Matson on Music
The xx talks iridescence, looks goth, works hard
On a hot and sunny day, young, hip London trio The xx pulls up to the downtown Seattle restaurant RN74 in a black van with blacked out windows, wearing all black. Despite their ultracool appearance, Romy Madley-Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith could not be sweeter or more earnestly hardworking. Their day's promotion for new album "Coexist" consists of performing at the radio station KEXP 90.3 FM; then this interview; then heading out to Alki beach before sunset to do another radio event with 107.7 The End.
"We don't want to forget anybody," says singer/guitarist Madley-Croft quietly, barely audible over forks on plates. "And we don't take anything for granted."
That evening, The xx plays a sold-out show at Showbox at the Market. The audience screams and swoons after hearing brand new songs off "Coexist." Dancing keeps threatening to break out, but the main parts of the music — single-string guitar lines and isolated notes from drum machines — are not dance-friendly, except for brief spurts.
That gig was back in July. The xx is in Seattle again, at the Paramount Theatre Saturday, the second date on a big American tour. Each concert ticket comes with a full download of "Coexist."
The album hones The xx's hushed sound, which crept into modern, mainstream hip-hop/R&B in the past year through Drake and Rihanna's megahit "Take Care," featuring producer/percussionist Smith. He's working on another high-profile R&B project right now with a woman, but he's being secretive about who it is.
Previous Seattle shows by The xx have attracted parents and kids, which Madley-Croft says she loves.
"When we first started playing shows in London, our audiences were 30 onwards," says the singer-guitarist. "And for us, we were 17 and 18, so we were just happy to have people there. But when people our own age started to be at the shows, we were really happy. It meant a lot."
Perhaps The xx's music spans generations because the band members were schooled by elders — Madley-Croft's big sister and Sim's dad.
"My dad introduced me to a band called Durutti Column, that I love," says Sim. "And I introduced him to Bon Iver, and he's a huge fan. It's a lot of back and forth."
Madley-Croft came up with a concept for a light show at the Paramount to indicate those influences commingling.
"We organized the light show based around iridescence," she says. "Which is how light falls through things, and creates a spectrum of colors. When you see a puddle of oily water, it's not necessarily what you think of when you think of beauty. But I looked up what that was, and I read oil and water don't mix — they peacefully coexist. It's like us. We can do things individually, and obviously Jamie's made music. But only when we come together as a group are we The xx."
The xx plays at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine Street; $33.50 (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).