CONTENTS MAY VARY: "Sometimes we'll get to the venue and they'll be like, 'Okay, so where's Natalie Portman?' "
"The rise to the top is the best part," says Natalie Portman's Shaved Head multi-instrumentalist/vocalist David Price. "That's what Tupac said in the Biggie movie." I can hear at least some of his four NPSH bandmates — frontman Luke Smith, keyboardist Claire England, singer/percussionist Shaun Libman, and drummer Liam Downey Jr., all of them wedged into the back of a tour van as it hurtles from Salt Lake City to Denver — laughing it up in the background. Something about "foreplay" can be heard. "I dunno, maybe it's true and maybe it's not," Price continues, "but it's fun kinda just building up and getting to where you wanna be."
It's hard to say at this point whether the "top" awaits the spunky Seattle synth-pop outfit, but there's no debating their speedy rise. Just a couple of years ago, they were a trio still in high school, hardly taking themselves seriously (ergo the band name), and just starting to play tiny shows around the city, armed only with synthesizers, drum machines, call-and-response vocals, uninhibited fashion sense, enough pep to shame a squad of cheerleaders, and nascent songs about beards, side ponytails, staying cool, and looking fresh. At their very first gig, they had a 25-minute slot and only 15 minutes' worth of material, so they improvised some skits in between tunes.
Now they're a quintet out on the road supporting Lily Allen, a dance-rock party on wheels with live drums and guitars augmenting the myriad electronics that'll pull into the House of Blues this Sunday. They're far more confident and competent, but no less exuberant. Already on their résumé: US tours with Matt & Kim, CSS, and the Faint, plus a well-received debut LP, last year's Glistening Pleasure (Team Swan) — 13 irrepressible new-wave/disco-influenced tracks on which they bring to bear the full power of their vigor and youth.
"It's been intense," says Price of the attention that's come their way, and the abrupt change in lifestyle. "I mean, I don't think any of us had any intention of playing professionally. It was very much for fun, like, 'Oh, here's something to do because we don't have anything else to do right now. Homework? We're done with that. Let's just play a bunch of music.' This past year is when we decided to give it our all, and we all quit our jobs in bakeries making sandwiches and started doing this full time. It was a little bit overwhelming, but it felt really good. When somebody asks you, 'Oh what do you do?', it's like, 'I'm a musician!' 'But what do you do to make money?' 'Well, I'm not really making money right now, but I'm a musician!' "
It's clear there are no regrets, not even about the name they chose and the never-ending questions it's prompted from journalists and fans. "We've gotten used to it," Price sighs. "But there was a little while there where we were like, 'Oh my God, I can't do this . . . ' And we'd start making up stories. There's a lot of people who seem to think Natalie Portman is in the band. Sometimes we'll get to the venue and they'll be like, 'Okay, so where's Natalie Portman?' 'Umm . . . she's not actually in the band, dude.' "