The Nocturnal Emissions of the XX
"I don't think we have ever premeditated how we wanted things to sound," she says. "At first I guess it came from just using the equipment we had and there were definitely limitations there. My guitar sound pretty much came from discovering there was reverb on my little practice amp and really loving the mood it created. We usually just start playing and see what comes out."
What came out is xx. Named after the fact that all members were 20 years old at the time of release, the album is a gorgeous set of nocturnal emissions that touches on the minimal and fragile arrangements of Young Marble Giants' Colossal Youth and the lyrical smoothness and seductive, quiet storm style of Sade.
By looking at these Londoners you wouldn't expect Croft and co-vocalist/bassist Oliver Sim to ooze such soulful harmonies. Croft says it was as much a surprise to them as it was anybody.
"I was a very quiet, shy child. I only started singing at about 15 and it came as quite a surprise to my dad," she explains. "Singing together came out of a 'You sing first,' 'No, you first,' 'I didn't know you could sing'-type situation. And somehow it didn't sound horrible. The way we sing together now is the way we always have. We've never tried to harmonize or anything."
What Croft and Sim do harmonize on is some raw and affecting material, dominated by the three Ls we hear about most in song: love, lust and loss. To Croft, though, it's "always been based around emotions, right from the start. My favourite songs are usually quite sad and I think heartbreak is something that so many people can connect with."
And people are definitely connecting with it. Press for the band's slick, sexy and sharp sound has been unanimously glowing. It's staggering to hear that the band made such an exquisite record in the ridiculously frugal quarters of what Croft calls a "bathroom-sized studio."
"We recorded in the studio at XL Recordings," she humbly admits. "It was once a garage and was a pretty confined space, but perhaps that added to it. We often recorded at night after everyone at the office had left. It was isolated and quite creepy."
Of course, the XX could have done it differently. They had other options, like having Diplo and Kwes produce it in a more spacious, lavish studio. But instead, they gave their fledgling beatmaker Jamie Smith the job to ensure nothing was compromised.
"Everything we've recorded, we always wanted to be playable live, right from the start. That's why there aren't four layered guitars or triple-layered vocals," says Croft. "Working with different producers was a very inspiring and educational process, [but] it just sounded a little more like them than us. I think some may have seen the space and simplicity of our demos and tried to fill it. And we realised maybe it didn't need to be. Maybe the demos were enough."
FeaturesAug 19, 2015
Coeur de pirateMap of the Heart
"All my fears and anxieties and all that crap that humans go through — I didn't face them because I was so busy putting my energy into...
FeaturesAug 10, 2015
Steam Whistle Unsigned presents Exclaim!'s Time Festival Preview
Steam Whistle Unsigned — the Canada-wide concert series promoting up-and-coming artists from across our nation — will return lat...
FeaturesJul 29, 2015
Titus AndronicusAmbition In Five Acts
Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-as...
FeaturesJul 06, 2015
BullyYouth and the Old School
Ask any musician who grew up listening to Nirvana, the Breeders or PJ Harvey what studio they'd love to record their debut album in, and cha...
FeaturesJul 06, 2015
Where I PlayWill Currie and the Country French
"Our band isn't what it was," Will Currie says, seated behind a Korg SV-1 keyboard in his cozy living room in Waterloo, ON. One of his bandm...
FeaturesJul 03, 2015
Leon BridgesInstant Vintage
She was like, "Is this secular music?" I told her "yes ma'am," Leon Bridges recalls. The playing of or listening to secular music was ve...
FeaturesJul 02, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireFlorence Welch (of the Machine)
Florence Welch has been on top of the charts ever since her band Florence + the Machine burst onto the scene in 2009 with the breakthrough a...
FeaturesJun 05, 2015
Where I PlayKathryn Calder
"To be honest, I don't know what half this stuff does, but that's okay." Kathryn Calder laughs, sitting in front of the sprawling console in...