The xx’s reluctant frontwoman on dark nights, darker attire and the pressures of hosting your own festival
The Guardian, Thursday 9 May 2013 05.31 EDT
What was your first festival experience?
Oliver’s mum took us to Reading when we were 14, which, when I think about it now, is pretty hilarious. She was a massive fan of the White Stripes. She saw that Oliver and I were falling in love with live music and took us along. She was way more hardcore than us: she stayed down at the front through punk bands like Dropkick Murphys to watch the White Stripes. I remember being amazed by it all, but at the same time thinking: Get me away from this place.
You’ve gone from the mid-afternoon siesta slot to headliners in a short time. How does it compare?
It’s been quite sudden but although it’s more pressure being high on the bill, our band is better suited to night. We’re awful in daylight – there’s a lot of bumping around and I feel so exposed. We put on a much better show in the dark. I feel more comfortable surrounded by lights and the smoke.
You’re quite shy. Do you find the intensity of festivals hard?
You can try and hide, but actually I find it more relaxing to watch the other bands on the stage I’m about to play on. It makes me feel calmer than sitting backstage thinking: Oh my god, what am I about to do?
Who is your ultimate festival act?
One band who are always incredible to watch at festivals are the Kills. It’s not like they’ve got loads of stage production, it’s just them on stage, going for it. Seeing the two of them side by side, boy and girl, with no obvious lead singer – it inspired the xx hugely. Alison Mosshart came to watch us recently and I could see her from the stage with her new tequila sunrise hair. That was quite a big moment for me.
You’ve just come back from Coachella. What are the differences between UK and US festivals?
I feel like it’s normal to see English people going crazy, but in the US it’s a different kind of wild. There was a lot of screaming at a show we played in America recently and that wouldn’t happen in England. I came off stage thinking: What band were they watching? It shocked me, it was a proper One Direction scream!
How do you manage to reconcile rain ponchos and wellies with your all-black band uniform?
You’ve got to wear wellies. It would be a mudfest without them. Oliver and I went to Glastonbury in 2011 just for fun – the weather wasn’t good, so we bought wellies and got involved like everyone else. If it was raining, I think I’d wear a poncho. I would be happier if it was a black one, though.
You’re curating your own Night + Day festival this summer. As it’s your party, can you sit back and relax for once?
Oh, not at all. It’s our party down to every little detail. We’re considering everything from the atmosphere to the kind of food we want to the DJs we get to play. I’ll be well prepared for my wedding after this •
The xx play Night + Day, Glastonbury, Pukkelpop and Positivus
The xx create a unique atmosphere with their understated indie sound. The subtle vocals of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim combine over minimal guitar riffs and producer Jamie xx’s electronic beats to give birth to beautifully haunting songs.
The London trio have forged a reputation for powerful live performances and their show at last year’s Bestival drew the largest crowd in the history of the festival.
The band released their second album, Coexist, in 2012 to widespread critical and popular acclaim – it topped the UK album charts and made it into the US top ten. The album and the singles, Chained and Angels, have also created a huge
The xx won the Mercury Music Prize in 2009 for their first album, which included the singles Islands, Crystalised, Basic Space and VCR. The album featured in many ‘best of the year’ lists in magazines such as the NME and Rolling Stone.
Their music has also received major exposure through its use in soundtracks for TV shows and at events such as the Euro 2012 football tournament. Their debut album opener, Intro, was used by the BBC in their coverage of the 2010 general election.
Disco superstars CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers, who worked with Daft Punk on their infectious number one Get Lucky, will be special guests for The xx Session.
CHIC have been stalwarts of the disco, pop and hip-hop scenes since their formation in the late seventies. With tracks such as Le Freak, I Want Your Love, Everybody Dance, My Forbidden Lover and Good Times, they quickly became a hot property and started writing and producing for some massive names, including Diana Ross.
As a solo artist, Rodgers produced some of the biggest albums of the 20th century, including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Madonna’s Like a Virgin. He also featured on Michael Jackson’s Money, from the HIStory album.
Nile Rodgers said: “We’re looking forward to setting the Eden Project alight with the sound of disco in July and are proud to be special guests to the incredible xx. Get ready…”
Date, venue changed…
The xx have altered the date and venue for the London installment of their Night + Day shows.
Struggling to maintain a sense of intimacy, a sense of occasion in larger venues, The xx decided to try something different. Organizing a series of one off shows, the Night + Day series was born.
Handpicking the line up, The xx are set to take the shows across the country this summer. This morning (April 18th) the band revealed a number of alterations to the London installment Due to TFL informing the group that the Piccadilly Line (and Osterley tube station) will be closed for major engineering works on the weekend of the event, Night + Day will move from the original Osterley Park location, to a new venue at Hatfield House.
In addition to this, the event moves to June 22nd and will boast an increased capacity. The line up currently boasts appearances from The xx, Poliça, Kindness and Mount Kimbie, with Solange now set to play live.
Presented by Young Turks and Deviation, the second Bandstand stage will feature Benji B (DJ), Jamie xx (DJ) and Sampha (DJ) with more acts to be announced closer to the event.
Tickets are on sale now.
Night + Day takes place on June 22nd. Fancy catching up on our xx cover feature? Click HERE, curious reader.
Sasha Bronner Posted: 04/13/2013 11:52 am EDT
The xx broke into the indie music scene in 2009 with their mesmerizing, whispery self-titled album — and every hipster from Brentwood to Brooklyn embraced their emotional lyrics and addictive sound.
Bandmates Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim started making music together at age 15, but they’ve known each other since they were 3 years old. Hailing from south London, Croft and Sim studied at the Elliott School, the same institution that claims Hot Chip, Burial and Four Tet among its alumni talent.
But the xx’s path wasn’t fated: Croft admitted in an interview with The Huffington Post that she never had the intention of becoming a musician. She took up the drums to get out of class, she picked up a guitar after not being too great at the drums, and she started singing just so she could learn the guitar a little better. Bandmate Jamie Smith joined the group later, rounding out the trio. Constantly surprised at their success, The xx has recently released their sophomore album, Coexist, and will play in a primetime Saturday night slot at Coachella. The band also will have a song in the summer blockbuster “The Great Gatsby” and have confirmed a spring tour with indie powerhouse Grizzly Bear.
Just before The xx boarded an international flight to Los Angeles, The Huffington Post spoke with Romy Madley Croft to uncover the struggles of writing personal lyrics, the fear caused by 20,000 pairs of watching eyes and what happens when someone starts to become a diva.
Your debut album received such amazing acclaim and success. What was your intention in moving onto your follow-up album, Coexist? Where did you guys want to go with it?
The thing with Coexist is we had no plan for it. We got back from touring and had been gone a long time and just wanted to make music again. The fact that we wanted to still make music again was a good thing [laughs]. We said if we get back and it doesn’t happen, maybe we will just take some time out. But luckily it all happened pretty naturally. Then it was about learning to work together again after all that had happened. With this album, we definitely had grown up a little bit more.
What is your process like as a band when you’re making a record? Do you write separately? Do you go into the studio with a clear-cut plan?
Oliver and I write quite separately and share lyrics over the Internet. We come up with our own things separately and then kind of collage them together. That’s the way we wrote the first album. But as time went on, with Coexist, we started opening up to each other a little bit more and actually began writing in the same room. It’s silly because I’m sure most people write songs in the same room, but for us it was quite different. It was like letting down a wall. We have been friends for a long time but it was a new place for us.
Another way we work is we just play things live. That’s when the songs become complete with Jamie. Our rule is that everything we record has to be playable live. It’s a limitation but it keeps things simple. If we can’t do it live we don’t do it. At the beginning I couldn’t really sing and play the guitar together that well. So we had to keep it simple.
You and Oliver have known each other since kindergarten. Were you both very musical children?
Not really. We both grew up with lots of music in the house, but neither of us were born-for-the-stage children. We weren’t music children prodigies. We were normal kids and both fell in love with music around the age of 14 and that’s when we both started going to gigs and sort of thought, well, why don’t we just try this ourselves?
What kind of music were you listening to around that age?
I was listening to heavier stuff like Queens of the Stone Age, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Kills … so a lot more distortion and more attitude, I suppose, than we have as a band. But that’s really what I liked. I started playing the guitar and learning power chords and somewhere along the way that changed. I don’t really know what happened!
When you first have an idea for a song, does it come to you in the form of words and lyrics or do you hear music and melody first?
It’s always lyrics for me. The lyrics come first. I can basically write a poem and then work out the melody with some simple chords on the guitar. I have been writing a bit on tour recently and have been using Garage Band on my iPad, because I don’t always have my guitar with me. So I have been using different tools to get the melodies out of my head. It’s interesting because Jamie listens to a song and hears everything else but the lyrics. He hears the melody and the music. And I think it’s good that he’s different like that because we get both sides. It’s good to have different interests.
You played Coachella for the first time two years ago. What was it like?
It was a pretty terrifying thing for us. We were used to playing small clubs in America — you know, with a couple hundred people. And we walked out onto the stage at Coachella and it was like 20,000 people. It was the most people I had ever seen in my entire life. It was a really memorable moment. For us to come back and play the main stage at Coachella this year is a dream.
I saw you guys perform at the Wiltern years ago in Los Angeles. How different is it playing a show inside a theater vs. playing outdoors in the desert with so many people? Do you have a different approach?
Each is equally terrifying for me. In a small club, you can see everyone’s faces and you can really see into their eyes. At a massive festival, you can just feel the fact that there are thousands and thousands of people looking at you [laughs]. We don’t drastically change our show, but we definitely have some stuff planned for Coachella. We have been thinking about it for a while. The Saturday night 10 o’clock slot is a big deal for us and I feel the responsibility of making sure people have a good time.
While written cryptically in some ways, your lyrics on both albums are in fact very personal. Have you always felt comfortable writing about intimate experiences, or do you have any fear about that?
Well. It sounds silly to say this now, but in the beginning we genuinely didn’t think anybody was going to hear it. We were writing these songs for ourselves, I just thought Oliver would hear it. And some of the songs were ever so slightly cryptically written because we were playing for five people in a pub that were our friends. We didn’t exactly want to spell it out. It’s ridiculous now to think about how many people have heard songs of ours that were never meant to be heard.
When we were going into making the second album, Oliver and I were afraid that we might hold back a bit and be more private. But after about a year at home and writing, I used it as a diary in the same way I did before. It’s still very personal. So now we know [laughs]. We are going to have to sing these songs for a while, so I want to have a personal connection to them.
What inspired the title for your second album, Coexist?
I got really interested in iridescence. Like when you see a puddle of water when it’s rainy and there’s petrol in it in the street. I wanted to know why it forms that rainbow. I just searched online and it said oil and water, when mixed, agree to peacefully coexist. I liked the idea of these two things that are maybe not beautiful on their own but come together to make this beautiful effect. It made me think of the three of us in the band. As individuals, we can make music, but when we come together — the three of us — that’s when we are The xx and we are better together.
And also you got an X in there with Coexist.
Yeah! It was all those reasons I just said and then we, too, were like … “and it has an X!”
You and Oliver have spent some of your most formative years together both personally and creatively. This many years later, what is the same and what is different?
We’ve definitely changed a lot since we were 3! But I think we are still the same in some ways. We have always been very close. He has become more like a brother to me. It’s nice the way that we are bound together now, forever. We get on the same way as any brother and sister — we know each other inside and out. We love each other. We have that with Jamie as well. We have known Jamie since we were 11. They are like my brothers. It’s a great thing to have on tour, especially with all of the traveling. It’s great to have people who know you, and if you ever start to become a diva, you have someone to drag you back. That hasn’t happened yet.
What music or bands are you listening to now?
I really love a band called Polica. They have an album called Give You The Ghost and I have been listening to that a lot. That came out last year and I am really exited to see them play at Coachella. They are a great live band.
You mentioned loving the Yeah Yeah Yeahs when you were younger. They will be at Coachella too.
That is going to be amazing. I saw them play when I was about 15 in London and it was just one of those incredible experiences. It’s going to be amazing to see them again and to sort of have that feeling of being 15 when I was so in awe and amazed by live music.
I listen to both of your albums constantly. It’s music that I can play at any time and love. That’s a really special quality. Have you always felt confident in your talent or do you ever feel anxiety about being an artist?
I think to be honest, with music, it was never my lifelong dream. I didn’t think I would ever be a musician. My only aspiration was go to art college and music just sort of happened. I played the drums when I was younger in school. We had these music lessons and you could get time out of class, so I did drums. And I was never really that good at it. I just picked up the guitar around 14 or 15 and it was just very natural. I picked it up quite easily. It was a happy accident. I only sang because I wanted to teach myself the guitar and the timing of songs. I did a recording and played it for my friends who said I had a nice voice, but I wasn’t singing around the house. I have always been very shy about that.
It all sort of happened accidentally. I have always been pleasantly surprised by it. I love what we do. I wouldn’t say I feel overly confident with it. I feel pretty surprised by what’s coming out of me.
The xx have written a song ‘Together’ for Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby. It’ll be on the soundtrack, out 6/7th May
XL/Young Turks, 2009
Pop was in a maximalist phase, all pummeling Eurodance beats and rococo production flourishes, when these London indie rockers arrived with a radically different musical message: less can be much, much more. Songs like “Crystallized” and “Islands” are masterpieces of minimalism – songs built around simple chord progressions, delicate guitar and keyboard ostinatos, the gentle rub of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim’s his-and-hers croons. It’s beautiful music, an exercise in restraint, in the artful use of space and silence. It’s also funky (check the bonus track cover of Aaliyah’s “Hot Like Fire”) and, against all odds, sexy – booty call music for the blog-rock set.
I JOINED THE XX ON THEIR AMERICAN TOUR AND MADE A BLACK + WHITE PHOTO DIARY. THE TOUR WAS AN INCREDIBLE JOURNEY FULL OF SO MANY EXPERIENCES AND I JUST WANTED TO SHARE SOME OF THEM. ON TOUR, MANY OF THE PLACES TRAVELLED TO, IT’S NOT UNUSUAL TO JUST SEE THE HOTEL ROOM. ALTHOUGH YOU FIND YOURSELF…
The xx join Lauren Laverne for a live session, playing tracks from their number 1 album Coexist.
They speak about their Night and Day shows in Lisbon, Berlin and London this summer, curated by the band themselves!
“Dark Star” by Polica http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6WgWCIkH9U&feature=youtu.be
“Swingin Party” by Kindness http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ-9Mgizpf0&feature=youtu.be
Mount Kimbie on NPR: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1htNKK_6hQ&feature=youtu.be
When I first heard The xx at the end of 2009 I immediately fell in love with their music. The dark elements and contrasting voices was so invigorating to hear. It gave new life to my passion for music. I was there for several SXSW 2010 shows, nothing ever goes smoothly at SXSW and they still sounded amazing. Since then I have been fortunate to see The xx numerous times.
The xx North American Winter Tour 2013 was not only their biggest stage set but now they are a polished act. I was lucky enough to see 8 of these shows. The last 6 were back to back in Texxas and then I went up to Oklahoma.
Romy, Oliver and Jamie are at the top of their game. “Angels” starts the set and immediately connects with the audience. Romy and Oliver have much more interaction this time around there is an explosion felt in the crowd. Romy’s stage presence has gotten much stronger and Oliver plays to the fans. It’s fun to hear the crowd swoon when Oliver starts to sing the next song “Heart Skipped a Beat”. When a reworked version of “Chained” starts the crowd has already been mesmerized by The xx, they slowly sway and take it all in. The lighting is carefully thought out to make the show even more intimate. The most exciting part I think is “Far Nearer” mixed in with “Reunion”. It’s a great surprise to hear Jamie xx’s solo work. “Try” which they have only played a handful number of times sounded flawless by the end of the tour. It’s almost hard not to feel sorry for Jamie during one of their shows, Jamie has tons going on, it seems like he can’t think for a second because if he does it can mess up the entire song.
The xx’s encore begins with “Intro” and rolls into “Tides”. The lights and energy during “Tides” is exciting. Jamie’s work on “Tides” intrigues the audience by preparing us for a storm. “Stars” envelops into a dreamy way to end what has been a magical night.
I was lucky to see them at venues with 1000 to 3000 capacity. Their lights have to be altered depending on the venue. No matter how many tours I see every tour has been different. They continue to rework their songs. It’s so refreshing for a band to be so invested in their fans hearing different arrangements and seeing a new show. These three talented and remarkable artists deserve all the success that comes their way. They work hard and make time for their fans.
Romy, you are such a beautiful and kind person. Your voice and lyrics are inspiring.
Jamie, thank you for being so sweet and doing a dj set in Austin. I always have fun at them.
Oliver, what can I say? YOU RULE! Thank you for so many reasons. It was a blast!! Warm leatherette.
Hannah, the pleasure meeting you was all mine. Not only are your designs impeccable but I believe you are an impeccable person as well.
Louise, you rock! It was fun talking to you and checking out your strong illustrations.
Sam, nice to see you as always.
Sofia, such a gorgeous girl, it was nice to meet you.
Ryan (tour merch manager), even though I don’t know you, it’s like I know you. It was nice exchanging bands to look up and think about what I listened to years ago.
Paul, thank you thank you.
Last but certainly not least, Caius, without you none of this would be possible.
“And the end comes too soon like dreaming of angels”
Angels, The xx
posted on February 3, 2013 at 11:22am EST