The xx are tackling fears, finding confidence and taking risks on their latest record

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The xx are tackling fears, finding confidence and taking risks on their latest record


“I know that’s when I feel happy, when I have human connection. And we realised that’s such a big part of our band, our friendship.


“I really struggled to define the album’s themes at the time, but looking back I think there’s a lot about facing things, facing fears and taking risks in the lyrics, which I hadn’t picked up on when we were so in it. But having space and talking about it helps. And I think the title relates to that.”


Listen once to On Hold, the first single from The xx’s recently released third album I See You and it’s apparent they’ve come a long way. The album tackles the fact that the band, at many times, were afraid of being seen.


The trio, made up of Madley Croft, Jamie Smith, and Oliver Sim, have been playing together since they were 11 years old. Their debut album xx, was released to universal acclaim and success, and received the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2010.


They’re so softly spoken and gentle with their movements that at times it’s difficult to understand why they decided to get on stage and play music.


“It’s so curious to me that we put ourselves on stage, we never told anyone at school about it, we were very shy about sharing it with our parents, but back then there was no other way. If you were in a band, you performed live. I don’t know if we felt comfortable being seen on stage. It’s something we’re still getting used to,” says Madley Croft.


“I don’t think that being on stage was a tool to become a more confident person, but it has helped dramatically. I didn’t think about it at the time. But we’ve definitely all become more confident on stage,” Smith adds, without lifting his gaze from his hands.


The time between their sophomore album, 2012’s Coexist and I See You was a labour of love, with the trio taking time apart, and Smith working on his solo project as Jamie xx.


“Personally, I got a lot of confidence from having to be on stage on my own, pushing myself in that way. I got a lot of stuff out of my head that I’d been making for a long time while touring. It gave me a drive to finish this album. The three of us working on my album helped what this album became, because we weren’t working on something that would be called The xx, which meant a lot of barriers were opened up,” says Smith.


Think of The xx’s music and a very distinctive sound comes to mind. I See You is that same soundscape, but more. Already having experienced the pressure of following up an award winning debut album, the band’s experience let them create something entirely new.


“Initially everything was written to be played live, and that’s what shaped the sounds, that’s why things are simple and minimal. At first that was unconscious. Then people started saying  ‘Oh you make really simple minimal music.’ We love space in music, if we didn’t, we would fill it, but we weren’t going for a solid aesthetic. With Coexist we kept that rule of making it playable live, and then on this album we let it go,” says Smith.


It was a time of great growth for the members of the band, personally and musically.


“I think that technically, I understand things better, and I rely heavily on Rom and Oliver when it comes to structure. I’m not that good at that. On my album it really helped having them there,” says Smith, before Madley Croft interjects. “That’s what I like about Jamie though, is that his sense of structure is very different to mine, and I think that’s important.”


“I feel more free to do anything and not be restricted by the fact that we are a band. I’m happy to play them any idea I come up with, and not feel it’s too in one direction to bring it,” Smith finishes.


By Claire Varley