No one sounds as taken aback by the success of the xx than the band's guitarist, Romy Madley-Croft. Even though she helped co-found the band in 2005, Madley-Croft remains skeptical of her own playing, but somewhat reluctantly admits that her band is evolving for the better.
Speaking from a tour stop in anticipation of two sold out shows at the Granada Theater this Wednesday and Thursday, Madley-Croft spoke with DC9 about the xx's surprisingly sudden popularity and how she doesn't write songs to be on Gossip Girl.
Have you noticed a difference between the audiences in the UK and in the United States?
The crowds in the U.S. seem to be more animated than back home. In London where we grew up playing, people can sometimes stand there with their arms crossed and not look like they are having a good time even if they are. It's nice to see people use their emotions a bit more.
Do you think some of this is due to the bad weather in the UK?
Yes, that is probably part of it.
How has the music evolved over the six years that the band has been together?
Oliver and I started making music together when we were 16 and it all went from there. That was 7 years ago. I think it has just steadily evolved from us growing up. We wrote some of this music when we were fairly young. We did a bit of growing before we made the second album. We grew up a lot between the ages of 18 to 20. When had a lot more experiences to write about. We had listened to a lot of new music, hearing it throughout the world. We grew up with the music.
Are you comfortable with the indie pop label that is consistently used concerning your band?
I find it hard when someone asks me what kind of music do I make. It's really hard to know what to say. We didn't know the ins and outs of the music business. We would just say we were a pop band. That doesn't really say anything. Pop music is whatever you want it to be. It's quite hard to know what to say.
If someone asks you to come up with a band that you sound like, what do you say?
I can say that a band we appreciate and really look up to is Portishead. They are a band that we respect so much, although I wouldn't say we sound like them. They are a band that we really admire the way they work.
Is there a band that you hate being compared to?
No, we haven't had any comparisons that have upset me yet.
The debut album was successful very quickly. Sometimes that can be a good thing or a band thing for a band. What is your perspective?
We made the first album with no expectations. We did it because we loved it. We hardly had any money. It was made in a very simple way. Any success that it had was a big surprise to us. And then it grew and grew. It wasn't like an overnight success. It reached its peak about a year after it came out. That's when most people heard it. It felt like a nice growth. It didn't feel that sudden. When it came to making the second album, we took about a year off and had a bit of a life. When we came together to make the second album, we didn't feel as much pressure as if we would have went to it straight in after the first album. We had a normal life and a bit of time to get back to where we were when we were making the first album.
What are the biggest differences between the songs done in the studio and on stage?
We always try to make sure that everything we record is doable live. In the beginning the songs were really simple. And when we started, I couldn't sing or play the guitar that well. That's why the guitar parts are not that complicated. Now we are slightly better. We make sure it is definitely playable live. We know that live the songs are going to sound just as good as they do on the album. We really care so much about how it sounds live.
Many of your songs are used on American and British television programs. Why do you think your music is suited for such use?
I am not sure, really. It definitely has appeared in some places where I never expected it to, especially in England. It does appear on some funny cooking shows. There's a lot of space in our music, a lot of atmosphere and I guess people feel that can fit nicely over what they are doing. I think it's interesting to see where you music ends up once you have created it. When you are writing a song, you are not writing it to be on Gossip Girl.
You also have a song sampled by Rihanna ["Drunk on Love"]. Do you get a payday out of that?
I don't know how that works. We were just really excited. We are massive fans of pop music and of Rihanna. We just saw it as an exciting, interesting thing. I realized the way these pop songs are made. It's the production company that writes the whole song, does the lyrics and then hands it over to the pop star. That's so far removed from the way that we work. The fact that we were sampled is kind of interesting. It was a fun, different thing.
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You also play many festivals. Is that a beating?
It's definitely taken some times to get used to it. We don't like playing in the daylight. We feel so much more comfortable without lights. You can hide behind things a bit more. We don't like to be the center of attention too much. We have played a lot of festivals in the daylight and it can be rather daunting. We've played to a lot more people this way. At a festival, you play to so many more people than you ever are at any other gig. It's a big learning curb. We have really gotten better at playing live. It's takes a lot of time to get confident on stage, but I think we are getting there.
The xx performs with Austra on Wednesday and Thursday, February 13 and 14, at the Granada Theater.