I feel obligated to get tattoos of all the frowns or the smiles of all the people who have Xiu Xiu tattoos. It is going to be a lot of tattoos.
story by Ian Jones
As one of the most intense experimental noise rock bands of the past decade, Xiu Xiu pushes its musical performance to another level of audience experience. With mercurial frontman Jamie Stewart at the helm, no two Xiu Xiu shows will ever be the same. From acoustic and intimate to an ear-crushing, equipment-smashing riot, it will hit you in the chest in a way you won’t soon forget. (The band even sold bloodstained t-shirts and vinyl with actual blood from the band members for one album.)
Xiu Xiu’s newest album Always is a testament to the fans who have stuck with them on their long journey — and it might be their most poppy record to date. Jamie answered a few questions about the album in Europe before kicking off the U.S. leg of their tour.
Chicago Innerview: In the liner notes of your new album Always, there are pictures of people with different types of Xiu Xiu tattoos. Have you seen many Xiu Xiu tattoos over the years?
Jamie Stewart: Now I have! I feel obligated to get tattoos of all the frowns or the smiles of all the people who have Xiu Xiu tattoos. It is going to be a lot of tattoos.
Chicago Innerview: What was the hardest song to write on this album and why?
Jamie Stewart: ‘Gul Mudin’ required the most tweaking and removing of extraneous debris. It was an attempt to write an almost cute song musically about one of the most disgusting things I have ever heard of, that being the sport-killing of an Afghan teenager by U.S. Army men. The point to make candy music out of it was to say ‘fuck you’ to them, that they could not bring the world down.
CI: Which song was the easiest to write?
JS: ‘Hi’ came together very quickly, sitting at a desk in my friend’s apartment in Torino, Italy. Romance! It was one of those lucky moments when the muse is smiling upon you and the words and chords are just there.
CI: Where did the fuzzy and shoegaze influence on the album come from?
JS: Ah Pitchfork, one half-deaf journalist says you have a shoegaze song and now you have a shoegaze song. ‘Joey’s Song’ is actually influenced by Krautrock, not shoegaze at all and if you listen to Ride or a band like that and then listen to ‘Joey’s song’, they sound nothing alike. There are no guitars on it at all, other than a really wonderful un-shoegaze in every way guitar solo by John Dietrich from Deerhoof. The ideas for that song came from La Dusseldorf, Harmonia, Popol Vuh and Cluster. Our tour manager in Europe got me into them. Somehow I missed those remarkable bands. He really opened me up to a new world of music and had a huge influence on the synth sounds we used on the whole record. However, I will concede that the live version has some kind of shoegaze guitar on it in the verse. Apparently I am half-deaf as well, but only during the verse.
CI: Have you ever had to describe Xiu Xiu to elderly or very conservative people?
JS: Yes. I usually just say ‘experimental pop music’. Sometimes also at customs or the U.S. border coming back from a tour, somewhere they ask you what kind of music you play and I just say ‘pop music’. Musicians ask each other this a lot: ‘how do you explain your band to your boyfriend’s grandma?’
Xiu Xiu :: with Dirty Beaches :: Lincoln Hall :: May 17.