In four years, The xx have gone from indie darlings to international buzz band. Their brand of indie pop won them fans across the globe, even winning the prestigious Mercury Prize in their native England, which took the hype surrounding the band to new heights.
Though they’ve technically only been on the scene since 2008, the band actually met and formed while they were students at Elliott School in London. The school is a hot spot for up and coming indie rock outfits, with members of Hot Chip, Burial, Xan Tyler and Four Tet all having attended the private school. Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft started the band as a duo when they were 15, while guitarist Baria Qureshi joined when they began performing in 2005, with Jamie Smith joining a year later.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, the band’s brand of indie pop deviates from what many define the genre as in the traditional sense. Having written and recorded the album before they were of the legal drinking age in the States, their first album has a deep knowledge for abstractness and a musical knowledge and sense of experimentation that one would expect from a band hitting their peak, not on their debut. Combining elements of R&B (believe it or not Aaliyah is a big influence), synth pop and alternative rock with a soothing simplicity, the band won over critics from publications like Rolling Stone and NME, rating the album as one of the best of 2009. It’s dreamy, yet simplistic sound helped them quickly ascend, which was reflected in the types of tours and licensing opportunities they received after the release of xx.
Although there’s been an inordinate amount of hype surrounding The xx and people may not think they are familiar with them, they’re lying. Their songs have licensed and heard on programs including such as 24/7, Person of Interest, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Cold Case, Suits, Hung, 90210 amongst many. Not too shabby.
Winning the Mercury Prize was a blessing and a curse for The xx. They beat out bands like Mumford & Sons, Corinne Bailey Rae, Paul Weller, Dizzee Rascal and Villagers, which was a surprise to many. Even as eyebrows were raised by the result, especially from fans of Mumford & Sons, the victory was justified since the other albums didn’t take as many chances and didn’t possess the eclectic charm that xx did.
With success comes some controversy. Qureshi was booted from the band (via text nonetheless!) just as the band was starting to breakthrough, which caused problems, especially when the band won the Mercury Prize. Amidst rumors that Sim invited her to the ceremony where the group was to be honored, Qureshi went on an epic rant cursing off the band and label for not including her, though she claimed she was one of the brains behind the album, and was seemingly erased from the band’s legacy.
Controversy aside, The xx continues to make their mark on music. Their sophomore album, Coexist, was released a couple of weeks ago and judging by the initial reviews, it doesn’t possess the same charm that the debut had. Even so, the band doesn’t seem to be phased and is playing to the largest audiences, outside of festivals of course. If they can fight through inevitable sophomore slump, this could be the beginning of a long career for the British twenty-somethings. Even if the hype doesn’t match the product, fans seem to flocking to The xx, which will surely make them a force for years to come.