Home Cameras The XX Story: How this British Indie Pop Trio is bringing the electronic inside pop like nobody else

The XX Story: How this British Indie Pop Trio is bringing the electronic inside pop like nobody else

9 min read
There is something eerie about dark silhouettes of four musicians standing against the backdrop screens of bomb blasts, set to slow motion. But from the moment Romy Croft plucks out the first notes on her Les Paul, the badass combination of pop and electric literally explodes inside The XX’s most famous hit single “Crystalise” (2009).

In just a few years of their existence, The XX have broken barriers between electronic and funk pop, through the vicarious reinvention of the traditional guitar and piano combination. The bands’s alternate percussion tones coupled with melodic vocal compositions, have enabled them to distinguish their position in a fast paced, blurry world of electronic dance music.

A Young Start

Soft spoken, with a quivering yet immaculate voice quality, Romy started The XX with her best friend Oliver Sim (bass, and lead vocals) while studying at the Elliott School, Wandsworth, back in 2005. Over the next two years, the band further added Jamie (Smith) XX (electronics, keyboards, percussion) and Baria Qureshi (guitar), as the quartet explored their electronic pop interests. (The latter would be removed later on from the band, one month after the launch of their debut album).

The XX broke into the London pop music scene with their first album, titled XX in August 2009, under the British independent record label, Young Turks. The album boasted of riveting melody structures set to haunting, yet eclectic electronic sounds, bringing an almost underplayed swing within conventional pop music.

The trio since then, has not stopped pushing their exploratory efforts within the new age electronic segment, to make astounding techno combinations with some serious lyrical content.

Heart Breaking Poetry and Melodic Bass Tones

In an interview with the original founders Croft and Sim, almost three years back, they were questioned on how they went about the entire process of song composition. Interestingly, both members emphasized their great need to express themselves first and foremost in writing. Their claims can be swiftly established as one listens to the words inside “Angel’s Songs” and “Basic Space”, both easylistening, contemporary, yet powerful and emotional narratives.

What truly sets the trio apart in an otherwise copy cat world of Youtube & Coachella concerts, is the ease with which they set these vocal, guitar combinations to innovative electronic sounds. The latter, courtesy Smith, who is a techno natural.

Putting the Genius inside Electronic Music

Smith confesses an early love for DJing and affection for dance music, natural for a member of the club-going, CD loving generation of the late 80s. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, he narrated a childhood incident, where he begged his parents for a turn table to learn mixing. Luckily for him, his uncle had an old set, with one hifi and one Stereolab table, and a choked, but working mixer. He supposedly kept the set for 5 years and learnt mixing on the same.

Smith’s obvious talent on the mixing table, has encouraged blossoming of a solo career in parallel to The XX story, as a producer and DJ. He has remixed works by Adele, Radiohead, and Four Text, and was even sampled by Drake in the year 2011. His solo album, In Color (2016), differs from the otherwise melodic, sharp bass tones of The XX, and embodies vibrant, funk sounds, ranging from xylophones to steel pans, set to active layers of bright acapella vocals.

Media & Television Darlings of 2011 – 2013

With the launch of their second album, Coexist (2012), The XX became darlings of the television fraternity. A lot of their work from the first album, was used in hit series such as 24/7, Person of Interest, Suits as well as prominent events that included Karl Lagerfeld’s Fall 2011 Fashion Show, UEFA Euro 2012 as well as Euro 2016. The band was sampled by Rihanna in her album “Drunk on Love”, and contributed it’s track “Together”, for Baz Luhrman’s The Great Gatsby.
In the year 2010, the band drove audiences wild at the Glastonbury 2010 Performing Arts Festival (Pilton, UK), with their collaboration with Florence Welch, for an Indie Pop remix of the Florence & The Machines track, “You Got the Love”.

Minimalist Overtones and Iridescent Music

There has been widespread anticipation of The XX’s third album, expected to be released in early 2017, even as the band promises to surprise its followers with newer, more innovative sounds. Recently, the band released a mysterious 55 second sound byte, with faint
traces of Croft’s voice in the background on Spotify. The band did not clarify whether the upload was among the sounds they have been listening for inspiration, or if it was a quick sample from their latest work.
In an earlier interview from 2012 , band members Oliver and Croft, had expressed fervent admiration for British pop star Sadie, for her alternate, subtle yet more sensual take on the bursting London pop culture of the ‘80s. In 2016, they seem to be creating a similar impact with their alternate yet supremely enchanting spin on the electronic pop scene of the 2000s.

This article has been written by Shweta Sharma, who is a Delhi based entrepreneur/musician.

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