Monday, March 19, 2012

EIC's 10Q's w/ Xiu Xiu

"..between ear piercing noise and tear drenched ballads.."

Xiu Xiu
Desolate Abrasive Anomaly

Xiu Xiu Bio:
Taking their name from the 1998 Chinese film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl, post-punk throwbacks Xiu Xiu were formed in San Jose, California by Cory McCullough, Yvonne Chen (publisher of the indie zine Zum), Lauren Andrews, and Jamie Stewart. Before forming Xiu Xiu, McCullough and Stewart played in the band Ten in the Swear Jar. Prior to the 2002 release of their first full-length album, Knife Play (released on vinyl through Absolutely Kosher and on disc through 5RC/Kill Rock Stars), the band made appearances on numerous compilations. Shortly after Knife Play's release, Springman released a 10" collaboration between Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof. Vocalist Stewart has earned comparisons to the Cure's Robert Smith, while the band itself has been likened to just about any angular guitar band from the late '70s and early '80s without any blindingly obvious sources of inspiration. In 2002, the band issued the Chapel of the Chimes EP. The following year, A Promise and the limited-edition, mostly acoustic Fag Patrol EP arrived, and early 2004 saw the release of their most accessible work to date, Fabulous Muscles.

Xiu Xiu kept busy in 2005 with the full-length La Forêt and a split single with Devendra Banhart. The group's fifth album, The Air Force, which was produced by Greg Saunier, arrived in fall 2006; an EP of covers, Tu Mi Piaci, was also released that year. Issued in 2008, Women as Lovers managed to be some of Xiu Xiu's catchiest and most abrasive work, and featured Michael Gira on a cover of "Under Pressure." Caralee McElroy, who had joined the group for The Air Force, left Xiu Xiu in 2009 and became a member of Cold Cave; she was replaced by Angela Seo, who worked with Stewart and Saunier on 2010's more overtly poppy and electronic Dear God, I Hate Myself. Two years later, the band commemorated its tenth anniversary with Always, which tackled war atrocities ("Gul Muldin"), the plight of Chinese female migrant workers ("Factory Girls"), and the right to choose ("I Luv Abortion"), and was dedicated to the band's devoted fans.

Hello, how are you?

SLEEPY!!!!! and stressed out at the same time. i need both an upper and a downer

What are you currently listening to?
Morton Feldman, a collection of gospel 45s from the 1940s to the 1970s and OMD. Oddly that seems to be about it.

As the release date of 'Always' nears, I am curious about the meaning behind the album's title and what you think of the finished work.
Oh I can't tell you what I think of it! I know that at the time we worked on it, we did our best and out our whole hearts into it. The rest is for a potential listener to decide. The title, for me, comes from a few places. My brother introduced me to the Erasure song "Always" at a time when he was going through an incredibly deep trauma within his family. I drove around the countryside looking for watermelon and playing that song over and over trying to sing along but breaking into tears every time I tried. It's about after being in Xiu Xiu for 10 years, feeling more bound to and by music than ever. Lastly it came from seeing a Bible verse spray painted on my gyms wall that said essentially to God, " and hate, good and evil are the same.." This duality was, as one would expect both comforting and terrifying. I had to see this graffiti everyday (since painted over) it was disturbing and inspiring and felt what I imagined the idea of "Always" feels like.

'Always' deals with many themes we have long known to expect from you: suicide, addiction, molestation, and death. Why do you choose to express these obsessions through music?
They are not so much "obsessions" as they are facts of life, my life, my families lives, how politics effects life. It is an attempt to turn them into something other than only crushing negative weight. Or to put them some where other than just pushing them down on my throat..

Throughout your career you have worked alongside many different backing girls. How do you feel dealing with such intimate subjects changes when you're accompanied by a new musical partner?
Hardly backing! Nearly everyone I have played with has been an incredibly close friend and it could only be incredibly close friends with whom one would share the experiences that the songs we try to do document. It follows then that only an incredibly close friend could play them as well. Because of those already established bonds, that aspect of it has always been natural and, for me, deeply rewarding.

You also repeatedly collaborate with artists across multiple mediums. Cam Archer, the director of queer films like 'Wild Tigers I Have Known' whose work I adore, is among these people (Archer directed two Xiu Xiu music videos, “The Fox And The Rabbit” and “Sea”). How did this partnership start and are there any other contemporary queer filmmakers with whom you would like to work with?
We have a mutual friend, Rob Fisk, and he introduced us. Lately Brian Skeet and I have been talking about becoming involved in a number of film projects together. He's using Xiu Xiu songs in a film, Xiu Xiu is recording & scoring a film of his and I'll be acting in a couple of his films. It is a new world for me. Brian is the best and I am excited about this beginning.

Tell me about your work with Grouper. How did the split EP, 'Creepshow', that featured five songs you two co-wrote arise and in what way do you think Ambient music has influenced your sound?
We are actually re-releasing it on the Xiu Xiu blog next month. Liz and I had been friends in Oakland and I went to her shows all the time. she is someone who I admired then and now. Being a fan, I wanted to see what it would be like to work together. It was very easy. She is ultra talented. My understanding of the idea of ambient music, at its onset at least, was that it was sound more than music. Since we began exploring sounds as much as harmony has been exciting for us. Many of the songs begin as a sound and then the trick is to figure out how to fit that into a song in a way that they compliment their meanings. I love any kind of sound. Poke out my eyes whenever you want.

'Always' is littered with over-the-top synth tracks, like “Honeysuckle” and “Hi.” Do you feel writing for your dark synthpop side-project Former Ghosts has effected the music of Xiu Xiu in any way?
Oh I am sure, but I didn't write anything in that band other than a few synth parts, that was all Freddy Rupert's music. but playing in that band certainly re-lit my long time love of synth pop. As noted see OMD in the 2nd question.

You can only keep/listen to ONE album for the rest of your life... Which album would it be?
Something really long i suppose.

Are you living your dream?
As far as being able to make records goes, yes. It's a privilege that I hope I can live up to.

Thanx Marisa & Jamie!

Xiu Xiu is currently on tour, including a few select dates with Dirty Beaches(!), make sure to check out a live show if you can...

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