The XX make their way to the States 

“This is all so surreal, and I think when we finish touring and I have a moment to reflect, it’ll sink in and I’ll probably freak out,” says 20-year-old Londoner Oliver Sim, fresh from concerts in Japan with his minimalist combo The XX. Phoning from Portugal, he’s pleasantly baffled that the world has embraced the group’s eponymous debut disc. “Especially in America,” he says, referring to sold-out San Francisco dates next week, adding, “where it’s still a surprise to me that people even know who we are!”

You and your co-bandleader, Romy Croft, have known each other since you were kids? Yeah. Since we were
3 years old, before kindergarten. And we pretty much lived in each other’s pockets since we met. And we met Jamie (Smith, XX keyboardist) when we were 11. And seeing each other on tour every day isn’t any different from when we’re at home — when we’re not doing music, we spend a lot of time together anyway.

How did you decide to play music together? There was no big master plan. We weren’t really taking ourselves too seriously in the beginning. We were playing jokey covers by Wham! and the Pixies, and it was just me and Romy. And we did that until we gained confidence and started singing, then writing. So it’s been a slow, gradual process.

But you never told anyone in school about The XX? No. There were loads of performance things at school, where we had the opportunity. But I still feel this way. I can perform before thousands of people, no problem. But performing in front of a roomful of your schoolmates is so much more terrifying. So we’d go off and play gigs in front of perfect strangers instead.
Your influences are all loud. How did you develop such a quiet sound? By happy accident. Me and Romy don’t have particularly loud voices, so it wouldn’t make sense to make a huge instrumental sound that we just couldn’t contend with, vocally. So we’re very aware of not filling out our songs too much.

So your parents welcomed your hushed practices in the garage? Ha! Actually, we got into practicing in our bedrooms, it was that quiet!
 
Why the name? XX could be kisses or softcore porn, no? I think you summed it up, why we chose it. We like that people can interpret it for themselves. We’ve been asked if we’re The Twenty, are we Kiss-Kiss or even porn. But we wanted something that was strong and visually striking.

IF YOU GO

The XX

Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday
Tickets: $21
Contact: www.gamhtickets.com

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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