The xx is coming to Beijing! Modern Sky has announced that they will be hosting The xx concert in Beijing Exhibition Center on February 3th. This is the first time that The xx has stepped into China. It’s also the only concert in Mainland China in their “I See You” tour in Asia.
The xx is an indie rock and pop band from London. It was formed in 2005 with Romy Madley as guitarist and vocalist, Oliver as bassist and vocalist, and Jamie Smith as Drummer, MPC, and producer (aka Jamie xx). Within the past 8 years, The xx released 3 great albums. Their song “Intro” from the first album “xx” combined simple elements to create the sound of delight. In 2010, “intro” was played in BBC election program, as well as two Europe Cups in a roll. It was also sampled in Rihanna’s “Drunk on Love”. The album “xx” was rated the best album of the year by multiple different music media and news, and won the Mercury Prize of the year. “xx” is still considered one of the most significant albums within the most recent decade.
On January 13th, The xx released their third album I See You. Another round of tour has unrolled to meet the world as well.
One of the main focus of the xx in 2017 is to organize a perfect concert in Mainland China. The xx has received a lot of invitation to sing in China. However, none of the invitations actually turned into a concert due to the perfectionism of The xx.
“In May 2017, The xx claimed a date for a concert in China, therefore almost all the companies in the business sent out their invitation to The xx. There was probably 40 offer all over Beijing and Shanghai.” said by Ran Zhang, the international business manager of Modern Sky. At the end of July 2017, The xx sent their show manager to evaluate all the companies in Beijing and Shanghai. They visited all kinds of performance venues including some smaller venues such as Yugong Yishan, School, Temple, DADA, etc. After choosing an appropriate venue space, the production team of The xx raised the questions for all the agents about how to promote the concert, how to prevent scalpers, what’s the plan for security, and how to apply for a visa, etc. After a careful consideration and evaluation, The xx finally decided to collaborate with Modern Sky to host the concert in China.
Originally the team planned to put on the concert in the National Olympic Sports Center. Due to a double book with the CBA, The xx had to search for a new venue. Since the only appropriate venue that’s available for the planned concert dates was Beijing Exhibition Center, they have to compromise with 2500 seats less, which means the sponsors have to either raise the ticket price by at least 33% or to increase the amount of high priced tickets to recoup the cost. What surprised the sponsors was that after knowing that increasing ticket price may cause many fans unable to purchase the tickets for the show, The xx offered the lower their appearance fee to a basic cost price so there are more affordable tickets for the fans. The sponsors made the entire planning process transparent to The xx. They also shared The xx with different plans of separating the audience section and pricing the tickets. Ultimately, it was The xx who made the final call of the ticket prices and audience section distribution.
Zhang said that he was very surprised to hear that The xx lowered their appearance fee willingly just for more fans to be able to afford the tickets and see the concert live. “I rarely see bands or artists who are willing to sacrifice their own benefit to satisfy their fans. They want to have more cheap priced tickets so more fans can come to see the concert.” Zhang also explained that after all The xx is still one of the most popular bands in the world with dozens of people working in the crew carrying many cargos of equipment’s and instruments, it is very difficult to reduce the cost price for such a big team. Even if the show is all sold out, the gain will barely cover the flight tickets, visa application fee and transportation fee for the team, let alone much profit. Therefore the sponsors cannot lower the tickets price too much for every single fan of The xx.
“There have been over 2,000 emails in this entire negotiating and planning process. I think our team truly gained an experience of what it feels like to work with a band who genuinely care about the fans more than themselves. We all have learned so much. This is the first time that The xx performs live in China. I’m sure that this concert will be a classic case of concert planning after the transformation of Sound of the Xity. There’s so much for us and our colleagues to learn from this experience.”, said by Zhang.
So as an indie pop/electronic band with such a high business value, how did The xx start their Journey?
They bridged the gap between cultures with music but bridged the music with friendship
If there’s a one-word theme to summarize the interview scene with The xx, the word would be gazing. You can always feel the love and trust between Oliver Sim, Jamie xx, and Romy Madley, though there were times during the interview that they would just joke around each other. There’s never been another indie band like The xx with all of their members so close and intimate with each other, while still making efforts to get around with each other. Oliver and Romy met in elementary school and have been friends ever since. They both got to know Jamie when they started to play music and eventually formed a band together. Although they’ve known each other for years, they still reserve a part of themselves to not show in front of the other two and remain their own privacy in personal lives. However, when it comes to music, they always get along and are able to communicate with trust.
The story of how The xx was formed seems like a cliché like another The Strokes, Radioheads, Phantogram, The Black Keys or U2. Someone met someone else in middle school or high school, parted from each other and met new friends in another school or college but reconnected with the old friend and eventually formed a band with friends they met in both schools. Sounds familiar right? However, the friendship between the three of them is unique. Oliver Sim admitted in an interview with The Fader in December 2016, that he redefined his friendship with others after he grew up. He said that he didn’t expect to have to maintain and manage friendship by staying patient and compromising with each other. Now that the friendship between Jamie, Oliver, and Romy pulled them together to form The xx, they are so much closer and trusting than before.
In January 2017, The xx reappeared with I See You. Unlike the other albums, The xx shifted the theme from intimacy and closeness into their growing pains, with a tone of advising. They also included a bit of friendship and how delicate it can be like one of the lyric lines in their song Say Something Loving, “Before it slips away, say something loving.” Jamie also sampled elements from the music in the 70s to add the feeling of regret and make the audience realize how quickly time passes. So “say something loving” to your loved ones, significant other or friends before it’s too late.
The xx is still as shy as years ago when they made their debut. Oliver said that he and Romy were inseparable since kindergarten. When they had an idea to sing together to get through the day neither of these two introverts wanted to be a soloist, so they decided to make it a duet. In I See You, instead of duets, the songs sound more like a conversation between Oliver and Romy. And with the addition of Jamie, the conversation became a rhythmic harmony between the three of them.
After the U.S. election in 2016, many people in the world were very disappointed with the result. It was a difficult year for many people who are the outliers in the society. To The xx, it was extremely difficult to face it because two out of the three band members identify themselves as queers. Romy expressed his denial right after the election, which was reflected in the song A Violent Noise. In the song, The xx talked about self-denial, self-doubt, what we can do to go through a dark time and finally reached the topic of self-reconstruction.
In 2015, the most introverted member of the band Jamie xx released his personal album “In Colour”. It was his reconstruction on his music and himself. Pitchfork commented that In Colour was an extract product of Jamie xx for the past 6 years which brings it home. Consequence of Sound also commented that In Colour makes the audience feel small. This album overthrew the audiences’ old and outdated impression on Jamie xx. After In Colour, the direction of the music production completely changed. Although their second album Coexist made a big success in business, it didn’t bring as much public praise as their first album “xx”. Oliver Sim once said the same thing that they were under great pressure and stress when producing Coexist because of the big success of “xx”.
Compare to Coexist, “xx” was a more phenomenal success in both sales and public praise. It not only won The xx the Mercury Prize of the year (the highest honor in indie music in U.K.) but also sped up the commercialization process. The xx went straight up to some of the best stages in the world as a new band in the field and became extremely popular in a very short amount of time. They explored the theme of love and desire, like the lyrics in the song Shelter, “Maybe I had said, something that was wrong, Can I make it better, with the lights turned on.” All the sweetness and heartbreaks that they sing in their songs are exactly like the ones that we all know and have been through when we were young in our teens or 20s. The xx captured the guessing and hesitating at the beginning of a young relationship, and the mumbling and dazing at the end of a young love as if we are looking at ourselves when we look at them.
Alexis Petridis from the Guardian said that I See You made him see The xx in a different way. Their music is more diverse in this new album. it seems like it’s talking about the change people experience after growing up, but it’s actually focusing on the fear of losing an intimate relationship.
In 2009 when Baria Qureshi left The xx, Romy said that the incident made everyone’s relationship a little different. They were not as close as before as if they’ve all grown into different people over the years and walking farther away from each other.
In the song Replica, The xx made us think about whether or not we are all turning into our parents’ generation because “They all say I will become a replica”. In the song On Hold, when Oliver sings “I thought I had you on hold” over and over again, the focus changed into a sob for a past relationship.
In fact, right after releasing the album “xx”, Romy experienced a drastic change in her life. Romy has lost her mother to alcoholism when she was 11. After releasing “xx”, her father passed away due to alcoholism as well. Soon after that, her cousin passed away from a brain tumor. However, Romy denied the connection between her personal life and her music in an interview with the New Yorkers in 2014. She said that she has a system for handling things like these. “Even if there’s a connection, it would only because that I love sad music too much,” said Romy.
In I See You, we can see the change of the band in their music, and in Romy’s attitude towards something she used to have fear to face — death. In Brave For You, they said “And when I’m scared, I imagine you’re there” to tell those who have left that “we” will “be brave for you”. Like Romy, most of us don’t want to face the scene when we have to say goodbye to those we love. But at the end, we all have to learn to let go. Like what they sing in the song “There are things I wish I didn’t know, I try my best to let them go”.
In I See You, the three friends in The xx started to really get close to each other. They started to explore in the territory that others are good in, and to learn to be open with each other. They also tried to sample different genres of music into I See You, especially with Jamie xx’s samples. If “xx” made the audience experience the sweetness and heartbreaks of love, then I See You not only deepens the understanding of love but also explore the feeling of uncertainty of hesitation.
They also sing in their lyrics “If this only ends in tears, Then I won’t say goodbye”
In March 2014, the band members went to separate ways for a little while. Romy Madley Croft went to L.A. to try writing for pop music and to recharge. Jamie xx was busy in touring and finishing In Colour. Oliver Sim was relaxing in his house in London. In general, if all band members have gone separately then it means that this band is probably going to disband. But The xx might just be an exception after seeing how successful both In Colour and I See You are. In Colour remodeled the creation of I See You and made Jamie return to The xx after releasing that album.
“Even after we parted for a while, we still know each other better than anyone else out there,” said Jamie.
Right now The xx is one of the brightest stars in Indie music. Two out of the three albums of theirs have a comprehensive score of 85/100, and there are over one million albums sold for their first album. This is such a great grade in today’s music industry.
In terms of live shows, The xx has been the biggest name in music festivals all over the world. They performed as the finale band in Lollapalooza, Coachella, Primavera Sound in Spain, Glastonbury in U.K., Fuji Rock in Japan and many other well-known music festivals. And almost every show in every country they’ve been in were sold out.
translated by Paris Wu
Copyright © 2015 China Music Business News