The XX

Veiled behind a thin layer of white smoke, garbed in head-to-toe black and breathing a cadence of soft vocals is the lovely British trio, The xx. Band members Romy Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith released their debut album, xx, in 2009 and have since been on a covetable tour that includes a slew of this summer’s major festivals—Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza to name a few. But even with this onslaught of fame, the youngens (Oliver and Romy are 20, Jamie is 21) maintain a coy persona both on-stage and when conversing with the press.

This coy behavior is endearing and suits the overall style of their music well. There’s a soft mellowness to their music with Oliver and Romy’s male and female vocals as perfect counterparts. Their singing flows out of their mouths like a soft breath over their New Wave and R&B inspired instrumentation (the band sites the Cure and Massive Attack as inspiration).

The xx, however is becoming less shy. I spoke with Oliver who said, “I think we’ve been forced to become a little more talkative than we were in the beginning, whether we like it or not. We are introduced to music everyday and talking about it, so we’ve been forced to come out of our shells. I think, just as typical bands go, we’ve been casted as being shy. We’re not smashing up hotels, jumping on stage kind of people, but I think we’re relatively normal as normal people go.”

On the day of our interview Oliver and the rest of The xx were in LA a few hours shy of performing at the Wiltern. Oliver said, “I’m just realizing how huge it is and becoming a bit more scared and scared by every bit I see.” But Oliver sees stage fright as a positive, “I think when you say you have no stage fright you basically don’t care.”
In the beginning the band was even nervous to sing in front of one another, despite the fact that Romy and Oliver have been friends since the age of three and met Jamie in primary school when they were 11. The band members have been side by side ever since.

Oliver said their venture into music began when they were around 15 years old. “It was at an age where we were really starting to fall in love with music. We were going to a lot of gigs and it was just this mind frame of ‘why not try ourselves?’ And we weren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We were quite scared in the beginning; no one wanted to sing in front of each other and so we would just do quite bad covers.”

The band, of course progressed to create original material and finally their first album. Their debut album xx was recorded with former member Baria Qureshi. Oliver explained her departure from the band and said, “We’ve known Baria since we were 13 years old and a big part of the band was that all four of us were very honest and had a breezy relationship. We didn’t have to tip-toe around each other and it was very comfortable and that was being lost.” Baria’s leave from the band, Oliver said, “was a decision that me, Romy and Jamie made.”

But the threesome have carried on and have become notable musicians in the indie music scene. As for their aesthetic, the band maintains their elusive black garb and prefers to perform behind a steam of clouds in a rather stoic manner. This preferred method has proved challenging while performing at summer festivals.
Oliver said, “I think I can be quite a control freak and so going to a festival definitely takes you out of your comfort zone…we did Coachella, and we were playing in the daylight, and we’re very much used to hiding behind smoke and lights, so it was terrifying, but exciting.”

The band continues to tour until September and is looking forward to getting back to the creative process of writing their next album. Oliver said, “Although there are expectations [for the next album] I don’t want to rush it. I want to be 100% satisfied with it.”

– Chloe Schildahause

photography by Aliya Naumoff