Dollars to Pounds: The xx

April 28, 2009

Every week our new UK columnist Scott Wright gives you the latest and greatest in music from across the pond. This week he's sitting down with The xx, as well as offering up an exclusive video and mp3 of their single "Crystalised."

Download: The xx, "Crystalised"

I haven’t held it up to a mirror yet, but the new video for "Crystalised" by The xx seems to confirm they are a quartet of good looking young people from south west London and not vampires. Oliver, Romy, Baria and Jamie have an awesome new LP out soon, it sounds like The Cure produced by Jam & Lewis and will probably usurp Burial’s Untrue as the album everyone says they listen to on the night bus home (when really they listen to Beyonce, like me). Spookily, The xx went to the same school as Burial (the one whose alumni reads like a wine bar playlist—Hot Chip, Four Tet, Adem, the Maccabees…), and they’ve covered Aaliyah, who everyone knows was queen of the vampires (in a film). I spoke to Oliver and Romy about lots of things, but mainly the undead and R&B.

I've been trying to work out your name. Is it Roman numerals or kisses? Are you called the Ex Ex, the Twenty or the Kiss Kiss? Please elaborate.

Oliver: It's pronounced the "ex ex," it came from sitting on word typing out things and we really liked the way x's looked, so we had two. It's just an aesthetically pleasing thing.

I notice you cite a lot of R&B singers as influences. What are your favourite jams?

Oliver: Aaliyah's song “Hot Like Fire” is one of our favourites. We covered it. It's on the b-side of our single. Mase ft. Total’s “Tell Me What You Want." It just has one of those choruses I wish I'd written. TLC’s “Creep (Smooth version)." The original version is great, but the smooth version has a really beautiful bell riff in it.

Your album is the first to be recorded in XL Recording's new in-house studio. How did that come about?

Oliver: When we first went to XL to use the "studio" as it was then, it was literally just a garage with a mattress as sound proofing. Over the summer they refurbished it and we just happened to be first on. It's a very small space, but it was enough for us. It was inspiring being right in the heart of the record company— music constantly playing outside and artists coming through. Some of the guitar parts were recorded standing next to the fridge and kettle.

What should people expect from your album?

Oliver: We are really excited for people to hear our album. A lot of people will have only heard what is up on the MySpace and I feel like we have really grown from that. Our aim for the album was to retain the simplicity and essence of the demos, but take them up a notch.

Micachu told me you're one of her favourite bands. How do you know her?

Romy: The feeling is mutual. We're all big fans of Micachu and the Shapes. We first heard her music through Kwes, a producer and friend of hers we worked with and we're all big fans of both of their stuff. She played a club night of ours last year and we just got back from supporting them on tour. It was amazing seeing them live every night. They have such great energy on stage.

You capture a mood that's instantly familiar, a kind of twilight longing. Did you strive to create the right mood? Was the album written on a night bus?

Romy: I think we are all quite nocturnal people by nature, Jamie, who produced the album, produced it at night. Going into the studio in the early evening and not leaving until the early morning. It did nothing for his social life, but that’s just how he works best.
I personally can only write songs in the middle of the night when there is silence and no one to disturb me. Often I wake up the next day not remembering what I've come up with and have to re-read a lot of word documents. I am constantly writing lyric ideas down on my phone too and yes, many times it has been on the night bus home.

The word twilight made me think about vampires and there's something vampiric about your music. I don't know if it's because you're young and seemingly wise beyond your years. You're not vampires are you?

Romy: No, we're not so immortal. We're often awake ‘til daylight, though more fueled on Coca-Cola than blood.

Your music is also very sexy. And vampires are sexy. Except Count Duckula. Who do you think the sexiest vampire is?

Romy: I'm not very familiar with many vampires but I definitely think there is something sexy about them in theory, passionate, creatures of the night. I'm sure Count Dracula had his moments.

Oliver: Salma Hayek!

Buy The xx’s new single from Young Turks here.

From The Collection:

Dollars To Pounds
Dollars to Pounds: The xx