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- Posted on Dec 22nd 2009 5:30PM by Shelley White
"I think she's one of the most exciting performers of our generation," vocalist/bassist Oliver Sim tells Spinner, echoing recent statements from fellow indie acts Arctic Monkeys and Of Montreal. "I went to see her in concert in May, and she is an amazing performer with an amazing voice. It's gotten to a point where it's undeniable."
While it might seem surprising that the new indie darlings would be enamoured of the commercial hit machine that is Ms. Knowles, the UK three-piece don't make distinctions when it comes to genre. And it makes sense -- all the members of the xx are just 20 years-old, from a generation of mixed-up genres where cheese-tastic pop can live next to the latest hipster-approved underground track.
"It's the iPod shuffle generation, and I welcome that," says Sim. "I don't have a clear concept of genre and I feel it works in my favour. I don't feel constricted in any way."
Accordingly, the band makes music that defies categorization. Songs like 'Islands' and 'Crystalised' have minimal beats, spare instrumentation, a matched set of unadorned female and male vocals and melodies that are reminiscent of folk, rock, R&B and electronic music all at the same time. Even Sim's attire at this interview is a mixture -- he wears a snug black sweater with a copious tangle of thin gold chains and pendants. It's a hip-hop look, but not.
Sim and co-vocalist/guitarist Romy Madley Croft first met in nursery school -- they were three-years-old at the time -- and have been friends ever since.
"In my conscious memory he's just always been there with me," says Madley Croft. That might explain why their voices fit together so well, like echoes of each other, one octave apart. Despite sessions with superstar producers like Diplo and Kwes early in the recording process, the xx opted to have the third member of the band, beatmaster Jamie Smith, produce the record himself. While other producers tried to add more, the band was happy with less. When it comes to their lyrics, Sim and Madley Croft write independently and never explain their meanings to each other.
"It's like any song that I love, if someone explained what it meant and it was different from what I thought it was, it could be a little heartbreaking," explains Sim. "It's us collage-ing the two. I can make my lyrics fit with what she wrote by making my own interpretations of what she's said." Perhaps because of this songwriting methodology, the lyrics often sound quite intimate, but always a bit detached.
"It's like a conversation he and I are having," explains Madley Croft. "But it's still very private, still very cryptic."