Following a Mercury Prize win and Brit nominations the self- titled debut by UK band The xx became the headphone album of the masses. With the release of the follow up album 'Coexist' the band, comprised of Oliver Sim, Romy Madley Croft and super producer/ DJ, Jamie Smith (A.K.A Jamie xx) have continued to hone their recognisable blend of subtle electronica and emotive lyrics. Co lead vocalist/ guitarist Romy recently spoke to Entertainment.ie about the band's up-coming Dublin show, maintaining anonymity and her "unspoken understanding" with her band mates.
The band is playing the O2 on June 26th. What can fans expect from the show, are you enjoying the tour?
Very much, yeah. We always love playing in Dublin. We had a great time playing there just before Christmas in a much smaller beautiful venue. We've kind of played different sized venues all over the world but with the bigger stages and festivals we want to put on more of a show production wise, light wise and make sure people are engaged with the music. We want to make it a great experience for everyone musically and visually. The tour's been great. We've been playing live in relation to 'Coexist' for exactly a year now. We started to play live without people really knowing the songs so there was a change when people started to recognise them and respond. It's been pretty non-stop but it's been amazing. We're in Ohio at the moment. It's been exciting to come to these places I thought I'd never go to.
'Together' is a new track for The Great Gatsby soundtrack. It has a fuller arrangement then your previous work. Did it make the band want to explore new territory musically?
The whole collaboration and the way the music just sort of happened fell into place quite naturally which was really great. Baz Luhrmann ( Great Gatsby's producer) is a friend of Florence and The Machine and Florence is a friend of ours. Baz came to our show in L.A then we received an email saying him and Jay Z had requested that we be involved in the film's music and if we had anything in mind. They wanted something with a haunting, yearning feeling for the scene he had in mind. We know those feelings. We had a song almost finished but never made 'Coexist' called 'Together'. With the film in mind, the mood and lyrics of the song had a whole new meaning. Craig Armstrong's string arrangement gets quite full at the end and we felt it really took it somewhere else and we embraced that. It was very cinematic. It was full for us but felt right for the film.
There's also the cover of Aaliyah's 'Hot Like Fire' featuring Solange. Would you be interested in doing an R&B or hip hop album?
Yeah definitely. We're massive fans of hip hop and R&B and pop and pop stars. Eventually I'd love to write music for other people, to create something and hand it over. It's a different way of working that I'd love to explore. Jamie produced a track for Alicia Keys. It was surreal that he was working with her and it gave us a taste of it so maybe we'd do a bit of that someday.
Oliver pulls off moody and intense really well in the new video for 'Fiction'. It's very cool and cinematic..
We like to be very involved in our videos, we write the concepts ourselves. In our previous video for 'Chained' it was intense as we spent most of the video under water but couldn't complain as we'd written it ourselves! I really wanted 'Fiction' to be about Oliver. On 'Coexist' he has 'Fiction' which is just his song. On stage Oliver definitely takes on a very intense persona. We wanted to capture him looking great and get more of a performance from him. We wanted to make something high quality looking and film-like. He was a little bit out of his comfort zone, we are not the biggest fans of cameras but we had fun capturing that real dream-like mood.
You've known Oliver since you were three years old. It must be a great comfort to share this musical journey with someone you know so well?
It really is. I realise more and more that it is very unique. I'm so grateful to have him around and Jamie as well. Oliver and I went to nursury school and primary school together and then met Jamie when we were 11 at secondary school. We are all very close and not everyone in a band has that. Some people meet in a bar or from an advert. Suddenly you're on tour and you realise it's quite lonely because you don't know the person. I'm very grateful that when I'm feeling any type of feeling, they're probably feeling it too. We have a lot of un-spoken understanding which is really nice.
In the past you mentioned being nervous about the reaction to the second album, 'Coexist' before it was released. How are feeling about it now in hindsight?
Everyone said "oh the second album's tricky". Oliver was told by a journalist in an interview that we'd have a horrible time with the second album. We didn't have a horrible time, we had a lot of fun getting to know each other musically again. We hadn't made music together for a long time, we had just been playing the songs from the first album live. We also took a lot of time off so we could do things like move out of our parent's houses and see our friends and live in the real world. I'm not sure what kind of songs I'd write about only living on a tour bus. The music started naturally coming back again. This time around I feel I would have done things completely differently just because I know so much more now which I'm sure will influence the next album. Everyone's been so warm to us about the new songs and they're very integral to our live show now.
You've always remained ambiguous about the meaning of the songs lyrics. If you could ask any other artist about their lyrics or song writing who would it be?
Oh wow... (giggles) Yeah, we're massive fans of Sade. Oliver and I had these conversations between ourselves. Loads of Sade songs mean so much to me and fit into my life where I feel 'this song is about this' for me and then to hear Sade explain exactly what's it's about.. I almost wouldn't feel anything, or sad for her if it was a bad thing but it's almost like you're heartbroken because it's not my experience. It's nice to feel once you write it yourself you give it out to the world and it becomes a meaning to everyone else. I think I wouldn't ask, I'd ask about something else.
The xx's music has been reworked by artists including Rihanna, Kim Foxman and even Jamie xx. Are you protective about these re-interpretations?
It's the nature of the internet that you just have to let it go. Within about two hours of 'Angels' coming out there was a remix of it unofficially done by somebody. It's crazy.
Random strangers remixing your work could be a compliment though?
Exactly. For someone to take our song and in two hours create something. It's great, I'm really happy they do and sometimes people's remixes help you hear songs in a different way. It's nice to hear someone completely flip it and go "ah, I wouldn't have thought of it like that".
The xx have a reputation for being notoriously private. Are you becoming more used to the media side of the job and being recognised?
Yes and no. I think none of us really feel any different. Luckily it doesn't really affect our normal lives. We can still walk around London, when we came back from touring; we were able to get on with our normal lives and it's almost easy to forget what we do. Our faces are not on the album covers which has really helped. People just know the 'X' much more then they know our faces. That's the way we always wanted it to be - our music to be for us. I'm so grateful that so many people know us and then I can just walk off down the street and not have anyone come up to me. We're all really private and I appreciate that.
The band separated from guitarist Baria Qureshi in 2009. Do you feel the current formation is the perfect fit?
Yeah, that was a difficult time for us. More then anything it was friends growing up into different directions. It's like when you have been in secondary school and go to university and you're turning into different people, it was like an exaggerated version of that. Being on tour for the first time was very intense and it really just brought everything to light and it just wasn't quite right for any of us. It was a sad decision but we've been playing as a three piece for a long time and the three of us just feels right.
What does The xx mean?
It was the first thing that came, even before the music. When Oliver and I were 16 we sat down and were like "oh let's make a band". It was as casual as that and then we were deciding what we should call it… we were going to make a Myspace and we sat down and typed things out on the computer and realised we liked x's and it would create a good use for art work which it has. We were like "we're The xx, OK". It was that simple. I'm grateful we still like it, when you're 16 and do something that casual later you could think "why on earth did we do that" but it still works.
Interview by Karen Lawler
The xx will play The O2 in Dublin on Wednesday 26th June. A limited number of tickets are still available.