• UO Interviews: The xx


    Ahead of our exclusive launch of The xx’s I See You merch collection, we catch up with the band’s singer and guitarist Romy Madley Croft to talk about their shifting sound and how touring has brought them closer together.
    Photos by Lillie Eiger 


    A lot of the narrative that was surrounding The xx prior to I See You’s release was about how you’d all spent so much time apart working on different projects and you now had to learn to grow together as a band. Now that you’ve been touring the album for a few months, do you all feel like you’re back into the swing of things? 
    Yeah, I think having time apart from each other made us appreciate each other again. Oliver and I have been friends since we were three and we’ve been friends with Jamie since we were 11, so we pretty much spent every day together for most of our lives. We went to the same secondary school and then started the band, and we spent so much time together that when we took a bit of time apart and then came back to make this new album, it was a little bit hard to get used to. I think we all needed space, but maybe that space went on a little too long, which we recognize now. I think it just made us appreciate each other. I think it’s a healthy thing to do in a friendship. 


    What new things have you been learning about the album now that you’re playing it live? Has anything surprised you about how crowds react to certain tracks or how the songs transform in the live setting? 
    It’s so interesting. You spend so long working away on something, hiding away. And then it goes out into the world and its always fascinating for us to see what people connect to. Our song “Hold On,” which was the first single  was hard for us to let go of as the first song on the album. i twas kind of our baby, I guess. It’s turned into such a sing along moment in the show. In Detroit, there was an error where no sound was coming out, it was just me singing and the whole audience just joined in and then the whole room as just singing acapella. That was a nice surprise. I always love when people come up and tell us what their favorite song is and what it means to them. 

    One of the characteristics of the new albums it altho there is a heavier element of vocal sampling. From the perspective of a songwriter, does incorporating more vocal samples change the way you write lyrics? Would you rework song lyrics based on vocals samples that Jamie brought to the table? 
    We always love to get jamie using samples. In his own music, that’s very much a part of Jamie, that he’s been making the whole time we were growing up. It kind of happened quite naturally that he brought it into the band.  I think maybe we were more open minded to what The xx could be, rather than what we thought it should be. In “Lips,” from the new album, Jamie started that song, started the lyric writing process by including a sample in the beat that he sent to us. That was new for us. He sampled this kid of choral voice and Oliver and I wrote lyrics inspired by the sample. That was the only time that’s happened, apart from the samples that he fit into what we had already written. I like him starting that process. 


    Between albums you took part in some writing sessions in Los Angeles. Do you feel that studying the mechanics of pop music played a part in writing for the new album? Did you find that working with the mechanics of a pop song restricted your creativity or brought about a new sense of freedom? 
    I found it fascinating. I was definitely craving getting out of my comfort zone. I went to this huge session with different produces and sort of got a window into the way that they work. It’s very much led by structure and timing and melody. There were a bit more rules, which I found fascinating. We’ve always been huge fans of big pop music, but we’ve just been sort of making our own version of it. I loved learning their rules and then choosing what to take and leave behind. I think that it really helped me a lot with structuring and letting melody lead. 

    Previously, I’ve written lyrics like a poem and then worked out the melody afterwards. A lot of times when I was in a session, I would kind of feel like a kid, just singing a melody, and felt quite on the spot, but I brought that back with us. Over and I used that a lot in the song writing process. For “Say Something Loving,” it’s pretty much only melody first and then we fit in the words laters. It’s one of our favorite songs to sing now because it’s got more melody than we are used to. 


    Do you generally find that when you’re touring you’ll have new ideas for songs kicking around or that a completely separate headspace? 
    At the moment, it appears to be quite a separate headspace. When I was off tour, I kept thinking, “I must get more into songwriting on tour,” because it can be such a creative release. It helps me so much with anything going on, and it helps to pour it out into music, but we’ve had an intense schedule since we did the residency in London, Brixton Academy, and then we went to South America and then it was the U.S. Tour. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. But having a bit more time to myself now, I can feel musical ideas bubbling up. I think it’s incredibly inspiring to see what works live and what doesn’t, and then keep that in mind when song writing. 


    It seems like the band’s sound continues to grow between albums. In the future, do you see it ebbing back into a quieter, more intimate sound, or do you see it getting bigger and bigger?
    I’m not sure, I think that really depends on our mood. I think that there are some of the biggest and most danceable songs that we’ve ever made on this album and some of the most pared down songs. “Test Me” is very fragile. I think we’ve always enjoyed having the biggest songs and the more danceable moments in our live show. I think we’ve kind of ripped up what we expect we should sound like and what people think we should sound like. I’m just excited to have more fun with it, and we definitely had fun with it on this album. I’d like to keep that going. 


    Philly, you could win a chance to meet The xx with exclusive access to the May 17th soundcheck before their show at The Mann Center. Winners will also receive tickets to the show that night. Enter by taking a photo with The xx display at Urban Outfitters on Walnut St. between May 15th and May 16th, tag @UOPhiladelphia and #UOTHEXX and post to Instagram. Winners will be announced via @UOPhiladelphia the night of May 16th. 


    Toronto, you could win a chance to meet The xx with exclusive access to the May 22nd soundcheck before their show at Echo Beach. Winners will also receive tickets to the show that night. Enter by taking a photo with The xx display at Urban Outfitters Yonge St. between May 20th and May 21st, tag @UOToronto and #UOTHEXX and post to Instagram. Winners will be announced via @UOToronto the night of May 21st. 

    Shop the I See You merch collection