May 23, 2013. 1:16 pm
Photos by Ed Kaiser/Edmonton Journal.
The XX perform Missing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver on May 24, 2013
(completely out of focus but they sound so beautiful)
May 24, 8 p.m. | Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Tickets: $39.50 - $47.50 plus charges at 604-569-4416 or NorthernTickets.com
British neo-noir trio The xx may appear to be reclusive, guarded types, but don’t judge them by their calculated, minimalistic sound or deceptively dark appearance: This is a band that is laying it all on the line for itself and its fans.
Bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim, guitarist/vocalist Romy Madley-Croft and producer/percussionist Jamie Smith are still touring promoting latest album Coexist, globe-trotting on a multi-legged trek that took them to Vancouver last fall at the Vogue Theatre and sees them return May 24 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The band is lugging around about twice as much lighting gear as it is amps and musical equipment, which includes its trademark array of downtempo guitar, bass and synthesizers, aiming to give fans an experience as striking as possible.
Among the elements we saw last fall were high-definition ambient visuals fed by giant projectors from the back of the room, X-shaped Plexiglas stands, strobes, and a giant LED-speckled X that came down from the ceiling at the end of their set.
The xx are, quite literally, going for broke.
“We’ve always said, ever since we were able to play a proper venue rather than a pub, that we wanted to have something people could go away with afterwards and talk about,” Smith said in a recent phone interview from Prague. “We’re happy not to make that much money off touring if that means people will remember the show for a long time.”
The man known as Jamie xx is a charming, soft-spoken guy.
When it was mentioned that what The xx are doing is risky considering the current music business landscape where everyone is struggling to make a living, Smith gave an audible shrug.
“I guess so,” he said. “When we thought of doing this we did it because we loved it. We didn’t want to do anything else, and we always came at it from a creative approach rather than wanting to be a ‘big band’ or to make money.”
Beyond Coexist, the band has started to work on pieces of songs for a future album, though Smith admitted the process was haphazard on the road.
The band’s newest piece of music is a song entitled Together that appears on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s latest musical epic The Great Gatsby, a soundtrack that also features Beyonce, Lana Del Rey, will.i.am, Florence + The Machine, Jack White, Jay-Z, Emeli Sande, Gotye and more.
A clear snapshot of today’s musical landscape, the soundtrack immediately recalls that of Luhrmann’s late ’90s hit Romeo + Juliet, which featured Radiohead, The Cardigans, Garbage, Everclear and other alternative acts of that era.
Does Smith feel The xx is part of a musical moment in time by being included on the Gatsby soundtrack?
“I hope not,” he said with a chuckle. “I like most of the artists that are on the soundtrack and we’re so happy to be on it. But I hope we don’t become one of those bands that people remember as ‘of this era.’ I want to keep going.
“We love the Cardigans but we don’t want to be them.”
When it is revealed to Smith that the soundtrack was being pressed on vinyl via Jack White’s Third Man Records label, Smith audibly lit up.
“That’s great! I didn’t actually know that,” Smith said. “We went to Jack White’s studios when we were on tour in the U.S. last time and it was amazing to see. It made us want to have everything of ours in one place and have people come to us. It’s a really nice idea. But I guess you have to get to a certain level like Jack has.”
Beyond The xx’s work, Smith admitted he remains constantly busy working on his own stuff.
A sought-after remix artist, one of his most famous collaborations was with late great poet Gil Scott-Heron for 2011’s We’re New Here, a remix of Scott-Heron’s final studio album I’m New Here from 2010.
These days, Smith admitted craving to work on bigger pop albums with major label artists.
“I’m interested in going down that route as well as still making more underground releases,” Smith said. “When I went to work with Alicia Keys (for Girl On Fire track When It’s All Over), it was a very interesting and exciting experience and I want to do more of that.
“She seemed like somebody who lives in another world to us. To be able to go in the same studio with her and make music and hear her sing at me was something I’d never imagined I could do.”
The xx @ Lucerna, Prague
The first Night+Day happened in Lisbon last week and it was so much fun! To see it for yourself and to get an idea of what to expect from Berlin and London, take a look at this video. xx The xx