Friday, April 14, 2006

Interview: Xiu Xiu

Calum Marsh

It's a glorious day when a blogger has words with his hero. I had the good fortune of corresponding with mine, Jamie Stewart of the infamously awesome Xiu Xiu, this past week. Xiu Xiu, an experimental indie outfit, is set to release their fifth album this September. Here I bare the fruits of our discussion:

Mocking Music: You're incredibly prolific, especially in the last year. How do you manage to create and record so much new material? What effect does quickly but frequently recording have on the material?

Jamie Stewart: Well, I don't have a day job or that many firends who live in my town, so I have PLENTY of time. Also, music is my favorite thing to do so it's not as if I dislike working on it all the time. We actaully do not record it that quickly. We spend a lot of time recording and writing music but that we are able to do it all the time makes it possible put out a lot of things. One part of working on things without stopping that is interesting is that we don't have a chance to get overly analytical about what we have done in the past. So it helps but of course does not eliminate any second guessing. I leave that to every other aspect of my life.

MM: Though not all positive, your work consistently receives strong reactions. In what way does the criticism and praise affect your music?

Jamie: I try to ignore it. I am too insecure as a person and get obbsessed with little things so I have to attempt to avoid it all. Good and bad.

MM: The track 'I Luv The Valley OH!' from 2004's Fabulous Muscles LP was something of an indie hit, frequently appearing on MP3 Blogs and college radio shows. Why do you think this song, more than any other, was a relative success?

Jamie: I'm not sure. I am glad that we did something that people seemed to get something from though.

MM: You've released a number of split records with other artists - why do you collaborate so frequently? What do you think is advantageous about working with others in this way?

Jamie: It is always with friends whose music we love. It's not so much advantageous as it is enjoyable.

MM: You've also done some music production working, for instance, with Owen Ashworth of Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. What do you like and dislike about working with other artists in this manner, and what kind of influence do you have on their work when you take on such a position?

Jamie: I really just helped him mix that record. He already had a clear idea of what he wanted and more or less was not into any ideas I had. He has a very clear vision for what he wants.

MM: You recorded terrific (though controversial) renditions of Joy Division's 'Ceremony' and Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' and you have a five song EP of cover songs currently in the works. What do you like and dislike about recording cover tracks? Do you get a strong response from fans of the originals?

Jamie: I think the only thing we dislike is the small amount of nervousness about doing the originals justice. We do love getting a chance to get to know songs that we already love even better and hopefully say "thank you" to those songs by doing our best with them. As for fans of the originals reactions, as I said I have to close my ears to that sort of thing or I will go crazy.

MM: I understand you scored two short films last year. Is composing music for films something you're interested in pursuing in the future?

Jamie: Yes, I would love to.

MM: Your cousin, Caralee McElroy, started supporting you on tour a few years ago. Has she since been more involved in the recording process? Does she have creative input, or do you have sole artistic control?

Jamie: More and more she is getting involved at her own pace. On our newest record, The Air Force, she did a tremendous amount. She had never been in a band before Xiu Xiu so it is all very new for her or rather was so her writing is happening by degrees as she feels more comfortable with it. She is a superb player and I feel very very lucky getting to work with her.

MM: Who have you been listening to lately? What kind of music are you currently interested in? Do you try and keep up with new music?

Jamie: Medieval choral music, the new Morrisey record, Okinawan folk music, Ches Smith's solo record, bach, omd, the new broadcast, the new this song is a mess record, I got an insane record of animal sound sfrom the african plain that is amazing. GO HYENA!!!! GO WILD DOG!!!!! GO LEOPARD!!!!!! The new Kid 606.

MM: Favourite books? Films?

Jamie: Right now? A book of short stories edited by Kenzaburo Oe about life after and during the atomic bomb attack of Hiroshima, a biography of Jim Thompson and [Women as Lovers] by Elfriede Jelinek. I eat movies like candy so I always forget what I have really liked. I see about five movies a week.

MM: You've got a new album, The Air Force, due out in the fall. What can you tell us about it?

Jamie: Greg Saunier from Deerhoof produced it. Why say more?

MM: I hope you come back to Ottawa soon.

Jamie: See you in September!

Xiu Xiu - Suha
Xiu Xiu - Asleep (Smiths Cover)

Explore Xiu Xiu:
Official Website

Xiu Xiu - Fabulous Muscles
Xiu Xiu - La Foret
Xiu Xiu - Knife Play

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I love the list of music he's listening to.


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