No matter what the conservative press might tell us, not all hoodies are concealing weapons to use in vicious turf wars. Some teenagers are singing the night away in lonely rehearsal rooms in South West London.
Friends since school, The XX are quiet, sensitive nineteen-year-olds whose tender song writing has attracted a strong fanbase of “mostly thirty-year-olds,” admits singer Romy. Not so surprising, as the group sound old beyond their years. Their music is the musical meeting point between the smooth R‘n’B of band favourite Aaliyah, and the spiritual blues of Francophile sisters CocoRosie – mature, soulful and full of the bittersweet sadness of experience.
Impressive considering singers Romy and Oliver wrote many of the songs during their mid-teens. “I went to nursery with Romy,” Oliver explains over the phone, “so I’ve known her since I was about two or three. She’s sort of family. We both met Jamie [beats] and Baria [guitars and keyboards] at secondary school but the music didn’t start until we were about fifteen.” “Me, Romy and Baria had tried making music before,” continues Oliver, “but it was all quite heavily distorted; kind of a power struggle to see who could be the loudest.
Our music is quite the polar opposite now.” The polar opposite is music stripped down to the simplest of note sequences and drumbeats, carrying fragile lyrics across equally fragile melodies. A necessary simplification Romy explains: “When we started the music was quite simple because we couldn’t really play. So it was a case of, this is as complicated as it’s going to get…I’m quite glad for that now because I like the space and the subtlety.”
Any inexperience within the band is steadied by Romy and Oliver’s assured vocals. Their harmonies with each other are so tender and complimentary, it’s hard to resist the idea that there’s more going in the subtext of their friendship. Romy assures me there’s not. “Because we’re such good friends, none of the songs (although they sound like love songs) are actually written to each other. We’re never singing about unrequited love. It would never happen.”
The band have been recording their album in a one-room studio at XL, to be released, provisionally, in September this year. The new single, ‘Crystallised’, is another simple and beautiful track, though it’s matched in its appeal by the band’s haunting cover of Womack and Womack’s ’80s pop hit, ‘Teardrops’ (available to hear on their MySpace). It’s the sound of a band still discovering their influences, but who are on their way to achieving a stunning new sound all of their own.
Words By: Jonny Ensall