of the band's hearts were in it.

How did the band form?

We all met in high school. At first it was just Shaun [vocals, maracas, shakers, tambourine, cowbell, claps] and I making weird lo-fi dance pop jams in my basement. We got some gigs and realized we needed more people to pull it off live, so we asked our friends David [keyboard, guitar, vocals, claps] and Claire [bass keyboard, vocals, claps] to join the party. It was still pretty much a silly hobby at that time, but we progressed and wrote new songs and got some attention, and here we are. Oh and we found our live drummer Liam on myspace from his old band. He's an amazing drummer times infinity.

What made you decide on the name Natalie Portman's Shaved Head?

It really wasn't much of a decision process. We were in class together one day playing a class game where we needed team names. It was around the time that the entertainment news shows were all a buzz with talk of Natalie shaving her head for a movie role. We thought it would be funny to call our team Natalie Portman's Shaved Head. Our classmates seemed to like it, and we won the class game, so we took it as a good sign. Around that time it was just Shaun and I in the band and when it came to the time to put up our myspace page, we just slapped the moniker on there and the rest is history. People make such a big deal about our name now, but really it's like whatevah. Save your breath, haters.

What is with your obsession with hair? (Ponytails, beards, shaved heads...)

Haha, I've never actually made the connection with our hair-related name and our two hair-related songs. That's pretty funny. It's not an obsession, I'd say; it just kind of happened that way unconsciously.

If NPSH were a canned food, which canned food would they be?

Canned peaches.

Describe the band's sound in 3 words.


What inspires you in your songwriting?

Like freaking everything. We're music vacuums. Old soul masters, top 40 pop, 60s girl groups, Kanye West, dark disco, Daft Punk, ELO, Weezer, CSS... Also just being young and feeling a little awkward and confused about what to do, while wanting to forget everything and have maximum fun while we still can.

Any recommended bands?

I'm listening to the new Girl Talk album right now [available for Radiohead-like pay what you want HERE]. It's really good so far. I love that UGK song he samples, "Int'l Players Anthem" with Outkast. So good. A few months ago, maybe I would have recommended fellow Seattle band Fleet Foxes, but now they're all huge indie darlings. Same for the Ting Tings.

What's the weirdest thing that anyone has ever done at one of your gigs?

Apparently a couple was doing the naughty at one of our shows. Like getting it on. I've heard from several people in the crowd, and I guess David or Shaun or Claire saw something going on. That's pretty cool that we can inspire people to do that, but at a public show that's pretty gross. And this was pre-Usher "Love in this Club," so I'm taking credit for the phenomenon.
Tell us about the album, 'Glistening Pleasure'.

It's our first real album. Our baby. Shaun and I we're laughing about it last night that most of the songs on the album had their start when we were still in high school. They've gone through a lot of changes to be on the album, but they go way back. I think we're all really proud of GP and really excited for everyone to hear it. It's our glistening dancey pop album and the soundtrack to the modern sophisticated human. Oh, and the physical album contains an extremely difficult Magic Eye image somewhere in the packaging, so people should try to find it and tell us what it says. We'll give them a prize.

Can we hope to see you in the UK anytime soon?

Yeah possibly before the end of the year (that's our hope), but most definitely next year. We really can't wait to come to the UK! It's gonna be crazy fun.

What would you do if someone covered your song on American Idol or some such reality programme?

Aside from dying of shock, I'd probably be so happy if that happened. That would be so hilarious and amazing. That's some huge exposure right there.

High and low points of being in the band so far?

High point: Pretty much every show we play is a new high point. It's so much fun to see a bunch of people come out and to just get down with them. It's the greatest feeling the world to have the audience screaming for you and to be pumping that energy right back at them. We have the best fans. Also, when we found out that we would be touring with CSS, that was a pretty good day, to say the least.

Low point: We haven't really experienced any low low points, just not as high high points. Stay tuned for the depression, drug overdoses, pop-country albums, Wal-Mart ads, and stabs at acting careers. Just kidding!
Lovefoxxx wearing a Shaun from NPSH t-shirt

Presumably you've heard some of CSS' new material. 'Rat Is Dead (Rage)' is sounding ace [as is Left Behind, and the album sampler which is now on their myspace], I'm going to be sneaky and ask what's the rest of it like?

SO GOOD. Grunge is back.

What should I do with my drunken sailor?

At first I didn't understand if this question was referencing something, so I asked Claire and she said it was some kind of sea shanty. I've honestly never heard of it. She says, whatever you do with your drunken sailor, make sure it's early in the morning or it won't work.

Are NPSH about sincerity or sarcasm - as in, are your lyrics snidely making fun of the youth of today, or truthfully representing your feelings? (ie. Does Curtis Mayfield's music make you want to get under the covers?)

This is a really good question [told you they were lovely people]. It's something we talk about a lot as a band. I think we're kind of in an age where there is so much sarcasm and irony that you can't tell if anyone is sincere anymore. I'd say most of our lyrics are actually quite sincere, or at least as sincere as teenage boys and girls can be. Before we wrote Slow Motion Tag Team, Shaun and I we're sipping on lattes and listening to the Curtis album that he had just got, so that lyric came from a real place. Beard Lust came at a time when were genuinely fascinated with Shaun's newfound ability to grow facial hair, and I wasn't able to grow a convincing moustache. Although, there is still a very fine line a lot of the time. I'll leave it up to the listener to decide when we're sincere or just having some fun.

Words of advice and inspiration to other bands, or people who want to form a band?

What are you waiting for!?!?!? If you really want it, go for it hard. Just be nice to everyone you meet and meet a lot of people. People-connections are your lifeblood. After all, what is "the music industry" but a lot of silly people. Have fun and don't be too serious, jeez.

Any final words?

"You be good. See you tomorrow. I love you." Spoken by Alex, an African Grey Parrot used in comparative psychology research at Brandeis University, to his handler, Dr. Irene Pepperberg when she put him in his cage for the night. He was found dead the next morning. Awwww! That's so beautiful. Now that you're all emotional: buy our album and come see us in your town! Let's get down!
Do you want to see Shamu with me, and my friend Henry?

Oh snap, we'd love to! Is Shamu still alive?

A massive thanks to the band, make sure you give them a listen.

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