The xx

Exclusive Booking Agency for The xx
North & South America


Sam Hunt

Tom Windish

Contact Agents
Worldwide except North & South America


David Exley

Tom Schroeder

Contact Agents

about the artist

In March 2014, The xx took their advanced pop
experiment in fortified introspection to its most cripplingly self-conscious
conclusion. At Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall they played a
succession of dates that The New York Times headlined ‘The Rock Show, Inverted.’
Playing to an audience of just 45 people at each of the twenty five shows over
ten days, Romy Madly Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith had to bow their heads
in penance to avoid looking square in the eyes the effect of their music, at
that moment gridlocked in aMore

In March 2014, The xx took their advanced pop
experiment in fortified introspection to its most cripplingly self-conscious
conclusion. At Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory Drill Hall they played a
succession of dates that The New York Times headlined ‘The Rock Show, Inverted.’
Playing to an audience of just 45 people at each of the twenty five shows over
ten days, Romy Madly Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith had to bow their heads
in penance to avoid looking square in the eyes the effect of their music, at
that moment gridlocked in a beautiful communion of the inner life of shy

A new touchstone for pop intimacy, the show had been road-tested in the bowels
of the city during the previous year’s Manchester International Festival. The
xx debuted a new song at The Armory, Performance. Its chorus ran: “You’ll
see me hurting/when my heart breaks/I’ll put on a performance/I’ll put on a
brave face,” set only to barely audible sub-bass and the kind of
intricate, spidery guitar motif that had by now become a signature to their
sound. In retrospect, The Armory shows were a line-in-the-sand moment for The
xx. They had reached the furthest limits of their experiments in the
monochromatic. A hard won light was beginning to beckon.

“The record sounds triumphant and celebratory,” says Jamie, of their
third long-player, I See You, “but the journey we went on and what we had
to go through to get to this point should be acknowledged.” I See You is
the spoils of four hard years’ labour, a vertiginous new height scaled for the
pop group. It is a record that sees them performing with optimum new nerve,
transparency and clarity. Because it is made by The xx, its implicit boldness
is sculpted from a tough and tender space, one which stretched its limits for
expansion against the core musical aesthetic Romy and Oliver first found as
16-year-olds playing on a stage together. “What makes us sound like us isn’t
intentional,” says Oliver. “What always surprises me,” says
Jamie, “is when they just play the two instruments together they come up
with things that I could never come up with, so simple that I wish I could.
That particular guitar sound and Oliver’s bass playing will always create this
mood which I love and which I can’t imagine ever getting bored of.”

I See You is marked by a tonal shift to something close to pure, crisp pop
structure, adorned by unusual crescendos that echo a dextrous DJ inching their
dancer toward climax without ever quite lifting the house lights. Its lyric
sheet moves from the danger and hopelessness of love to its deliciousness and
rapture; a move into a more outward looking proposition. I See You is
recognisably still The xx but now powered by voluble ambition, of the three
perfect counterweights to one another starting to not just realise but harness
their full potential. You might even want to think of the decisive move from
Joy Division to New Order here, too. The Armory shows turned out to be a double
bluff. When they take their plum festival slots in 2017, armed with the ten
most robust songs of their career The xx should prick the skin and touch gently
the shoulder of an audience reaching to the back of the field.

I See You is split in two down the middle by Performance, the most cognisant xx
song of the suite. The metaphor at the centre of the ballad is pure Bacharach
and David. The delivery is something else. Though shimmering resolutely from
the half-light to the spot, it unleashes in Romy something confident and
spacious. Since stepping tentatively onto stage barely out of childhood, Romy
has had to learn to embrace her inner frontwoman. But then all of The xx have
challenged themselves in the making of I See You.

For Jamie, this manifested itself most pertinently in becoming a solo, if still
xx-branded artist with his sensational club suite, In Colour. True to title,
solo Jamie may yet turn out to be The xx’s Wizard of Oz moment, as Romy and
Oliver witnessed vicariously what they might now look like in technicolour. “Jamie’s
record had a big effect on me,” says Romy. “It was the sense of being
outside of something you’d been involved in but then also being involved
because Oliver and I are on the album. Observing it, I found, made me
appreciate what I do a lot more. I did feel like I was missing something, too.
I’m not ashamed to say that either, even though it was a weird feeling. There
was so much pride and admiration in what Jamie had done but at the same time it
could be weird to see him on stage at Alexandra Palace, with my voice playing
through the speakers and I’m standing in the crowd. It was odd. But it also
inspired a hunger. I wasn’t complacent. It was inspiring me to think OK, Jamie’s
going to come back so let’s have some great songs for him. We’re not the most
obvious front-people. We didn’t grow up dreaming about that. But I do really
enjoy it.” Adds Oliver, “I’ve really missed it. And I didn’t realise
that I would miss it so much. It did come as a surprise. I get a lot of
confidence from doing it and it was hard not having that for a while.”

Work on I See You began in earnest with conversations between Oliver and Romy
while Jamie was making then promoting In Colour. For second album Coexist the
trio had locked themselves away in a small room in Angel, Islington, refusing
to play anything to outsiders until they deemed it ready. “It was made in
a weird, dark place for all of us,” says Jamie. Three introverts getting
used to being stared at and scrutinised was always going to be difficult
emotional territory to surf. The first xx record, released when Romy and Oliver
were still teens, had sold in disproportionate quantities to the local scale of
its ambition, finding a global audience that wildly surpassed everyone’s
expectations. “Everyone kept telling us this is moving really fast,”
says Oliver. “And in the moment I’m not sure we believed it,” adds
Romy. The xx have sold 2.7million records the world over. They have platinum
and gold discs amassed from across Europe, the Americas, Australia. They’re one
of only three British bands — the others being One Direction and Mumford &
Sons — to have a gold certified debut album in the USA
in the last decade. Their multimillion streaming and social media stats are
dizzying. If this wasn’t supposed to happen, I See You sounds like the
concession not just that it did, but furthermore that it was meant to.

The construction of the third xx record could not have differed further from
its predecessor. They travelled to Los Angeles, Marfa, Texas, New York,
Iceland. After a road trip in which they played soft rock all the way from
Portland to LA, they decamped to a studio in the Hollywood Hills and recorded
repentant party-boy apologia, Replica there and then. The dappled sunlight of
yacht-rock is a new texture for The xx. I See You is full of them, from Oliver’s
afrobeat bass lead on the defiant garage opener, Dangerous, to Romy’s playful
purr in I Dare You. When he added the Hall & Oates sample from I Can’t Go
For That to I See You’s first single, On Hold — as close as The xx will ever
likely get to a certified pop banger — Jamie says an employee from the studio
caught him dancing by himself to it, “which was embarrassing.” It is
at these eureka moments that the expert producer knows he has located the exact
specialness of his pop operation.

With their unforeseen reach, The xx have quietly become trusted hands across
the wider pop hemisphere. Romy has written with Kelela, Jamie famously produced
for Drake and Alicia Keys. They curated their own festival, Night and Day,
extending branches from London to Berlin and Lisbon. Oliver would make sure to
be on site first thing every morning, to greet each artist they had booked
individually. Part of the strive for self-improvement that demarks the new arc
for The xx on I See You comes from their faithful devotion to music not just as
artists but as fans, too.

While living in LA for a spell, Romy attended writing camps of the sort
designated to factory fashion hits for the megastars of the day, including a
session with hit-maker for hire Ryan Tedder. Though forever intrigued by it,
this is categorically not The xx’s world, and it should be noted that every
song on I See You is written solely by The xx. “We’ve always really loved
pop and for this record we were trying to find new ways of doing things,”
she says. “It was terrifying but I think I knew it was going to be
horrible and I wanted that. I knew it was going to be a test.” Making the
record, Oliver says, “was about us becoming less self-conscious of how we
think we are expected to sound and more about making the kind of music we want
to hear.” “I really enjoyed not feeling so clenched,” adds Romy.

While Romy was learning the whys and wherefores of the hit factory and Jamie
toured his solo record, Oliver fronted campaigns for the esteemed menswear wing
of French fashion house Dior. “This is all so far out of what we usually
do,” he says. The xx were once a lesson in beautiful compression, of
looking inward, a study in quietude and subtlety. They are three best friends
who obsessed together, drifted apart and found an invigorated new meaning and
purpose with I See You. The mirrored packaging of the record is there for a
reason. I See You is a record about falling in love with one another, all over
again, a minor key Musketeers moment for Romy, Oliver and Jamie. It feels like
the start of a new dawn for The xx. The record ends with the song Test Me, a
unified declaration of how much that love can hurt but how, when it chimes in
tandem, there is nothing that can quite match it.

“It’s strange to like the record as much as I like it,” says Jamie. “It’s
about seeing reflections of yourself in other people. It’s basically us
understanding each other better. Being pals again. We went through lots of ways
of saying that and I See You seemed the best.” I See You feels like a love
letter scripted to themselves, celebrating a marriage that works for better and
for worse and on this unusual occasion, would like to tell the world about it. “I
never think about people watching or the audience in any way, really,”
says Jamie, “I think about the moments on stage and the moments when we
come off stage, of us just enjoying ourselves as friends. I don’t even think
about how it’s going to go down on stage. I just like the memories I have of us
being on stage.” “They are,” says Romy, “the best.” “Communication
has not always been easy with us,” says Oliver, “But we’re learning.
The thought of sharing the stage together again is perfect. We’re all ready.”