Interview: The xx
Includes GIFs, as shot by James Nelson.
We went to see The xx last Friday night in Sydney. Then we made some GIFs for you. We also interviewed Romy from the band (Jamie was busy finishing the forthcoming album, Coexist) and we are pleased to report that she was lovely.
Ariane Halls: So, what have you guys been doing in the three-year gap between your albums?
Romy Madley Croft: We toured our first album a lot, and it was pretty intense, but an amazing experience. And at the end of 2010 we took some time off. We were just like, 'We're done, we need to have a rest.' So, we all went home and did normal things and got back to having a normal life — moved out of our parents' houses, caught up with our friends who had been and gone to university, sort of like... did a bit of growing up.
And what do you do when you're not doing band stuff?
Just pretty normal stuff. Just hang out with my friends, go to the cinema, have dinner, stuff like that. I'm quite chilled out. Very, very normal life.
What was it like being so hyped? You won the Mercury Prize and you're on all those "best of" lists in 2010, but it's not just about that ... people are hanging off your every word. We put up an image up on our Tumblr when we heard you had a new album coming out — literally just a plain image with two 'x's — and it's had almost 2000 reblogs. That's crazy. What sort of pressure does that put on you?
That's crazy. I think I feel, in some ways, blissfully unaware. Like if I knew that—
No, no! I appreciate that. But I think in the beginning we stay away from the internet... in the beginning it's like, "Oh, let's read a review of our album," but then after a while, you know ... I'm too sensitive for that, so I didn't really stay up to date with it on the internet. But at gigs, we played a lot of support shows and people would come to see the other band and we'd be like, "OK, cool." And then gradually it's like, "Oh, people are recognising our songs. People are coming to see us!" And then crowds grow and grow and grow and grow and then it got to the point where it was like, "This is kind of crazy." And yeah, it's been amazing, but I can't think about it too much.
What's been your most memorable experience from all that touring?
I think one of our favourite moments was the Coachella festival in America in the desert. We'd been playing shows at 100–people, 200–people venues in America, and all of a sudden we're on a stage and there's, like, 30,000 people, and the sun was setting, and there was this really surreal moment when — and we're all massive fans of Beyoncé — and we looked down halfway through the set, and her and Jay Z were in the photographer's pit and it was basically like, "This is the most insane moment of my whole life."
Is it hard to keep going when something like that happens?
Yeah I was like [gasps], but you've got to keep going.
You didn't bust out a quick cover of '03 Bonnie and Clyde' or something?
I wish! If all of a sudden you could be like, "Yes!" If we had been waiting for that moment our whole lives and had it on sampler or something — that would've been pretty good.
Well, you'll know for next time to have it ready. What's your favourite Beyoncé or Destiny's Child song?
Oh God, I love so many. Umm, off the new album, a love a song called 'Miss You'. It's written by Frank Ocean, who we're all big fans of. I think it's a really beautiful song, and I think it's really cool the way that he wrote it and she sings it. Yeah, I love all of it. I'm the world's biggest fan.
The three of you were pretty young when the first album came out. How do you think you've changed?
I think confidence is definitely the biggest thing. None of us are born-for-the-stage, super-chatty people and we found it hard in the beginning — having to talk to people and having to perform while people look up at us being on stage. But this time around I feel like we've gotten older and have experienced a bit more, so we've found it easier. I feel very grateful to have a bit more confidence. It makes it easier. It's just when you're so shy, it's really hard.
Who's been the coolest person that you've met?
For me personally, I grew up listening to a band called The Distillers, like a sort of punk band, and Brody Dalle's the singer — she's Australian, I think. She was kind of like... well, when I got into music I wanted to start a band because of her. And she came to our show, and it was kind of one of those moments where you're like, "That's so cool." Somebody that was my hero…
It's nice when they're a nice person.
Yeah, it's very sweet. It's that thing where you don't want to meet your idols but, if they're actually nice... It was really cool at the time, just to have a drink. It was really sweet. I really appreciated it.
When the first album came out, your sound was something new — no one else was really doing it. And even listening to the new song ... I still think it's really different. Who do you see as being your peers?
There's a few bands that I love at the moment. Chromatics are a band that I'm really, really into, and was really into when we made the first album. And it's nice that the second album's come out at this time. It didn't influence our album because I heard it just when we'd finished, but it's something I've been listening to non-stop. And I guess it's kind of influenced by a different era as well and kind of goes back to something more disco, and things like that. Little Dragon, we're all big fans of them... Grimes I think is a really cool producer/singer. I think she's doing something, like... when I first heard it I was like, "I've heard nothing like this before." I just think she's amazing.
What about records that have directly influenced this album?
I think we all come at it from a different angle, 'cause that's kind of what makes up the band is that the three of us have individual tastes and we're trying to make something that's a balance between all of it. Oliver and I really got into Sade on this album.
Yeah, we became pretty obsessed with all albums, all songs, everything.
What's your favourite Sade song?
'Cherish the Day' and 'No Ordinary Love'. Also on the new album there's a remix by Jay Z of 'The Moon and the Sky' and it's really quite sparsely produced. The lyrics are so beautiful.
I love 'Pearls'.
Yeah, 'Pearls' is amazing! There's an amazing house remix of it, I found it on YouTube...
We're doing a digital issue next. Do you spend much time on the internet?
Yeah, Oliver and I write songs over the internet. That's kind of how we started. It's kind of that separation between using an instant messaging thing and we collage our lyrics and it's kind of that privacy. I'm in my bedroom and he's in his room. We can be very personal but not be face-to-face where sometimes you can feel a bit more reserved — even though we've known each other for 20 years! But in that respect the internet has been a big tool. And I love finding new music; I go on epic YouTube journeys, like 'click, click, click', and depending on what mood I'm in, I can find myself in some quite strange places. But I always find that fun, when you find a song and you're like, "What is that?" So yeah, I think it can be a good thing. It can be a bit of an overwhelming thing.
If you could choose one artist to perform with, who would it be?
Dream festival lineup?
I think those current bands that we're playing with ... I love Beach House. Little Dragon, Chromatics, Frank Ocean, Grimes, umm... Fleetwood Mac — maybe a few years back, not now. Oh, maybe now, I'm not sure. And Beyoncé. She can headline.
Photography: James Nelson