Just three days after the release of their latest track Angles, The xx found themselves confronted by a sea of fans at their sold out Sydney show shouting back every word to their new single like it was a an old favourite. Such is the fervour for The xx.
For the many people enamoured by their first album, it was a pleasant surprise when Oliver, Romy and Jamie announced their impromptu Australia tour last month. The one-off shows in Melbourne and Sydney sold out instantly. Here to promote their second album Coexist, The xx are about to embark on what could be their biggest journey yet – living up to the success of their first album.
So far so good. Angles has been met with praise. Yet like so many young bands who strike major success with their first album, The xx’s follow up is much darker, serious and considered, with some notable electronic influence – no doubt a direct result of band member Jamie Smith’s recent side projects under the guise of Jamie xx.
We caught up with a immensely polite, softly spoken but by no means timid Oliver Sim about moving out of home, the new album, pressure to succeed, goals and their next Australian tour.
Welcome back to Australia. Were you happy with the shows?
It went well, it was really nice, it’s nice being back. First experience playing here was Laneway, although it was a lot of fun we were playing at like 4pm in the afternoon in full-on sun light which is not necessarily our comfort zone.
Interesting you say that, our editor who saw your show last night said the darkness and atmosphere of a night time show lends itself so well to your music and she couldn’t imagine how you’d translate your songs to a daytime event?
Yeah it was new for us, not being able to hide behind smoke and lights, it was a learning experience. It kind of forced us to perform a bit more I suppose.
So you feel more comfortable in the darkness?
Definitely, and I think that goes for a lot of artists.
You’re out here for a really quick tour to promote your latest single and upcoming second album Coexist. Why was important to come all the way out to Australia to promo this album?
I think it’s just nice… We’re never going to be able to recreate how things went on the first album, but you know, we were very lucky it was very gradual. We didn’t just suddenly, it didn’t get to where it was over a couple of weeks. The campaign went on for a very long time. We can never replicate that, because a lot of people know who we are now. We are trying to ease ourselves back in to it and reintroduce ourselves and use new songs a bit more, in a bit more of a softer way.
And why Australia, we are so far away, did you have such a good reception to the first album here that you thought it was important to come back?
Well yeah it was definitely important for us to come back, and also it was kind of a regret of mine that we didn’t get to come back other than on the Laneway trip and to come back with a proper show because we grew so much, and it was very early days when we did Laneway, the album had not been out for very long. By the time we were on tour for another year and we grew so much. It was something that was long overdue, coming back.
Before we talk about the record, I want to hear a bit about what you got up to on your break. I know you’ve all made up for lost time and hit the clubs a bit more. What else did you get up to?
I thought we would take more of a holiday to be honest, but we started working pretty instantly, I think we got reintroduced to the idea that this wasn’t my job, this was my passion, this is what I love to do with my time. It was a genuine release coming home to work again, because as much we had grown to love touring, I hadn’t found it very creative. The two things I need to work are the opportunity to be alone and to be still, so coming home was just so nice. In the first week of being back all three of us moved out of our parent’s homes.
We had kind of gone on tour when we were 18 and came back when we were 21, all our friends had all been to university. We’d only been at home for a couple of days each month, just didn’t have the time to move out. I love living with my Dad so it’s kind of like ripping off a bandaid, I knew I had to do it very fast otherwise I would of stayed there until the next album. Jamie went straight in to his Gil [Scott-Heron] record – definite workaholic – me and Romy just started writing and started trading stuff. We got a rehearsal space in February 2011 where we started working as a band, started recording in September, albums mixed and mastered three days ago, so yeah it’s done.
You recorded the album in a studio in London – which you told Pitchfork was more of a room than a studio. What was the appeal of the, shall we say, faux studio? Many would think that after such a successful first album you’d be going for the biggest and best studio in town.
We just wanted to see if we could do this album alone, we recorded the first record in our record label’s offices in a side studio. People coming in and out, and we were gigging at the same time, so there was input and we wanted to see if we could do this just the three of us, so we found a space, and it was such an easy set-up. Just the two guitars and Jamie’s inputs and computer, we could of recorded it anywhere. We found a space in North London in a place called Angel, which is about 10 minutes away from where we all live. More than anything it was a place with a nice vibe where we could imagine spending 15 hours a day for like 6 months. We found it in this place, it was just very comfortable and had a very nice vibe.
Is it hard to break away from a space like that once the album is done?
No, you know what, when its just three people in one room for that amount of time it’s always going to get intense, so I’m really happy to be out of the studio and seeing new faces. As much fun as I have recording, I am glad it’s over.