Eclectic mix of geographic influences inspires new music from Britain’s The XX
Longtime British schoolmates Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Baria Qureshi, and Jamie Smith (aka Jamie XX) combined their musical talents in 2005 to create an indie pop group called The XX. “It all started in a bedroom in Southwest London after school, drinking too much [soda],” reads a statement from the band posted on its Facebook page. The XX cites both R&B (Aaliyah, Rihanna) and classic alternative rock (The Cure, The Pixies) influences in creating a sound built around the duel vocals of Croft and Sim. The band’s signature brand of “moody, soulful indie rock” debuted in 2009 with the breakout single, ‘Crystalised,’ which was an iTunes U.K. single of the week.
The XX’s self-titled debut album was released in August 2009 via U.K.-based Young Turks/XL Recordings. The 10-track set was a critical and commercial success, reaching the Top 5 of the UK Albums Chart and winning the 2010 Mercury Award. XX was also nominated Best British Album, Best British Breakthrough, and Best British Band at the 2011 BRIT Awards. In addition, music from the album was used in several U.S. television series and as part of 2010 Winter Olympic Games coverage.
Qureshi left the band following the release of XX, and touring in support of the album concluded with the three remaining band members individually writing songs for second album, Coexist. The sophomore project was released in September 2012 and debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. and on Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart. It went to No. 1 or in the Top 10 of albums charts in several other countries, including a No. 5 bow on the Billboard 200. Coexist went on to earn The XX certified gold status from the British Phonographic Industry for selling more than 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom.
The XX follows Coexist with a third full-length set titled, I See You. While the previous album experimented with an EDM influence the band picked up on tour, I See You is a more eclectic mix of “new sounds” discovered in Texas, Iceland, and France. Producer Rodaidh McDonald says it’s a “completely different concept” compared to the first two albums, adding the band members freed themselves from any pre-established set of rules during recording sessions in New York, Texas, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and London. The multiple locations helped make the sound “a little more worldly, a little less isolated,” says McDonald.
The first new full studio recording from I See You is the single ‘On Hold.’ Croft says the song adheres to The XX template of “soft, melancholic vocals, lilting synth lines and muted beats—but is, nevertheless, no mere retread.” The singer-guitarist notes ‘On Hold’ is “dancier” than previous XX material and features a “booming, chopped-up vocal sample and looping, arpeggiated guitar notes.” The new single is currently No. 30 on the Mediabase Alternative airplay chart, and No. 29 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart.
A full slate of 17 European dates kicks off Feb. 8 in Stockholm, followed by nearly a dozen U.K. concerts that include a week at London’s O2 Academy Brixton (March 8-15). A swing through South America takes The XX to the Festival Estereo Picnic in Bogota (March 23) as well as to Lollapalooza appearances in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile (March 25-April 1). The XX are also set to play at a number of summer festivals throughout Europe.
Watch the official music video for ‘On Hold’ from I See You, the new album by British indie pop trio The XX.
As A Matter of Fact…
* The XX are an English indie pop band that formed in London during 2005. High school friends Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Baria Qureshi, and Jamie Smith (aka Jamie XX) created the group’s sound, influenced by the R&B of Aaliyah and Rihanna as well as the classic alternative rock of The Cure and The Pixies.
* The XX signed to U.K.-based XL Recordings’ Young Turks imprint and debuted in early 2009 with the single, ‘Crystalised.’ The song was a Top 15 hit in the U.K. and reached No. 37 on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart. A self-titled debut album followed in July 2009, peaking at No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and in the top half of the Billboard 200.
* In late 2009, the band announced Qureshi was no longer with of the group due to “personal differences.” The group continued touring in support of XX as a trio, and the album won Britain's coveted Mercury Prize as well as several BRIT Award nominations (e.g. Best British Album, Best British Breakthrough, Best British Band).
* “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening is a fan of The XX and picked them to play a festival he curated in 2010. Two years later, the singles ‘Angels’ and ‘Chained’ were released as a preview of The XX’s second album, Coexist, which arrived that fall. The album topped album charts in the U.K. and a few other European countries, while cracking the Top 5 of the Billboard 200.
* The XX began working on third album, I See You, in 2014. While recording took place in Texas, London, Reykjavik, and Los Angeles, Smith released his solo debut, 2015’s In Colour, which features contributions from Sim and Croft.
* In late 2016, the single ‘On Hold’ introduced the “more energetic, eclectic direction” of The XX on new album, I See You. The British trio played the new single in November 2016 as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live.”
* The XX have licensed several of their songs to numerous television and film productions including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, “Person of Interest,” “Cold Case,” “Suits,” “Bedlam,” “Hung,” “90210,” “I Am Number Four,” and “The Great Gatsby.”