Combine four 20 year olds from South West London, some sublime tunes, moody guitars, an ethereal vocal duet and a kid’s Casio keyboard and you’ve got a hotter than Hades British quartet, The XX. Pedestrian caught up with lead singer Romy Madley Croft and found out about their hectic touring schedule, befriending Florence and the Machine, singing covers and becoming unexpected fashion symbols. It’s a damn long way from the days of jamming together in their school music rooms and not at all bad for four kids still living at home with their parents. Thankfully those lucky few heading to Laneway Festival in January will get a peak at what all the fuss is about. Just look for the ring pulls.
P: What’s life like being in The XX at the moment?
XX: It’s very busy, but it’s good. It’s different for us because we were so slow before making this album. We had a long time with the writing process and the album took about a couple of months. I was sitting in my house wondering whether or not this was going anywhere and we had so much free time. Then all of a sudden we were on call and busy. It’s great but it’s different to what any of us are used to and adjusting to that takes time. We’re getting there but it takes time, it’s all quite new to us still.
P: You cancelled four shows because of exhaustion, Was that a hard decision to make?
XX: Yeah it’s been a bit intense a bit lately. I hate cancelling shows; it’s the worst thing. If it was possible I would never want to do it, but at the moment it had to happen.
P: You just finished touring with Florence and The Machine and you released a cover of one of her songs â€ You’ve Got the Love’ a remixed version. How did that come about?
XX: Well we went on tour with her and before that we knew her. She was doing her cover of â€ You’ve Got The Love’ and they were planning to release it but they wanted to do a remix as well. And Jamie (Bassist/Vocalist) had started to do a few remixes for people and they asked him if he was up for doing a remix. So Jamie did the music for it and then they asked us if all of us would be involved and if Ollie and I would sing on the track. I just thought we’d be singing along with Florence and doing backing vocals. So I felt a bit intimidated, but we’ve spoken to Florence and she likes it. It’s like a cover remix collaboration, it’s cool. I’m always inspired by what Jamie does. It’s always interesting to see what he comes up with.
P: Have you got any collaborations with other artists coming up?
XX: We’re doing a French TV show where we have to collaborate with another artist on the show; we all play live and then do the cover. We’re just trying to choose a song for that; we don’t really know him very well because he just sings in France. We’re trying to work out what would work best for us and for him. But apparently he’s pretty big over there.
P: You’ve done a few others covers and you’ve said the band actually started doing covers when you were starting out, is there something that draws you to them?
XX: In the beginning when it was just Oliver and I it was easier to do covers. It’s embarrassing to sing something to your best friend you’ve written yourself. So we would just sing other songs. But we’ve never ever covered anything by using the same sound, we just played along and sang the lyrics and as we developed more we kept that thing where we would take the essence of the song and the simple melody and create a whole other soundscape around it. I like paying homage to it rather than do an exact copy of it. I think that if you really love a song, it’s already been done perfectly that way so you shouldn’t try to make it better.
P: You guys have been accepted by the fashion world it seems, have you been doing any interesting fashion collaborations?
XX: It’s an interesting thing doing more fashion shoots for magazines. When we went to New York for the first time we’d never done a high fashion shoot before that was styled and with hair and make up. Like Jamie just wears jeans and t -shirts and I guess when he decided he was going to make music in his bedroom when he was younger he didn’t expect to be in a studio being asked if he wanted to wear this tight black jacket. It was pretty hilarious to see. It’s not really his thing, but we’re all very open to being adaptable into fashion. I’m very conscious about fashion, I definitely appreciate it. Yesterday we did an interview on a French Television chat show. That was pretty strange for us. Being flown to Paris and being put on a chat show. We have definitely done things, which have taken us out of the context we thought we would be. I really enjoy it. It’s crazy; I never thought I’d be doing stuff like this when I started making music.
P: Have there been any surreal moments that you can recall in the rise of The XX?
XX: The most surreal moment would have been last week when were playing our headline show in London. Just outside the venue there is this massive wall that has things painted on it and it gets changed every now and then. It’s just a massive mural. I was walking down to the venue to do a sound check and saw that our â€ X’ had been painted onto this huge wall. It’s like our symbol and was in a spot where everyone could see it. I was a bit stunned to be honest. That was probably one of my favourite moments. It was very surreal. I think it’s been painted over now, but I really appreciated it, I didn’t expect that to happen.
P: Oliver has had an aluminium ring pull as an earring for a while, has anyone come to a gig wearing one, mimicking his style?
XX: Ha, the funny thing is I have been wearing ring pulls as a necklace since I was 14. I have a poster of Karen O on my wall in my room and she’s wearing a ring pull on her necklace and I thought it was pretty cool so I started to wear them and I’ve been wearing it since. Then I put it in my earring once but took it out after a month. Then I saw Oliver start to do it but I didn’t say anything and all of a sudden everyone’s like â€ Wow, Oliver wears ring pulls.’ But I was like hold on, that was my thing.
P: A lot of people describe your music as quite sparse and even your visual aesthetic is quite minimalist, is the visual aesthetic something you come up with yourself or do you have collaborators that work with you on the artwork and the videos?
XX: The artwork is all us. We tried working with some designers but the designs that people were coming up with weren’t really using the X symbol. And I thought we should just use the X as the main thing, so we just came up with the black X. And that every song had an image, sort of continuity. Keeping it all like a nice collection. Same with the videos, we’ve known what we wanted and directors would come and help us do that.
P: We heard Country Love left you a Myspace message, what did she have to say?
XX: She basically said she liked us. For me it was ridiculous because Brody Dalle and The Distillers were a big band for me when I was growing up and Brody always said she was a massive fan of Country Love so Country Love saying she listened to us and liked us was huge for me and very surreal, I’d like to meet her at some stage.
P: Have you met anyone so far that has blown your mind?
XX: Michael Stipe came to our gig in Paris and that was pretty funny. There has been a couple which have taken me back a bit. But you begin to realise people are just people and when there at your gig with everyone else it’d be weird to be like â€ wow I’m totally blown away’ kind of thing.