In an age where not only electronic, pop and hip-hop artists, but rock bands rely on pre-recorded backing tracks to perform live, Britains electro-indie soul trio the XX is committed to writing songs that it can truly reproduce on stage.
Thats meant stripped-down productions where listeners can focus on a beat, slip into the dreamy synth-pop atmosphere, and actually hear the soft exchanges between co-vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim.
There arent very many of us in the band, and we didnt want to put anything on backing tracks, explains Jamie Smith, a DJ and remixer who brings the XXs minimalists compositions together. We definitely wanted to be able to play everything completely live.
The band released its second album, Coexist, in September, and it has been on the fast track in the U.S. since the release of its first album in 2009. Jay Z and Beyonce are fans, and as a DJ/producer, Smith worked with Drake and remixed Adele, Radiohead and Alicia Keys.
It headlined Coachella in April, plays a prime nighttime set at Bonnaroo following Paul McCartney Friday, and then Saturday hits Time Warner Cable Uptown Amphitheatre in Charlotte with Grizzly Bear.
The XXs music is like Sade or Everything But the Girl (thanks to Crofts vocals) for urban, indie kids. Smiths beats appeal to hipsters, but Crofts and Sims voices and R&B-style phrasing resonate with mature crowds as well. The XX, in a sense, has built a bridge between cold, electronic-based club music and romantic soul.
Its all evident of music we were listening to, Smith says of their sound. We took all three of our tastes. It ended up sounding like this. Soul music is the first music that inspired me. ... I (also) was more into electronic music than the others, so I tried to introduce that and hip-hop and house music. They were listening to a lot of guitar bands, rock music and indie music.
The XXs sound can certainly be described as intimate, and thats possibly because of how close the three childhood friends are. Although they pass tracks and lyrics via laptop, Smith says theyre never apart for long.
Were best friends. We may take a few days off (after touring), but then were hanging out as usual, he says.
Croft and Sim met when they were 3. Smith met them at age 11 and began producing the band before he was an official member. He spends much of his time DJing and remixing when not with the band.
Sometimes it makes me realize what I shouldnt be doing with the band, he says of working in dance clubs. When youre DJing, youre creating music for other people, even though its music you love and choose. If youre making your own music, you try to forget about everyone else.
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