ACL Music Fest Saturday Interview
UK melodrama blessed from above
The XX5:30pm, Zync Card stage
The Central Presbyterian Church was not, perhaps, the most obvious venue for a London-based electro-ache trio heavy on spare, atmospheric beats and plaintive male/female vocals to perform in. In retrospect, however, the XX's South by Southwest 2010 one-off was, in a word, heavenly. It's one thing to fill the Austin Music Hall to capacity and quite another to rock God's house and leave more than a few members of your audience with wet eyes and radiant, goofy grins.
"I think we were just very excited to play in such a beautiful church," confides Romy Madley Croft, her whispery voice competing with Atlantic crackles from London. "We were hoping it wasn't going to be too reverb-y, because we have quite a lot of reverb, but the acoustics of the room worked to our advantage, I was told. We hoped for the best, you know? It was quite difficult for us because at anything like South by Southwest you never get any sound checks, and it's hard to gauge how it's going to sound."
And now Croft, Jamie Smith, and Oliver Sim have snagged the UK's coveted Mercury Prize for their eponymous debut album. Divine providence or sheer ethereal talent? As for the group's rapturously seraphic soundscapes, Croft explains, "It's music made by three people who have very different musical tastes and backgrounds, and then we come together to make something that we all like."
And those differing musical tastes would be?
"Jamie started out very much into soul and then from there moved into hip-hop and UK-based dance music. He brings some much lower frequencies of bass into the band. And then I've grown up listening to Siouxsie & the Banshees and the Cure. We're really quite a huge melting pot of different stuff."
Soul plus Siouxsie: It's what's on God's iPod.