Always: Xiu Xiu

Jamie Stewart offers a track by track guide
Always cover.png
Jamie Stewart doesn't hold back.

The main creative force behind Xiu Xiu, the band's output is littered with broken barriers and shattered taboos. Returning with a new collection, 'Always' promises to contain more fragile, brave songwriting.

And so it proves. An endearing, at times quite beautiful collection 'Always' finds Jamie Stewart thriving in a confident, full band set up. Devin Hoff returns, joining Stewart, Angela Seo, Bettina Escauriza and Marc Riordan to assemble the new collection.

Produced by Deerhoof's Greg Saunier and mixed by John Congleton, the album matches vibrant, sometimes euphoric music with Jamie Stewart's typically unflinching lyrical flair.

ClashMusic pinned down the songwriter for a track by track guide to 'Always' - find his response below.

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Hi
As overly romantic as this sounds, this song began being laid up with a horrible flu in a friend's apartment in Torino, Italy. It is about trying to find beauty and company in the realization that life, for the most part in incredibly difficult and that pretending otherwise only adds disappointment to hardship. therefore, one can embrace one's fellows downtrodden condition and try to find meaning in what otherwise can seem and be rank meaninglessness. It is dedicated to my friend Alecia Smith. Lying in a bed puking my guts out was only a superficial nod to this but on trips back and forth from the sink to wash my mouth, ironically with much less struggle than usual, the lyrics appeared on the paper.

Joey's Song
Our tour manager turned me onto La Dusseldorf. The beats are cribbed directly from the beats on the album 'Viva'. My brother and I are very close personally and professionally. He has the done art work and posters for the last several Xiu Xiu records and is the only person in the world that I feel like I could trust to tell anything. Our childhood was fraught to say the least and in that we count on each other. He was going through a period of extraordinarily nasty family trauma. This song is for him.

Beauty Towne
is a current observation of the people and circumstances in the song 'Clowne Towne' from our 3rd record Fabulous Muscles. Beauty Towne is the name of salon near my dumb house. The song looks at the inability to escape one's past and that even with distance and time, the blackness of who you were then is never going to change completely. Specifically it names a group of rotting people who lived in a rotting punk house together in seattle in 2003/2004. It tries to consider the rot they live in and are now. Some more rotten than others, then as now.

Honeysuckle
This was written, music and lyrics, by Angela Seo. It is the first song she has every written. My understanding of it comes from confronting failure after failure and giving up. She is obsessed with pop so it is framed in an almost sunny harmonic field but the topic is quite grim. Both together are like lying in a bed of orchids to expire. (SNAP!) she wrote it on a stolen copy of ableton but we felt guilty about it so we rerecorded everything on a less dubious set up.

I Luv Abortion
A young friend of mine, who had gone through period of cutting herself eventually mailing me the knife which now sits on my recording desk, found herself still a teenager and pregnant. She knew that it was not time for her to be a parent to her future child but she could love him or her when it good for them both. She called this vanished baby "little jizzo". It was so striking to me that she could have an abortion out of love. The song is also a big FUCK YOU to the Right wing in America. The music came from using 2 modular synth by flower and the cheapest fake brass samples I could find. Greg Saunier of Deerhoof plays drums.

XIU XIU - Beauty Towne from Bella Union on Vimeo.



The Oldness and Chimneys Afire
Both of these songs were written by someone who was in the band but that I had to fire. Both as a player and as a person, for me it was a disastrous match. However, there is something to these songs. I know what The Oldness is about to him (the author), but it is something that to me rings hollow. Singing it on the album and live, to make it true I had to re-work it in my heart. This sounds silly but why bother with any song if it is not true or substantive for you? It has been interesting and odd to do this. It is not like doing a cover which is separate from your life but not of you, more a cover is a song you love so it is for you. In this case it was neither separate nor far and was by someone who I grew to hate.

This all applies to 'Chimney's Afire' to as well, but this song is about his (the author's) suicide attempt while on tour. It is unclear in the song that this is what it is about so it was necessary to ad a parenthetical title to it. It is not something that should be hidden. opening oneself like this can only be of any potential consequence if it is public. These are, not having written them I feel like can say this, good songs but knowing how tainted the source is for me has created a challenge in dealing with them. Hopefully, as with every song we try to do, there is something in them for a listener. Is it obvious I am a little heartbroken and disgusted by this mess?

Gul Mudin
Is the name of a young boy in Afghanistan that was murdered by US army men for sport. They tried to cover this up but have since been convicted, thankfully. They cut off his fingers and used them to play poker with. They are the worst this world has to offer. The song is an attempt to give Gul Mudin a nod up in heaven or whenever he is and to try and let him know someone is thinking about him. The music is purposely candy. It feels like a bigger indictment of the worms who killed him to couch their hideousness in a pink cloud.

Born to Suffer
Amusingly there were some problems transferring this from one computer program to another and I could never get the bit resolution to match. So the album version (sans the vocals which were recorded after the music was done) is much faster and a higher pitch than the original. It is somewhere between a step and half higher. Try to play along in standard tuning - it will make you insane. The song is about the potential for relief in ending one's own life, even just the thought of it, being mortified by life and about the earthquake in Haiti.

Factory Girl
Having listen to the Marc Ribot record Silent Movies, I tried to copy that feeling. One of Marc's long time collaborators and a long time Xiu Xiu member or collaborator depending, Ches Smith played percussion on this. It is about internal migration of mostly women in China, moving from the country to Guangzhou manufacturing zone. This is where almost everything comes from. It is about barbaric factory conditions and the deletion of humanity that want upon want for garbage is. It is about objectification of the women in this situation through objects.

Smear the Queen
At the very last possible second carla bozulich flew to my house for less than 24 hours and recorded her vocal for this. She is one of my all time favorite singers. It was both daunting and thrilling to set up a mic for one of my hero's. The song comes from a place of cuckolding, gang abuse and delusion. Devin Hoff, now newly rejoining la Xiu, played bass. It was the last thing to be recorded on the record and to celebrate, Carla, who does not drink requested ice cream and potato chips. I however do drink so...

Black Drum Machine
I don't want to talk about this song. I think it is clear enough as to what it is about.

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'Always' is out now.

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