I have known about the boys of XY&O…
for some time now – the man who manages the band designed my website (for blog/music-related fact-hunters). I have followed their music and notice, as their popularity increases, their sounds become more confident and explorative. The guys talk about their E.P., Powder Rooms, Vol. 1, and what comes next – one assumes further volumes (or the title is a bit of a tease!). I learn about their formation and how Spotify, where their music picks up huge streaming figures, impacts their career.
Skip, Tudor and Nick talk about music tastes and what gigs are in the diary; whether they actually did meet at the University of Exeter – as the rumour goes… - and what music they all grew up on.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello, people of the Internet. It’s nice to pop in and say ‘hello’.
Our week has been an odd one. Somehow, we managed to appear on national television from Nick’s bedroom - whilst maintaining some sort of composure. Also; we featured in all of our dads’ favourite newspaper.
So, all in all, a successful week!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
We’re a D.I.Y. band from Cardiff. We attempt to make music that makes you tap your feet.
Is it true you all met at the University of Exeter? Can you remember that day you all came together?
We actually didn’t all meet at the University of Exeter - I think that’s a story that has been thrown around a bit.
We’re all from South Wales and met through producing/writing music locally – but, the first demos that we threw together (Low Tide, included) were constructed in Tudor’s Exeter dorm room.
Skip, Tudor and Nick; you work out of Tudor’s bedroom. Is that where all the songs take shape? What is the advantage of taking a D.I.Y. approach?
Tudor’s home studio is where a lot of the songs take shape. Occasionally, we start at Nick’s house but we all usually like to write individually and then meet up and share ideas in person -usually an idea that we like will get bounced around between the three of us - then we’ll all record our parts separately at home and take it from there.
I think it’s fair to say that Tudor’s place feels like the home of XY&O, though.
XY&O are unsigned. Is that something you are proud of or is there a desire to find a suitable label?
I think it’s more a question of flexibility than pride.
The way the climate of this industry has changed in the last few years means that it’s more sustainable than ever for any band to take the D.I.Y. approach. In our case, we’ve always liked having the flexibility to do what we like without answering to a label. The rapid expansion of streaming sites like Spotify make it easy for small artists to monetise their art - and that’s what has allowed us to keep working on what we love – that’s all that matters to us.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nadine Ballantyne
Nick. You are still studying at the University of Reading. Is it hard balancing studies and music?
I actually finally managed to finish my degree a couple of months ago...
It was tough. In the past, I’ve always made time for music but trying to maintain that level of commitment, whilst doing a degree, was too much to handle if I’m honest. It was tough to go from playing Glastonbury in the summer to studying derivative securities for another year. I enjoyed my time at university but it definitely felt like I was living some sort of weird double-life: there was a couple of times when we were playing gigs the night before deadlines/finals.
The weirdest part of it is actually now that I’ve finished; this is the first time I’ve been able to spend all my time focused on music - and it’s a really weird feeling.
Power Rooms, Vol. 1 is out now. What themes and stories inspired the E.P. and what has the reaction been like so far?
It’s very early days but the reaction has been positive, yeah!
From a lyrical point of view, the songs on the E.P. are all based on real-life interactions that I’ve (Skip) had. It’s the same on the songs on Vol.2 and Vol. 3. Some of those were up-close and intense - and some were just fleeting meetings that left a mark. The songs are all about people, specific people...
You launched it at The Finsbury. What was the gig like and is it a venue you guys have played before?
The gig at the Finsbury was amazing.
It was our first time playing at there and I honestly don’t think it was possible for us to feel more welcome there. The promoters went to town plastering the place with XY&O banners and posters - so the place looked like a bit of an XY&O-fest! I’m pretty sure even the food menus had pictures of us on the back – so, all in all, we were super-appreciative and humbled by the amount of effort everyone had put into the promotion leading up to the gig. What was (also) amazing to see was quite a lot of genuine fans that had come from all over London and beyond to watch the gig. At first, we assumed the crowd consisted mostly of friends and random locals.
It wasn’t until after the gig we realised we had a cluster of fans looking to buy merch. and take pictures with us - which was really pretty surreal.
Are there going to be any singles from the E.P. in the future?
So. We’ve decided to structure our releases slightly differently this time around...
We plan to release two more volumes of Powder Rooms; each one containing two-three tracks. We love the idea of juxtaposing styles and textures so you can expect to find the tracks on each volume to have quite different feels to each other. This also reflects our unique individual tastes in music; sometimes the only thing connecting one release from the other is the fact it’s the same three guys behind the production and lyrics (and performance) every time.
What type of music did you all grow up to? Who are the artists that made an impression when you were young?
Skip: Prince, John Martyn; Fleetwood Mac, The Cure and Arcade Fire are some of my favourite artists. I also owe a huge debt to bands like Blink-182, Jimmy Eat World and Kings of Leon - who sound-tracked my childhood and teenage years.
Nick: Counting Crows, The Carpenters; Jimi Hendrix, The Clash. A band that made a huge impression on me was Bombay Bicycle Club. Their debut album was some of the best guitar-based music I have heard.
Tudor: Eminem, Coldplay; One Republic, Bill Withers; Dr. Dre, Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder. I had a fascination with Rap during my early-teens - which has recently been rekindled by the likes of Kendrick (Lamar) and J. Cole. If this Haze-Pop business doesn’t work out; I’ll be looking to be the next-big-thing in Hip-Hop (haha).
It is clear, judging by the millions of Spotify streams, there is a big demand for your music. How does it feel to know your music gets so much love on Spotify?
It’s a nice feeling knowing that people appreciate your music.
We all use Spotify day to day and there’s nothing more satisfying than flicking on a playlist and discovering great new music: it’s nice to know that there’s people out there who feel that way about us. It’s also inspiring to find our music being played so much in the States. There’s no doubt that American culture and music had a big influence on us during our earlier years so, to find such a big portion of our streams coming from that part of the world, really is amazing.
It also kinda crazy; the Internet and the likes of Spotify have allowed us to reach corners of the world we have never and may never even visit!
It is coming up to Christmas. You guys have any plans at the moment?
We’ve been called the Princes of Summer before when, in fact, it literally couldn’t be more opposite. Aha. We’re all secretly fans of winter (maybe due to our pasty complexions) so I think we’ll be praying for snow! Aside from snow-praying and Father Christmas-expecting, we’ll be doing lots of what we love: writing songs and experimenting with new ideas in our music production.
We’ve got some really exciting projects simmering at the moment - so, these next few months will consist mainly of finishing these songs to the best they can be.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nadine Ballantyne
Powder Rooms Vol. 2 E.P. is in-development. When can we expect to see that?
We have the songs for this volume ear-marked and (almost) ready for the world to hear. There’s a little more recording to do and some mix adjustments to make but, otherwise, they’re on-track (forgive the pun).
We can’t give a release date for Vol.2 yet as we’re still in the process of releasing more content to compliment Vol.1. We have a music video coming out (it involves toys) for Mesmerised, most likely, in early-November. After that, an acoustic, live shoot of us performing Mesmerised and Low Tide with a choir!
Expect to see that in December.
If you each had to select the one album that means the most to you; which would they be and why?
Tudor: Bob Marley – Exodus
It holds a special place in my childhood memories. This was always playing around the house when I was really young - and all night at every gathering on my mum’s side of the family. Meaningful, impactful and beautifully performed music.
Skip: Kings of Leon – Aha Shake Heartbreak
Everything about it was incredible: the lyrics, the sounds, the concepts…the flow. It changed the way I thought about music.
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Believe in what you do and others will believe in you. Remember: it’s music, so it’s subjective. Everybody has an opinion but the artists who succeed are the ones who stay true to their art.
Learn as much as you can about the business of music, but ultimately, make the music that you believe in.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Hall & Oates - Out of Touch
PHOTO CREDIT: Nadine Ballantyne