Jamie xx on the Making of 'In Colour' and The xx's Next Steps
Published May 06, 2015On June 2, Jamie xx will finally release his long-awaited debut full-length, In Colour, for Young Turks, and while his solo works have generally featured the musician born Jamie Smith working with just a sampler and MPC, he's revealed that he took a more traditional pop approach to electronic music on his new LP, both in song structure and instrumentation.
"If I was making music to play out [at clubs], I'd put like, 20 seconds of drums before everything," he tells Exclaim! "But that's just not how I consume music. Even if I'm listening to club music, I'll skip the first 20 seconds of every track. I'm used to making songs; that's how I learned to make music. My structures will always be more like pop songs than dance tracks."
As such, In Colour features a number of acoustic instruments, including guitar and piano. Smith says of the latter that he "had a few lessons, probably half-a-year, and then I taught myself," adding, "There are live synths and stuff. The guitar on 'Loud Places' and on 'Stranger in a Room' is Romy [Madley-Croft, of The xx]; all the other instruments are me."
Both of Jamie's xx bandmates, Romy and Oliver Sim, are featured on the album, a choice Smith says was easy — they're integral to what he does, he explains, even if it's solo.
"I could have done it without them, but it wouldn't have been the same for me. They're the reason why I can do this, and I want them to be a part of it, 'cause I love being in the studio with them and I love being out in the real world with them. I like them being able to experience this thing that I'm doing."
Other guests on the album include Four Tet's Kieran Hebden, as well as reggae artist Popcaan and rapper Young Thug, who both contribute vocal tracks to "I Know There's Gonna Be Good Times."
"I sent the track out to a few people I really loved and asked them to do a version. Young Thug and Popcaan did their own versions, which I ended up cutting together. But they both got back to me quickly, and that doesn't usually happen. It worked out nicely, [because] by that point, I didn't know where to go [with the track]. It obviously needed a driving force that I couldn't put there. I was waiting for the right thing to help me finish it."
Smith collaborated with other producers as well — "I worked with John Talabot, Jon Hopkins" — but his work with them didn't make it to In Colour; Smith states that "it hasn't been finished," but that he'd like to release the songs at some point.
Jamie xx has other music on the way, too: he's been working on a new xx record that, with recording on In Colour complete, is now a priority.
"The reason why I needed to do an album was because there's no other way I would've finished the music I'd been making for the last five years. Just doing a 12-inch wasn't enough incentive, and some of these songs weren't right for a 12-inch. I felt I needed to finish this to be in the right headspace for the next xx record."
That record, which remains untitled, will feature a more liberated, experienced xx, according to Smith.
"We're all a little more confident with what we're doing. Even with Coexist, we'd been on tour for three years, but we were also young and gaining experience. Writing Coexist was pretty tough. Having now done that, and having been through something hard, and then me doing my thing with this record, I feel like we're all in a much better place: more open, free, fewer rules. We're less scared about everything, which is very beneficial to the next step."
Not to mention that the band are already knee-deep in the process: "We've recorded a lot. We've been recording for over a year now. It's really fun. I've never had more fun making a record; it's even more fun than the first one. We can take time with it. Obviously, people are waiting for it, but it helps to take time."
As previously reported, Jamie xx has a world tour coming up, and it includes some shows here in Canada. You can see the schedule here.