When a debut album is as beloved and revered as The xx’s, you’d think their natural inclination would be to make their next one sound bigger. Most bands would throw the kitchen sink in an attempt to top themselves. But then again, The xx aren’t most bands. Instead, the lowercase minimalists have sought to strip things back even further, showing off greater assurance with wise sparseness than they could ever have with wild expansion. Romy’s heart piercing, laudanum voice and Oliver’s instrumentals are still just as affecting, but this time it’s Jamie’s languid electronic leanings that really shine through on Coexist. As it turns out, Jamie xx is just as reserved as his band’s music, but the warm lad was more than happy to open up to us.
Congrats on the release of Coexist! It seems to be even more minimal and measured than your debut, was that the plan?
Our intention was just to make music like we used to, it had been quite a while and I missed writing with my best friends.
Considering how massive the first album was though, was there any pressure to top yourselves?
I think there would have been if we had gone straight into recording after touring. But we had a year off, and that allowed us to get back into the mindset of how we used to be. We went back to normal, I guess. So by the time it came around to recording, we were so eager.
We know it’s hard to think of your own work in these terms, but when did you realise just how influential that debut album had become?
We had an idea as to what was happening, but it wouldn’t have been healthy if we kept such a close eye on it. I knew but I didn’t really think about it too much. Keeping busy helps.
You seem like a reserved guy. Did you enjoy your sudden popularity?
Luckily I had a long time to get used to it. It’s difficult having to talk to strangers about ourselves and having to be on camera. It’s definitely not the most comfortable thing in the world but we’re definitely better at it than we used to be.
I’m not sure if you remember but you guys opened for Florence + The Machine in Singapore back in 2010 and you came back for a DJ set here as well…
Oh I do remember that! That was fun. I hope we get to come back soon. We’re planning an Asian tour for next year.
That’s awesome! You seem to be busy with your production and DJ stuff as well. Did that begin as a creative distraction, or were you always set on a solo project?
It was just me carrying on making music… for fun! That’s what I do, and it’s nice to be able to make and play music even when The xx was on a rest.
Did your Jamie xx production work come to influence the process of making Coexist?
Yeah I learnt a lot in that year, just technically. I also learned a lot about how to work with other people, which in turn helped me work better with Romy and Oliver.
Speaking of working with others, your collaborative album with the late Gil Scott-Heron was breathtaking. What was it like working with such a legend?
It was unbelievable! It was an honour to work with him before he passed. Even at his age, he was so open to all new music… and I hope that I can be like that when I get older.
You’ve been remixing a bunch too! Your take on Radiohead’s “Bloom” was pretty awesome…
Oh Thom Yorke approached me for that, which was fantastic. He posted one of my earlier remixes up on his blog, and he asked me to come aboard the remix album along with a lot of other great UK producers. I only ever wanna work on songs that I like, and this was one. I like songs with parts that are absolutely recognisable, and I work around that.
Our favourite was definitely your “Rolling In The Deep” one. Now that had a killer hook, but you went in such an unexpected direction with it…
Yeah that was the idea. I mean, that vocal is just so strong! And that was just amazing, I wouldn’t have turned that down ever. It was cool that she asked me to do it, and she’s now become a friend.
Coexist with The xx at thexx.info.