On Saturday 22 June, the xx bring their Night + Day festival to Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. So what happened when they staged it at an abandoned theme park in East Berlin surrounded by model dinosaurs? Romy and Jamie talk us through their photo album …
The xx play Radio City 23rd and 24th September!!!
The xx in Columbia, MD
Happy Birthday Oliver!!!!!!!
Someone’s booking agent deserves a raise. The idea of the xx and Grizzly Bear touring together doesn’t make much sense, until you see the pairing live. Their styles fall on polar ends of the spectrum, but in a back-to-back setting, they make for a compelling match. One blows the balloon up, the other deflates it.
From London, the xx is essentially a trio of architects masquerading as musicians. Their songs are models of grace and economy, shot through with shimmering, repeating guitar lines and a tremendous amount of space. Nothing is out of place with this band, from the elliptical singing style of guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim to Jamie xx’s throbbing sonic backdrops.
Grizzly Bear, meanwhile, takes a widescreen approach to its music, filling nearly every pocket with grandeur and sweeping melodies. Singers Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen luxuriate in the grand vocal tradition of wounded crooners like Morrissey. Grizzly Bear tends to unfurl across the horizon.
Saturday night at the Bank of America Pavilion, with a breeze wafting in from the harbor, the xx and Grizzly Bear were an inspired twofer. In its headlining set, the xx proved they have grown as performers since emerging in 2009. Together the three musicians share a delicate balance. Each part is elemental; take out Madley Croft’s guitar work, and suddenly the bass lines fall flat. Likewise, without Jamie xx’s arrangements, which have grown more dance-oriented, the songs would come off too monochromatic.
As on their records, Madley Croft and Sim shared vocal duties, and their chemistry has become even more coy. At several points they sauntered over to the other, their bodies and instruments undulating like gentle waves at high tide. Blinding white lights, stage smoke, and lasers added considerably to the ethereal effects of the music.
For such stoic song structures, the xx’s lyrics are often unequivocally emotional — gut-wrenching, even. “When I see you again/ And I’m greeted as a friend/ It is understood/ That we did all we could,” Sim sang on “Sunset,” from the band’s most recent album, “Coexist.”
In a testament to how consistent the band has been, older songs (“VCR,” “Intro,” “Shelter”) sounded like refined but natural extensions of the new album, which added subtle textures to the xx’s palette, including Jamie xx’s wash of steel drums on “Reunion.”
By contrast, Grizzly Bear started the night in full Technicolor splendor, reeling off sprawling songs (“Two Weeks”) that rang out loud and clear over an audience mouthing the words right back at the band.
12:01 p.m. EDT, June 12, 2013
Midway through the xx’s set at April’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival in Indio, Calif., the London-based trio threw a cover song into its set: Aaliyah’s smoldering 1997 single "Hot Like Fire." Solange, the R&B singer and friend of the xx, joined the band on stage to solidify one of the weekend’s standout moments.
Guitarist and vocalist Romy Madley Croft, 23, talks modestly about her acclaimed band, but doesn’t hesitate to gush about the two R&B singers who helped make the highlight possible.
"Aaliyah has been an artist I’ve grown up with, like an older sister," the soft-spoken Madley Croft said. "We were constantly playing her music around the house when I was growing up. It was apart of my life. … When it came to Solange, we just think she’s an incredible person and musician."
That combination of seductive R&B and the xx’s dour, longing brand of indie-pop might seem strange to some, but spend time with the band’s excellent albums (2009’s “xx” and last September’s “Coexist”), and the marriage makes sense. At times, the xx’s music is difficult to categorize, but the sexy, slow-burn of Solange’s recent work and Aaliyah’s understated melodies fit the band’s sound.
The music-obsessed trio — which also includes bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim and producer Jamie Smith, all best friends since age 11 — is influenced by a wide range of sounds, including ’90s R&B, obscure house and calypso to name a few. But given the members’ love of dance music, the xx’s albums are surprisingly stark and minimalist. The result is a group that sounds like no other working band today.
But don’t be fooled by the “minimalist” label. When the xx takes the Merriweather Post Pavilion stage on Sunday night, its deceptively powerful set will justify the large amphitheater setting.
Early on in the xx’s young career, that was not the case. The band that quietly wrote its first album late at night in their bedrooms — in order to not wake up their parents — was not ready for large festival stages, Madley Croft admits. But when your group’s debut record wins the Mercury Prize, an award given to the best British album of the year, there’s little time to drag your feet.
"We’ve been thrown on so many different stages all over the world," she said. "We just had to embrace it."
Two years of constant touring in support of “xx” fortified the group’s aplomb and stage presence, Madley Croft says. The band brought that confidence into a London studio and recorded “Coexist” between November 2011 and May 2012. When the album was completed, the band, whose members most often listen to music on headphones, “sat there and turned it up on the big speakers,” Madley Croft says. As a result, the songs revealed themselves in ways that could reach even the most remote areas of large venues.
"This whole other, different part of the music comes out," she said. "The sub-bass, the stuff you can move to, as well as the subtleties. You get more of the rhythmic side. That’s what we embrace."
The juxtaposition of the hushed vocals exchanged by Madley Croft and Sim with Smith’s meticulously crafted, tranquil backdrops has made the xx one of the most exciting bands to emerge from London in years. Given the group’s sparse, intimate arrangements, its also been labeled one of the quietest bands ever.
Madley Croft says that distinction is only half-right.
"We’re not extroverts. We’re not introverts," she said. "We’re quite normal, not in-your-face people. But anyone that comes to see us live will see we’re not quiet live. I love that people can feel the bass in their body."
Then, perhaps feeling a bit brash about the last comment, the polite Madley Croft quickly brings the xx back down to the ground.
"We don’t ever want to be in anyone’s face," she said. "We’re not the kind of band to cause a scene."