The xx and Jai Paul Working on New Music, Producer Rodaidh McDonald Confirms
On the xx: “There are songs which have come out of our experiences in New York and Texas that would never have come out in London.”
By Jeremy Gordon on June 9, 2014 at 11:43 a.m.
Photo by Erez Avissar
During the xx's recent U.S. tour, the London trio took some time out to begin recording the follow-up to 2012’s Coexist. In an interview with Dazed, XL in-house producer Rodaidh McDonald talked about the sessions. McDonald previously worked with the xx on their debut album.
"I’m right in the middle of working on their third record now," he said of the xx, "and it’s a completely different concept, just trying everything, trying to find new ways of working, new sounds…"
We’re doing it in Texas and Iceland, and maybe France. So that’s kind of starting in the middle of July, I’ve already spent a bit of time with them in Texas. There are songs which have come out of our experiences in New York and Texas that would never have come out in London; the colours and the ideas and the moods on some of these songs are just not things you would write in London.
It’s about opening things up a bit more. They are a London band, but they’re also a band that’s spent a lot of time in different countries. So we’re trying to push that further with the Iceland trip, which is happening in July.
McDonald also talked about working on new material with the elusive Jai Paul:
I did something with him last week, some vocal production on a new song. We finished it, whether he wants to put it out or not I don’t know. It’s just a very long process for him I guess, he’s been working on (his album) for years. One of the things that I sort of identified was that he might benefit from some help using vocals. But his music sounds so good, he doesn’t need any help, I think he’s perfect.
McDonald is also producing Sampha's debut album and working with new artist Denai Moore.
• 9 June 2014
Jamie xx to join BBC 6 Music for Friday 6 Mix series
The station has announced the line-up for its weekly late-night show
October 24, 2013 16:27
The xx's Jamie xx will join BBC 6 Music this week as part of the station's Friday 6 Mix series.
He will feature as part of a six-strong team of DJs playing back-to-back on Friday (October 25) which includes 6 Mix regulars Erol Alkan, Groove Armada and Andrew Weatherall, alongside other new additions Goldie and Derrick May.
The DJs will then all play separate shows, with Jamie xx’s set taking place on December 6.
The Friday 6 Mix series is as follows:
All DJs back to back, 10pm – midnight, (October 25)
Goldie, 10pm – midnight, (November 1),
Derrick May, 10pm – midnight, (November 8)
Erol Alkan, 10pm – midnight, (November 15)
Groove Armada, 10pm – midnight, (November 22)
Andrew Weatherall, 10pm – midnight, (November 29)
Jamie xx, 10pm-midnight, (December 6)
• 25 October 2013
The XX and Alt-J up for Indie Music Awards
Page last updated at 10:13 GMT, Wednesday, 7 August 2013 11:13 UK
These awards recognize artists on independent labels and the unsung heroes in the indie sector of the music industry.
Ten albums have been nominated in the Album of The Year category including Vampire Weekend, The XX and Daughter.
Independent Album of the Year
Daughter - If You Leave (4AD)
David Byrne & St Vincent - Love This Giant (4AD)
Ghostpoet - Some Say I So I Say Light (PIAS)
Jagwar Ma - Howlin’ (Marathon Artists)
John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts (Bella Union)
Jon Hopkins - Immunity (Domino)
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed)
Public Service Broadcasting - Inform - Educate - Entertain (Liquid Management)
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City (XL)
The xx - Coexist (XL)
Best Difficult Second Album
Ghostpoet - Some Say I So I Say Light (PIAS)
John Grant - Pale Green Ghosts (Bella Union)
Major Lazer - Free The Universe (Because Music)
Villagers - Awayland (Domino)
The xx - Coexist (XL Recordings)
• 12 August 2013
The xx downsize for tiny Manchester concerts
A week ago, Mercury Prize-winning band The xx were playing to tens of thousands of fans at the Glastonbury Festival. Now, as part of the Manchester International Festival, they are performing to just 60 people at a time.
Jamie Smith, one third of The xx, is doing his best to give away as little as possible about the secret venue where his band are playing 18 gigs over the next two weeks.
Ticket-holders only know that they must meet at Manchester Victoria train station and wear sensible footwear for a walk over “uneven” ground to the final destination.
"It’s a journey to get there, and when people get to the space they won’t really know where they are," Smith says vaguely.
"It’s somewhere that’s being built at the moment, that we’ve managed to get hold of before it’s finished."
So far this year, as well as headlining Glastonbury’s second stage, The xx have staged three of their own outdoor festivals and been on a world tour that has taken in two nights at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom and another two at Melbourne’s 5,000-capacity Festival Hall.
Now they are headlining a building site.
The band’s second album Coexist went to number one last September
"The idea was to do something more intimate, compared to the sorts of shows we’ve been doing recently," Smith explains.
"We wanted to play to a smaller number of people, like we did at the beginning, but with our better knowledge of performance and the fact that we’ve got a lot more confident in what we’re doing."
It took between a heartbeat and the blink of an eye for the Manchester tickets to sell out.
The band’s debut album won the Mercury Prize in 2010 and became ubiquitous as the soundtrack to many a TV trailer. Their second album, Coexist, went to number one last September and has enhanced their stature.
On the surface, the trio appear unlikely candidates to be one of the country’s biggest current bands. But their aching torch songs, sparse twilight beats and anti-pop aesthetic have caught the (slightly sultry) mood of modern Britain.
The group, fronted by the expressionless, black-clad vocalist-guitarists Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft, have no problem with big gigs, Smith insists.
"We’re very happy with how our stage show is at the moment," he says. "We feel like we’ve got a sense of intimacy but also a big production."
At typical gigs, the atmosphere is heightened by ambient white lighting and overflowing dry ice.
"But we want to keep pushing ourselves to do things to make us better, basically, and make us interesting and keep people interested.
"I think that’s the only way to progress. So we keep coming up with things to do, and this was one of them."
Smith, a keyboardist, producer, percussionist and remixer extraordinaire, recalls an early gig at the ICA in London as an example of how special a small gig can be.
They played in an upstairs room that was “like a living room”, he says. “There were people sitting on the floor while we were playing, and you could see the whole of St James’ Park in the background.
"There are a lot of intimate ones that I’d like to forget," he adds. "We’ve played a lot of gigs on a Friday night in small pubs, where people just wanted to dance. Instead, they were listening to us being… us."
The band hope the tiny gigs will give them ideas to use in their larger shows
In Manchester, the band are playing three gigs a day on some days, an arduous schedule. And the residency will take a relatively big chunk of time for such an in-demand band.
Most groups would play one gig for 1,000 people and move on, rather than stay for two weeks to play 18 shows. (The xx have also added a larger show at the Manchester Ritz.)
Smith repeats that the band want to “push ourselves” and says it is worth taking more time to create events that they and their fans will remember.
"I think any band that gets to this point should be pushing themselves, rather than just doing the standard big gigs [for] big money around the world," he argues.
During their stay, the trio are renting a house on the edge of the city, where they will use a home recording studio to work on new material.
"I’m actually really looking forward to it because we get to spend two weeks in on place, which is quite rare for us. We haven’t done that in about a year," Smith says.
And he hopes the experience of playing the tiny shows will get the group’s creative juices flowing and give them ideas about what they do next.
"We’ve been touring for six years now," he says. "I think if we didn’t try and make things interesting for us and for people coming to watch us, I don’t think we’d be inspired to make another album."
The xx play at a secret venue in Manchester until 18 July and at The Ritz on 9 July.
• 7 July 2013
The xx is still quiet, just not on stage
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."
• 12 June 2013
The xx find undiscovered shades of grey
The xx’s sophomore LP, Coexist, is a dark and moody affair, but it’s not without its splashes of sunshine
by MIKE USINGER on MAY 23, 2013 at 3:35 AM
As sensitive and melancholy as he’s often portrayed in the media, Oliver Sim is also a trouper. This gradually becomes evident when the Georgia Straight tracks him down in his hometown of London, England.
When the xx singer and bassist picks up his cellphone, the first thing you hear is the roar of traffic and the wailing sirens of passing police cars. If the spotty connection is any indication, there also seems to be a minor hurricane in the vicinity.
Sim has had a busy day; he notes that he’s just left band rehearsal, an all-day session that’s part of the preparation for the xx’s upcoming U.S. tour. But as thoughtful and gracious as he comes across, it seems something is wrong, and not just because a good third of what he says is completely unintelligible. This has nothing to do with his answers; it’s more that he’s seemingly standing at the mouth of the world’s largest wind tunnel, no doubt in the pelting rain.
Asked three quarters of the way through the interview if everything is all right, Sim finally confesses that it’s not.
“I’m really sorry about this,” he replies. “It’s raining right now and very windy. And I’m really freezing. But we can keep going.”
On the strength of two hit albums, 2009’s xx and last year’s Coexist, Sim is in a great place right now, as miserable as he is at the moment. The band—which includes singer Romy Madley Croft and DJ-producer Jamie Smith—has enjoyed a rapid rise since slinking onto the international music scene three years ago.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, xx turned out to be one of the most unlikely hits since the White Stripes’ White Blood Cells back at the turn of the last decade. All muted synths, fluttery percussion, and minimalist-minded musings on love and love lost, the album somehow waltzed away with the Mercury Prize for 2010, its songs getting invaluable prime-time exposure everywhere from NBC’s broadcast of the last Winter Olympic Games to the Greek version ofNext Top Model.
No one was more surprised at xx’s success than the three musicians who made it.
“My expectations were so low going into this—we didn’t have any huge aspirations to be on-stage performing even,” Sim admits. “That only came about because we were sort of forced on-stage as a way to get our music out there. I don’t know what I was expecting, or what I was dreaming about the xx accomplishing. I do know that in my wildest dreams, it wasn’t this.”
What has him doubly amazed is that the xx has shown no sign of losing momentum with Coexist. The band’s sophomore outing has led to high-profile slots at this year’s edition of Coachella, universally positive reviews, and sold-out shows at North American soft-seaters like Vancouver’s Orpheum. It’s also turned Smith, Sim, and Croft into the favourite dream collaborators of other musicians, with up-and-comers like Australian DJ Flume frequently putting the xx right at the top of acts they would die to work with.
The band’s members went into Coexist determined to re-create the vibe of their debut, not necessarily sonically, but more in the way that the songs were recorded. Sim reveals that the second release started causing them stress even before they’d finished promoting the first album.
“I started to get a bit frightened while we were doing our last tour for xx,” the bassist says. “I remember a journalist starting an interview with a huge warning about making a second record when the first has been successful. He told me the pressure would be enormous, and that we’d be constantly second-guessing ourselves—whether we should stay true to our sound, or consciously try do something drastically different. He basically told me that the process was going to be torture.”
xx came together after-hours in a tiny recording space in the offices of the Beggars Banquet record label, where Sim and his bandmates reshaped and tweaked songs that they’d written as teenagers. Success enabled them to set up their own small studio for Coexist. The goal was then to shut out not only their self-doubting inner voices, but also the outside world. Looking back, Sim figures that was accomplished, with Coexist—released on the Beggars boutique label Young Turks—serving up more of what made the xx a critical and commercial favourite. Once again, dark-and-moody is the primary colour scheme, with the band building atmosphere the low-key way, whether through the distant-thunder percussion rumbles in “Missing” or the subterranean guitar washes in “Try”. There are splashes of sunshine if you look hard enough—check out the tropicália-tinted drums in “Reunion”—but the xx mostly seems determined to imbue each song with 50 previously undiscovered shades of grey.
Sim considers himself lucky that he and his bandmates were able to do this with zero outside interference.
“We had the rarest of rare, which I appreciate now and realize now that I’ve spoken to other people,” he says. “Everyone that we work with basically left us alone and let us be. There was no pressure to play anything for anyone and no time limitations put upon us. It was us and only us. It was really nice to get back to that intimate state, making music purely for the love of making music. We kept that up for a year.”
That process wasn’t completely hiccup-free. As has been noted in past features, the xx is one of those rare bands where the members practically share the same brain, a result of Sim and Croft having known each other since they were babies, with Smith coming into their lives at age 11. The problem with the band being like family, the bassist acknowledges, is that it’s possible to convince yourself that there’s no need for outside feedback.
“I think that maybe we took things too far, where we kind of lost perspective,” Sim offers while breaking down the creation ofCoexist. “Eventually, when we did bring people into the studio from Young Turks, they didn’t really need to say anything. With just the three of us, it was like we didn’t know what was good anymore. We were going around and around with the songs. With the first record, we were playing live and getting feedback—this one, we were in the studio pretty much 24 hours a day. I think the next time, we’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Actually, given the final results, maybe they should. As cold as he is on this day, Sim—like his bandmates—couldn’t be much hotter.
• 26 May 2013
Romy XX shares her dark festival experiences
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
Romy Madley Croft of The XX. Photograph: Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage
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
• 9 May 2013
The xx plus CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers
Tuesday 2 July 2013
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.
Links: official website and social media
CHIC feat. Nile Rodgers
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…”
• 7 May 2013
The xx Adjust Night + Day London Plans
Date, venue changed…
ROBIN MURRAY / NEWS / 18 · 04 · 2013
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.
• 21 April 2013
The xx, Coachella Indie Pop Band, Talks Intimacy, Songs That Were Never Meant To Be Heard
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.
• 13 April 2013
The 100 Greatest Debut Albums of All Time
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.
• 26 March 2013