The xx could be a true enigma. The mysterious name, the symbolic use of the letter x, a colour palette restricted to only black and white, and that sound — a futuristic spin on R&B full of affecting voices, snapping rhythms, deep bass grooves, reverberating guitar twists and pale keyboard flecks, all broadcasting like a midnight radio transmission.
But singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft isn’t trying to manufacture such an image. The way she discusses her London-based band with singer/bassist Oliver Sim and producer Jamie Smith (former guitarist Baria Qureshi recently left the band during their current tour because of exhaustion) shows there’s nothing to hide with The xx.
According to Croft, their debut album, xx, is so relaxed and cool simply because it reflects the type of people they are. “We're all pretty chilled out people, I think were all similar in that way,” she admits. “None of us are loud or in your face, so it wouldn't be very useful for the music to be so.”
The music may not be loud, but it is definitely innovative, uplifting and seductive. Croft says their inspiration came from all sorts of avenues.
“I love all kinds of music, we’re not really into sticking to genres,” she says. “Personally, I find the vocal melodies of R&B and pop exciting. And we're all fans of bass, which R&B and hip hop generally have a lot of.”
Croft credits Smith, a fledgling music producer, as a big part of shaping The xx’s unique sound. “Jamie knows how we should sound. We have a very honest relationship with him,” she explains. “We’re just lucky that Jamie has the knowledge to enable us to be self-contained in recording and producing.”
Smith helped establish their sound through the use of an MPC, a Japanese-made sampler and MIDI sequencer that ended up reinventing their performances by replacing the backing CDs the band had been using for gigs.
“If you go out of time with a CD, its hell,” Croft admits. “Having Jamie on MPC means we can feel like a live band. If we go out of time, at least we can go out of time together.”
With just three members remaining, their meticulous sound could be a challenge to reproduce live, but Croft downplays this. “There are a lot of subtleties that we need to get right, but it doesn’t feel too difficult this way. We just need some quiet time before the gig.”
• Catch The xx tonight at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.
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