Xiu Xiu have been tagged by the critical masses as an important, over-the-top, experimental, electronic group. The question that usually plagues anyone who listens to them is, “Are they serious?” Do I laugh at this guy and cast him off as a gimmick? Or should I be taken in by his genuine honesty and for being one of the few to have the balls to put it all out there. At a recent New York show, it was just lead singer Jamie Stewart, an undistorted electric guitar, and an amp. There was no shying away, no over-exaggeration, and no acrobatics. When the music stopped and the silence was punctured by one of his momentary vocal freak outs, there was no laughing, and a shiver went down our collective spine. I’m fairly certain the earth stopped rotating.
The following is an excerpt from daze’s interview with Stewart:
daze: Your music tends to draw from darker subjects. Do you ever worry that focusing on the negative can sometimes become obstructive in getting past it?
Stewart: We started Xiu Xiu in the first place to write songs about things that were happening around us, and a lot of really negative things were happening around us, so it wasn’t necessarily that we were wanting to focus on things that were bad. It’s just that a lot of bad things were happening. I think it’s sort of a way to clarify it and try to make sense out of it, not to wallow in it at all, but just understand it better. And, you know, lately things have been sorting themselves out in a much better way and some of the newer things that we’re working on are focusing on those things.
daze: A lot of songs deal with the perversion of innocence through some sort of sexual means. I was wondering what you thought of that. Generally, what do you think sex sort of means in the grand scheme of things or to you or in general.
Stewart: I’ve had a lot of really bizarre and negative experiences about it, but I also think I’ve had a really healthy attitude about it, like in terms of feeling open-minded about it and seeing what the good parts about it are and attempting to have healthy sexual relationships with people that I’m with. But, I’ve also experienced and seen a lot of really hurtful and violent parts of it, and I also had been a preschool teacher for a number of years.
The last couple of years, I had been teaching at a low income government subsidized school, so the majority of the students that were there were coming from really difficult social backgrounds. And a couple of students who were in my class were being molested really brutally by members of their family. So being kind of involved in that, in a quote-unquote professional capacity, in addition to what my own experiences have been, I have certainly kind of colored things in the way that you described.
But I don’t think sex is a bad part of life in any stretch at all, and certainly I wouldn’t condemn anybody for doing anything that they were consenting to doing. And I’m certainly very interested in sort of rectifying my choices in life, and having it work out for the better
daze: There’s an interesting dichotomy in your music. The music is beautiful, but there are times it feels like you’re fighting against it, like putting it over the top. I have a friend who will listen to it, and he likes some of the songs, but sometimes when it goes over the line, he rolls his eyes.
Stewart: I can certainly understand how someone can take it like that, but in our attempts to be as open and honest as we can be about what’s going on around us, sometimes the reactions that we’re having for them are really emotionally extreme and can be conceived as being over the top.
None of the stuff that we write about are things that are made up and none of the feelings we’re having about them are made up. It’s been a really baaad past three years and a lot of really shitty things have happened. I don’t know. Before this last rough patch happened, I definitely was kind of a fucking excessively emotional nutcase anyway and sort of coupling that with actual, you know, genuinely trying and miserable experiences.
I could definitely understand how somebody could think of the reactions I was having towards them as being over the top. I mean I’m certainly not trying to be, but that’s just kind of who I am as a person. I think its just like the actual primary result of being open about something that’s difficult.
daze: I’ve read a few places that you have something with suicide. What makes you not choose that as an option?
Stewart: There was a point in my life when I was feeling tremendously suicidal and trying to be open about it with my family was just sort of…. Suicide has been a big issue in my family so just wanting to talk about it with other people that had felt the same way and understood it.
My mom just made me promise never to do it. So at times when it was close to happening I just remembered having promised my mom not to. And for that reason, I’m just not going to. And I’m taking happy pills now too and that’s really helpful. Haha.
Xiu Xiu performs at the Noyes Community Center on Thursday, March 18 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are six dollars for students or seven dollars for non-students. For more info, visit http:www.rso.cornell.edu/fanclub.
Archived article by Deepal Chadha